Fashion, Media, Sweet Machine

They’ve got implants to put in, they’ve got implants to remove

According to the Telegraph, fashion magazines now not only employ the familiar trick of skinnifying and plasticizing unacceptably fleshy actresses and models, but also use the magic of Photoshop to plump up other women whose images might be unacceptably thin now that concerns about the effect of ultra-thin models is finally maybe starting to be taken just a little bit seriously. Not seriously enough to use bigger models, mind you, but seriously enough to photoshop a little more T&A on the ones they do use.

One of the companies mentioned (who retouched the photo of Cameron Diaz that accompanies the article) has a portfolio on its website (warning: Flash-heavy) that allows you to see just how unreal women (and some men) have to be to be considered magazine-worthy. (In fact, you may have seen some of these images before: Liss at Shakesville included them in her Impossibly Beautiful series, noting, “Even when you’re already perfect, you’re not perfect enough, and always in the same damn ways.”) That portfolio is a glorious example of the impossible beauty standard: Kelly Clarkson has been shrunk, while Julia Stiles has been filled in; Beyonce’s hips have been redrawn to erase a muffintop, while Eva Longoria’s hips have been curved up and out. Looking through all these photos, I get the eerie feeling that they’ve stolen flesh from one woman only to add it to another.

This is the quintessential operation of the beauty “ideal”: it is just that, an idea, sold to us as something to strive for not despite but because it is impossible. Even the women who look like that don’t look like that! The outrage of this is not only that people who are not models or actors are held to a standard that constantly moves to something less real, but also that models themselves are forced to maintain unfeasible weights (often via verbal abuse and threats of unemployment) and then are demonized for it, making the fashion industry even more exploitative than it already was. You must be skinny and curvy at once, tiny and voluptuous, recognizably yourself but without the the lines and planes and wrinkles of your own body.

These pictures, whether thinned out or plumped up, are a lie. We know they’re a lie, and the publishers know we know. If you haven’t already stopped reading “women’s” or fashion magazines, Shapelings, please — stop now. They will never stop lying to you.

(H/T bits and bobbins. See Feministing and Shakesville for more thoughts on this issue.)

67 thoughts on “They’ve got implants to put in, they’ve got implants to remove”

  1. Two Dar Williams references in two weeks? SM, you are on a ROLL!

    I suppose they must have done some airbrushing of magazine pics when I was in my teens and 20s and I was still buying them, and I know they did some compositing also (use this girl’s face and this girl’s legs and this girl’s boobs etc.). But I gather it was a much more tedious, time-consuming process that involved a lot more skill and manual dexterity, and so every single picture didn’t get manipulated quite so thoroughly simply because there was no time. They were more likely to use special lenses and lighting to “soften features” and so forth. (Vaseline, anybody?)

    Now I pretty much take for granted that I’m seeing what is basically a cartoon, whenever I see a glossy photo of any celebrity. And the only so-called “women’s magazine” I’ve bought in the last 15 years was when Marie Claire did a story on why fat women were subject to prejudice and quoted Paul of BFB (IIRC).

  2. I stopped reading these trashy magazines a long time ago when I realised celebrity gossip was actually utterly boring. But.. about a month or so ago my midwife gave me a pack that usually gets given to mothers when they leave the hospital following the birth of their child. As I’m planning a home birth she gave it to me early, and I was horrified to find a trashy mag in there, with a front cover of Katie Holmes and her ‘new diet’ – which was basically eating nothing but broccoli.. and how she was ‘chubby’ (wha??) but has lost 18 kgs to become stunning and svelte. (Again, wha??). Ugh. It made me sick that poor mothers would have been leaving the hospital with their new post partum bodies to be given that garbage to read. So depressing!

    (By the way, this is in New Zealand).

  3. I stopped reading those stupid magazines when I was in high school. They’re just proof that none of us, no matter what we weigh or what we look like, will ever be perfect enough.
    A few weeks ago, I was in the student lounge at school and saw a stack of diet magazines that someone had left for people to take if they wanted. When I left for the day, I threw them in the garbage; I wasn’t about to let my friends be subjected to those lies.

