First Gigi, Now Jennifer

In 2013, Jennifer Lawrence appeared on the cover of Flare Magazine, very heavily Photoshopped— they moved bones. Lawrence has been known to speak out about struggles she faces in Hollywood regarding weight or appearance and is an advocate for body image positivity.

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On the right is Lawrence, un-retouched and stunning. On the left is the edited image, where as you can see her collar bone moved a little lower because the bones were just unbearable before, right?

In an interview with Yahoo! following the images release Lawrence explained about how she felt about the issue, “the world has this idea that if you don’t look like an airbrushed perfect model,” she said. “You have to see past it. You look how you look, you have to be comfortable. What are you going to do? Be hungry every single day to make other people happy? That’s just dumb.”

Obviously Lawrence does not approve of the heavy handed airbrushing and reconfiguration of her appearance…. but if you look closer at the images you’ll notice something else is missing from the retouched photograph. Lawrence’s moles, like model Gigi Hadid, Lawrence too has fallen victim to the removal of something which makes her inherently unique and beautiful for the sake of flawless, airbrushed skin.

Today, Cosmopolitan posted 10 photographs of the actress sans moles, to show that you really never know what is being removed in editing.

First, Lawrence as she appears in real life:

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Getty Images

Then the moles make their disappearance thanks to the magic of Photoshop.

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What exactly is wrong with leaving people’s bodies how they appear naturally? Would it eliminate some of the insecurities projected onto us by not seeing flawless airbrushed images everywhere we look? It would be nice to see something a little more real and human — especially when the editing isn’t necessary in the first place.

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Body Image & Men

Though we normally are more aware of the use of Photoshop in media and advertisements featuring women, the powerful editing tool is also used for men.

Original photographs from a Calvin Klein campaign featuring Justin Bieber in boxers recently surfaced, and to no surprise the two images do not match.

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Bieber’s body overall seems to have been enhanced, his muscles more prominent and defined giving him an larger stature. The lighting of the photograph is also completely different, shadows appearing in places where they were not before.

While it is so easy to focus on how body image affects women, men too are being toned and enhanced in ways that do not reflect how they actually look— creating just as in women, an industry based unrealistic ideal.

Which brings us to point that, body image issues are not just for women, men face them too.

A study published in JAMA Pediatrics found, “that nearly 18 percent of boys are highly concerned about their weight and physique.” The study also found even more that, “of the boys who were highly concerned with their weight, about half were worried only about gaining more muscle, and approximately a third were concerned with both thinness and muscularity simultaneously.”

Where do these insecurities come from? The same place they do for women, from media and advertising portraying unrealistic ideals, and then societal pressure to meet those standards. Its important to acknowledge that the images we are presented with in media are not realistic, even for the people featured in them, even for men.

Facebook Is The Only Platform To Receive A Passing Grade In Thinspo

In my previous post, I looked at the dangers of “thinspiration” or pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia posts on social media– particularly on Twitter.

There is some light however to be shed on the situation, because most social media outlets do not tolerate these types of damaging posts. Although some are much more effective in their patrolling than others.

Buzzfeed wrote an article on the effectiveness of various social media platform’s bans on “thinspiraton” and graded them accordingly.

 

Graphic by Chris Ritter for BuzzFeed

Graphic by Chris Ritter for BuzzFeed

The most interesting thing perhaps, is that all most none of the outlets receive a passing grade– other than Facebook. While it is undoubtedly near impossible to monitor millions of posts daily, it is disheartening to see other platforms failing so badly.

Facebook’s policy states that:

“Facebook takes threats of self-harm very seriously. We remove any promotion or encouragement of…eating disorders.”

And According to Buzzfeed, searches for the pro-ana or pro-lima hashtags actually often redirect you to anti eating disorder pages. Strangely enough, pages that do manage to slip under Facebook’s watchful eye often post pictures of fruit  as “thinspiration” instead of waifish bodies with protruding collarbones.

