Unrealistic Slim Images Can Make Women Feel Horrible About Themselves
Years ago, I took a women’s studies course and was shocked to find that women were dismembered, infantilized, and downright crippled (a famous Vogue photo depicted a woman in sky-high heels needing an elaborate glittering metal brace to negotiate them) by most of the pictures in magazines. I never noticed it before. But now I always do.
And now that we have the internet, and a lot more advanced technology, photo retouching has become epidemic. And even more debilitating to women who, feel less-than. And what woman doesn’t? Ann Wilson Schaef, a therapist who pioneered addiction therapies and the concept of co-dependence, once said, “Women not only think they are wrong … they think they ARE a wrong.”
Armed with that kind of not-good-enough thinking, women then tend to view these retouched, unrealistic photos not with outrage and disdain but instead with low self-esteem, reduced self-confidence, and feelings of sadness and depression. They then force them to engage in behaviors like restricting food intake, increasing exercise, and perfecting their complexions with make-up and other, more extreme, means like plastic surgery.
Julia Roberts’ Controversy …
Seven years ago, actress Julia Roberts caused a such a controversy with her ultra-airbrushed close-ups for L’Oreal that the images were banned. Roberts, now at age 50, is still a “pretty woman”, so such extensive airbrushing is really unnecessary.
And I applaud her for taking often unglamorous acting roles these days … it’s most likely helped perpetuate her lengthy career. Yet celebrities did not come forward then to protest this obvious exploitation of their gender at that time. They do now
Perhaps it’s the #MeToo and the Time’s Up (it took me a whole month to get my pin, which I wear proudly) movements that have sparked their speaking out. But actually celebrities have been pooh-poohing retouching for several years now.
Kate Winslet, once another L’Oreal spokesperson, had a “no photoshopping” clause in her contract. And Lady Gaga is another that shuns photo manipulation … she is a strong spokesperson for women’s empowerment and appearance acceptance.
Zendaya’s Wake-Up Call …
But it was Zendaya who, in 2015, posted a protest on Instagram showing her actual and retouched photo side by side (pictured above) that made her a true champion for women’s positive body image. She said …
Had a new shoot come out today and was shocked when I found my 19 year old hips and torso quite manipulated. These are the things that make women self conscious, that create the unrealistic ideals of beauty that we have. Anyone who knows who I am knows I stand for honest and pure self love. So I took it upon myself to release the real pic (right side) and I love it😍😘 Thank you @modelistemagazine for pulling down the images and fixing this retouch issue.
It’s Not Enough …
OK … it’s great that a few celebrities step forward spouting mantras of self-love and acceptance. But I fear that it’s just not enough. Most women are like me.
I was an overweight kid with a slim, gorgeous sister that always felt embarrassed by my size … even with all my other accomplishments. My mother once said to me, “Your sister has the beauty and you have the brains”. It was an awful stigma to grow up with … and deeply darkened my entire life.
Becoming an actress didn’t help either. I was always dieting, beginning at a very early age. But, because of my Russian peasant hips, could never manage less than a size six.
What’s that quote from The Devil Wears Prada … “not since 0 became the new 2 and 2 became the new 4 … and six … that’s the new 14”? Years after I left successful stint at a children’s theatre, I had dinner with one of my fellow actresses, who presented me with a publicity photo of the company that I had never seen before.
Why Didn’t You Tell Me I Was So Gorgeous …
When I saw it, I spontaneously blurted out, “Why didn’t you tell me I was so gorgeous?”. She said, “Jill, we [the company] not only thought you were gorgeous, we also thought you were brilliant and together”. And … yes … I still remember every word she said to this day as I was still living under the shroud of my mother’s mantra.
Little did they know! And the spontaneous “gorgeous” remark … I dismissed it immediately … because obviously I was older and didn’t look like that anymore. And had to face the fact that I’ve never felt “gorgeous” at that or any other time. I don’t now either.
What Do I Think …
So what do I think … I think you should join Taryn Brumfitt’s Body Image Movement. And see her documentary, Embrace, which depicts extraordinary women all over the world that have transcended the cult of slimness and perfection. I cry every time I see it. Because not feeling enough is painful and diminishing. And it’s time we all stopped feeling that way.
There was once a girl in my acting class who was also model. When she said derogatory things about her body, I reminded her, “Dina, you’re on an F-ing billboard on Highland Avenue. And she was! Full-bodied. In a bikini. How F-ed up is that?
What Do I Recommend …
What do I recommend … join groups that promote loving yourself just the way you are. Like Taryn’s group and the Health at Every Size (HAES) movement. And, for g-d’s sake, can women stop displaying themselves in demeaning ways? It just makes it worse … for you and everyone else.
The bottom line … we all have to come to terms with our less-than thinking … me included. I’m watching a 60 Minutes segment about equal pay right now … and Lesley Stahl just commented that “It’s as if women are gaining muscles”. Her interviewee, Ellen Kullman, once CEO of du Pont, returned “It’s about time!” Kullman called unequal pay for women “unconscious bias”.
Time to make the bias conscious. And it has to start with you … because that’s how the best movements start. A few celebrities just won’t cut it. Or the pins, no matter how cute they are. You have to speak up, take charge of your life, and recover your own self-worth. I’m tired of people … especially men … telling me how I’m supposed to look … especially if it’s portrayed by manipulated, unrealistic photos. If you will I will.
Leave Your Comments About Retouched Photos Can Mess with your Mental Health Below
How do you feel about your body? Do you do anything or say anything to lift you from the less-than stigma that most women have? Or do you obsess about your flaws, diet, and exercise too much? If you do, how can to change that behavior?