  4. It was a huge life improvement for me when I was finally able to ‘see’ the airbrushing. All of a sudden I could look at magazines and not think about how different I am from the pictures in there. I think the hardest part for me was realizing that skin is supposed to have a texture to it, it seems silly now that I thought the airbrushed plastic-y look was really achievable

  5. I think I was fortunate to wise up to some of the manipulations of these magazines (and video, too! The skin on the ladies in makeup foundation commercials? Zounds!) early on.

    What makes me sad is my two younger sisters. Both of them are horrified at the idea of going out in public without makeup foundation on – like their skin isn’t gorgeous as is, and as though 16 and 19 years of age they don’t already have some of the “best” skin they’ll ever have (in terms of the glowy tautness so touted by these advertisers).

    It frustrates me. They hide their faces behind a mask* because they feel like without it they don’t look good. I’d say that making them feel this way qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment, eh?

    Seeing the way they stripped away Beyoncé’s “muffin top” on that website almost made me cry. Do they even /know/ how many years I’ve agonized and fretted over that same phenomenon on my own body? I thought I wasn’t fit enough, didn’t do enough situps (I don’t really do any, so…), didn’t enough whatever. I realize that having outed myself as a skinny, FA ally in previous comments makes it pretty rich for me to complain about body image stuff, so I’d like to apologize in advance if I’m overstepping those bounds. It just PISSES ME OFF so f*cking much. If someone like me, with a fairly decent self-image and an effortlessly-thin body can nearly come to tears over something as simple as seeing the reality of a celeb’s body… I can’t f*cking imagine how much worse it must be for (as an example) my baby sister, who is by far the “curviest” of we three, and constantly demeaning her “thunder thighs” (which they’re not. I say that in a sense, not of them being bad to have, but simple perspective. Whether she’ll admit it or not, she’s on the small end of the spectrum).

    Sorry. I’m pissed. /rant

    *Also, I don’t want to knock down or make feel bad anyone who does choose to wear makeup. We all face cultural pressures to which it is sometimes just less stressful to conform – shaving is my weakness. But I think we can all acknowledge that wearing makeup (and shaving, and wearing heels, and getting our hair done, etc.) is something that we do because The Patriarchy demands it.

  6. I saw the Kiera Knightley photo a couple of weeks ago and wound up spending hours looking at photo shopped celebrities that I found via Google. I saw a picture where they fattened up Eva Longoria, apparently she’s not as voluptuous as people think she is.

    I was shocked to see how much air brushing is done. Here’s a website where you can see some more celebrities. There’s even a picture of Christina Aguilera where they photoshopped her whole damn leg to her, because it was behind her in the photo.

    and this one also shows how much photoshop can change an image to where it’s completely freaking unreal.

    and props to Dove and their real beauty campaign. They have a video called evolution that shows a model go from pretty to ‘beautiful’ and they show the photoshop process.

    Just thought you all might find the links interesting.

  7. “But I think we can all acknowledge that wearing makeup (and shaving, and wearing heels, and getting our hair done, etc.) is something that we do because The Patriarchy demands it.”

    You’d think that’d be something easy to agree upon, but in my experience, it’s actually a huge point of contention, especially among young feminists.

    My impression is that the ones who object to this reading the loudest are usually the ones who grew up with some fairly feminist advantages–socioeconomic status, etc.–and therefore think they’re somehow immune to pressure from their increasingly mediated culture. They insist that they have made informed choices to give their money to the body hatred industries, and therefore also insist that it’s somehow misogynistic to imply that their choices were influenced.

    Apparently, the “new” feminism is that every choice every female makes is unassailable, even if it’s blatantly obvious that she’s making that choice only because she’s been steeped in impossible standards of acceptable femininity since before she was even born.

    The sad irony in this is that many of the same women who work tirelessly to end sexist oppression in other cultures–who seem to understand that no, a free woman would not choose to submit to FGM or honor killings or restriction of her ability to move about her community–also see nothing wrong with doing dangerous, expensive and/or pointless things to their own bodies because they fear reprisal if they don’t.