Amy Speigel writes in the article that “While the site can’t control how people use and perceive pictures of gaunt shoulders and stark collarbones, it does an admirable job in remaining aware of, and removing, more extreme expressions of thinspiration.”

So why is it so hard for other sites to monitor these types of destructive posts? Especially when Instagram has time to mark a female nipple or toddler potty training (yes, this happened to Jesse James Decker) as obscene. It is time we demand for major social media platforms to care about and monitor posts that are toxic not only to us but to young users who cannot demand it for themselves.

 

Thinspiration Is Dangerous, Not Inspirational

There is no doubt the impact that social media has on body image is very much a legitimate and present thing in modern society.  You may be surprised however to know that depending on the platform, social media can effect body image in different ways.

A recent study by UC Davis analyzed content that appeared on Twitter and Pinterest under the tags “thinspiration” and “thinspo,” which are commonly used by those trying to lose weight.  According to Medical Daily, the majority of the images that appeared under these tags featured “headless bodies of women and predominantly focused on the pelvis, abdomen, or thighs, while also tending to be sexually suggestive.”

Although these images appeared on both Pinterest and Twitter, the study found that the way in which the images were presented and portrayed varied between the websites.

In an interview with Medical Daily, Jannath Ghaznavi, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Communication, said that Pinterest is “a little more muscularity while focusing on some kind of fitness, they were less sexualized, and they showed more heads.”  Twitter on the other hand, she found showed images that were “bonier, more segmented, and more sexualized.”

The issue with this is not only that the images promote unhealthy and unrealistic body images as ideal, but also that according to Medical Daily, the users of Twitter are much younger and therefore more impressionable.

Even more so, Ghaznavhi is quoted in Medical Daily explaining that, the engagement aspect of social media could be the most dangerous part. When pictures are posted portraying these unrealistic ideals, they collect likes, retweets, and comments— all serving as positive reinforcement for the users.

So, I searched the hashtag on twitter to see what came up as a “thinspiration” and the results were extremely disturbing to say the least.

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The problem is that these hashtags are not used alone, they also are commonly paired with “fitness” and “health” making the pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia messages much more visible to a wider audience.

No wonder social media use, especially in young girls, is associated with poor body image and self-esteem. By portraying unrealistic and unhealthy images as normal, we are not only damaging only damaging our own self-esteem, but sending toxic messages to impressionable adolescents and then positively reinforcing those messages with likes, comments, and retweets.

Kylie Jenner Doesn’t Need A Wheelchair

In December, Kylie Jenner did a cover for Interview Magazine which sparked some controversy to say the least.  Jenner is posed on the cover in a black bustier and hells while sitting in a glided wheel chair. If you are any bit familiar with the star, you know that she does not legitimately require a wheelchair .

Jenner on cover of Interview Magazine

Jenner on cover of Interview Magazine

This photograph caused major blacklash on social media and especially within the disabled community… and for good reason.

Pam Wade Kenner, posted a photo of her niece, Leah Abell, who has cerebral palsey in response to the cover. In an interview with TODAY.com, Kenner said, “She sits in that chair every waking moment, unable to sit, stand or walk on her own. Cerebral Palsy is her captor and the chair is her prison. Glamorizing the chair angers me. … So incredible that nobody stood up and told Kylie Jenner that this was a bad idea.”

Kenner is right, it is really mind blowing that not a single person working for the magazine or own the shoot thought that the concept could be highly offensive to those who are confined to a wheelchair every day for the rest of their lives. Glamorizing something that can profoundly impact an individuals life in that way is more than just unethical, it’s disturbing.

My favorite response to the cover however, is a post on social media by Erin Tatum.

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“I can barely get people to make eye contact with me, let alone land a cover shoot. If being in a wheelchair is trendy now, I’ve apparently been a trendsetter since before Kylie was born.”

Even more disturbing than the cover concept itself, is the Interview Magazine defense for it.