    (Granted that there are also women who argue that women in other oppressive cultures DO voluntarily submit to their oppression. Don’t get me started on the ones who go on about how it’s more important to respect cultural mores than individual rights not to have one’s body mutilated.)

    I’m not implying that everyone who chooses to wear a bit of lip gloss is a mindless tool of The Man. I shave my legs if I’m going to wear a skirt. I wear jewelry on occasion. I dye my hair. But I, like you, acknowledge that most of the things I do regarding my appearance are done for the benefit of others, so I can get through life with a relative minimum of fuss. Sometimes, as you say, it’s just easier to break out the razor than make a stand. But I’d never argue that the choices I make about these things are in any way feminist or anything but a product of the culture I live in. Even the most culturally aware among us are subject to the same constant bleating of commerce and community, and it’s impossible to avoid all of it. The best one can do is to create a balance that causes one the least amount of undue fuss and expense, and–this is important, but often forgotten–that minimizes one’s contribution to the overall problem of making other women feel like crap about themselves.

    I just wish I could get that through to these young firebrands sometimes, to get them to understand that no, wearing lipstick is not an empowered choice. It is possible to do femme as theater (retro femme, for instance) and have it be generally understood as a Statement On Gender, but the average everyday woman who chooses to spend her money on painful shoes, padded bras and Botox is in no way promoting the idea that she’s a liberated woman. Carrie Bradshaw is not a feminist, sorry.

  8. Maybe I’m crazy, but pores, freckles, birthmarks, wrinkles, I just love them. All this retouching takes away those little characteristics that make the subject an individual. Sure, edit out the big honkin’ zit, dial the colors up so they pop a bit more, but leave the actual skin alone! I’m so freakin sick and tired of how interchangeable these images of women are, how that interchangeability turns them from unique subjects into factory perfect objects.

    Also, anyone who retouches Joaquin Phoenix needs to have his mouse taken away. U does not screw with perfekshun.

  9. Maybe this is why I can’t tell the current crop of young actors/actresses apart. They all look the same to me. Maybe they’ve all been airbrushed that way.

  10. Godless Heathen, I’m with you. It just makes me so desperately sad to see these women poked and prodded and plasticised until all evidence of their humanity is removed – smoothing out all the proof of their having smiled and scowled and worried and laughed and *thought* is the most offensive process of the lot.

  11. Maybe this is why I can’t tell the current crop of young actors/actresses apart. They all look the same to me. Maybe they’ve all been airbrushed that way.

    They have also all been given the same shade of blonde by Rachel Zoe and have used the same plastic surgeon to receive the same nose.

    “Now I ain’t saying lip gloss is just a mindless tool of The Man
    Some days it’s easier to just shave than to make a stand
    But my choice ain’t a lot more than a product of the culture I live in
    And the constant bleat of the commerce — well, sometimes you just give in”

    (*apologies to Tal*)

    I, for one, do NOT welcome our new fembot-forcing overlords.

  12. (*with apologies to DW on Shakes*)

    I was hating my body today and I heard Kate Harding in my head
    So I stopped buying fashion mags ’cause they made me wish that I was dead
    And I reframed all of the negatives with all the things my body lets me do
    And I called up Conde Nasty and said, “Oh, BTW, *&^%$# YOU!”

    (feeling inspired today)

  13. The sad thing is what is lost in all that airbrushing. So many of the “before” photos were better, with more depth, a glimpse of the actual person inside the familiar face. The “fixes” took that spark of something right out in most cases; they’ve been sanitized and dipped in plastic for safekeeping.