According to VH1, Interview Magazine is said (they do not specify whom), “At Interview, we are proud of our tradition of working with great artists and empowering them to realize their distinct and often bold visions,” The Kylie Jenner cover is part of this tradition, placing Kylie in a variety of positions of power and control and exploring her image as an object of vast media scrutiny.”

Positions of power, as Interview is quoted, is the anthesis of what placing Jenner in a wheelchair does. Yes she is in a position of power… stand up and walk out of the chair after the photo shoot is over unlike the countless number of people who are confined to them for the rest of their lives. Even more than that, trying to claim that it is creative work and therefore not offensive, is a bunch of garbage .

Photoshop Strikes Again

Model Gigi Hadid has literally blown up in exposure and fan adoration over the last year, and we are seeing her everywhere… in music videos, on social media, as a Victoria’s Secret model, and on various magazine covers. However to no surprise in the beauty and fashion industry, the version of Gigi we are presented differs from real life… but not in the way you would expect.

Today, Cosmopolitan Magazine published an article titled “16 Photos of Gigi Hadid You Never Knew Were Photoshopped Until Now”. The title is quite accurate I must admit because I was surprised at what the fashion and beauty industries are willing to Photoshop off a model.

Cosmopolitan first shows Hadid as she posts herself on her personal account, without Photoshop, and baring her many beauty marks for the world proudly.

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These beauty marks however are an apparent flaw in they eyes of the industry because they seem to disappear in the covers, advertisements, and campaigns that Hadid is featured on.

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The model is shown with flawless skin, further reinforcing the fact that fashion and beauty industries create a standard which is unobtainable even for those who portray it. You cannot only be too fat or too thin, but your skin can be too freckled, too. Why change something that made the model both unique and beautiful? Maybe without unnecessary Photoshopping, people would be able to embrace their own “flaws” as individuality and form a wider perception of what beauty really means.

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However, there is a little bit of hope,  thankfully Maybelline left the model’s beauty marks intact in this recent advertisement.

Are You Beach Body Ready?

Protein World launched a controversial campaign earlier in 2015 for a weight loss collection, featuring a very fit, and probably photoshopped, bikini clad woman.

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Responses to the advertisement sparked a protest in London’s Hyde Park and a petition on Change.org that received over 70,000 signatures.

So what exactly defines “beach body ready” anyway?

According to an article by Rose Hackman beach body ready should be taken quite literally.. she writes in her article, ” Do you know how to swim? Yes? OK. Do you need sunscreen for your skin tone? Yes? No? OK. How about a bathing suit? Do you have one of those? OK. Prefer to go naked/keep your shorts on? That’s fine too. I now declare your body ready for the beach. You are beach body ready. Off you go, have fun.”

Hackman claims that is where it should end, and many opposers of the advertisement agree.

Today.com interviewed Katya Powder who posted a photograph of the advertisement with a “this oppresses women” sticker on it.

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“I just took the subway to Union Square and was assaulted by a skinny woman in a bikini,” Powder told Today.com. “They’ve made that level of skinny look healthy and attainable, but it’s just not that attainable.”

Powders comment is where, I have to begin to agree with the argument against this kind of advertising. It would be one thing for Protein World to sell a collection or products using images of people who use their products therefore making it realistic. But like a lot of advertisements… these images were manipulated past the power of a product using Photoshop to sell consumers an idealization they will never be able to obtain.

The advertisement was not deemed irresponsible by the Advertising Standards Standards Authority, and Protein World’s head of marketing of Marketing, Richard Staveley, definitely had something to say about the decision.

Staveley, told CNBC he was “happy to see that common sense has prevailed…We shall continue our fight against the global obesity epidemic as we strive to make the world leaner, fitter, healthier and stronger,” he added.

While a healthier lifestyle paired with supplements from retailers such as Protein World can definitely aid in the fight against global obesity, I am not so sure that using Photoshopped images in advertising to project unrealistic ideals has the same effect.