  14. I have stopped buying women’s magazines recently, I wasn’t a big fan of them to begin with, as they are mostly just four pounds spent to read a couple of hundred pages of adverts, but since starting to read the Fatosphere I can’t even look at the covers without my blood pressure going sky high… I read my mum’s Rosemary Conley magazine (dreadful, dreadful woman who lost a whopping 7lb after having her gall bladder removed and being forced to eat a strictly low fat diet and now makes vast sums of money out of trying to convince people that ‘nothing tastes as good as being thin feels’. I’ve been thin, and those are definitely the words of someone who has been on a strict low fat diet for the last twenty five years!) and flung it across the room in disgust. Yes, I’m working on my mother…

  15. Oh, and also I got very cross recently in a Tube station when I saw a Bobbi Brown (makeup company, not sure if they have them in the US?) advert with the tagline ‘naturally sexy’ and while the model was indeed wearing ‘barely there’ makeup, she was about as far from natural as a nylon stocking. She seriously looked more like a plastic doll than a real human. Maybe they’ve started using those Real Doll sex toys as models??? No need to worry about embarassing coke scandals…

  16. I’m glad you all know about the makeup ads…those lashes aren’t that thick or that long – those faces aren’t that smooth and lineless, and even the ads with older women such as Jane Fonda, Sharon Stone and Cate Blanchett who DO have lines are overly blanked out. Who do they think they are kidding???

    FYI, same goes for TV ads as well as the magazine ones. CGI works miracles – it’s also used on women in music – one look at Christina Aguilera’s Candyman video will really open your eyes to how much they tamper with things!

  17. Makeup ads freak me the hell out. They really do over-perfect the skin, to the point where the natural texture of thinner parts of the skin is completely erased. I saw one where the models eyelids were the same texture as her cheek. It looked so wrong I had to show it to everyone in the room even if they werent interested.

    The airbrushing is a whole load of wrong. Its becoming a standard to make people look seriously UNREAL because all the perfecting thats wanted is pretty much impossible to find in reality! And they say the media has nothing to do with self-esteem. There exists so much perfection and grooming that many girls (me included) feel at a loss at how they arent acceptable for one reason or another, and not just thinness. I feel like I would be much happier if only my skin was smooth and hairless, boy, then i’d prance around at the beach all day you can betcha. The reality is that my skin isnt actually all that bad, its just marked with genetics and life. But im paranoid about revealing parts of myself because im convinced theyre ‘unnaceptable’ because i never see any hint of it in photographs, and im just ‘not seeing’ it on other women either, because well, theyre other women. Everyone else usually looks better to you than they do to themselves.

    Now, this makeup talk: I confess that I LOVE wearing makeup. I love the art, the playing, the ‘painting’ aspect. I dont see it as something i have to wear every time im around civilisation, but i consider it as part of my fashion choices, like the colour and cut of my top, how i will wear my hair. I put on some last night just because, and it was gleefully fun.

    Shaving on the other hand? I could definately do without. *spits*

  18. I’ve begun believing that part of the reason women’s
    equality and standing in the workplace has started to slide
    backwards is these falsified images of women in the media.
    Newsmagazines and newspapers don’t airbrush pictures of
    female politicians and business leaders to this extent. (They
    may somewhat for a magazine cover, but not as usual
    practise.) So if the images of models and actresses are seen
    as “normal” a picture of a natural woman somehow seems

    Michael Kinsley wrote about how Hillary Clinton probably
    loses an hour a day to her makeup/beauty regime.
    Since once you get to a certain level, the main constraint on
    achievement is always time, that is a real dead loss.

    And plastic surgery is another problem, because it becomes
    a real class marker – both that you have the money to do it
    and that you are willing to do it. And it doesn’t leave you
    actually looking younger, just looking like you had plastic

    If I had my way, truth in advertising laws would require all
    advertisers to make available unretouched photos of all
    models in their advertisements.

  19. It’s interesting how the photos of the men are just “cleaned up” to brighten the eyes and even out the skin tone, but the women are made unrecognizable.

  20. I once worked with a woman who hated her photo ID picture so much that she cut out a picture of Eva Longoria and put it on her badge at work. The security guards never noticed, so my colleague started rotating celebrity pictures on her ID. It was great: she was Beyonce, J.Lo, Britney Spears, etc.

  21. Holy crap!!!

    No wonder I feel so daggone inadequate when I leaf through the fashion mags at the grocery store checkout line. These are not authentic or actual photographs of people. I knew it already, but the site’s portfolio really hit it home to me.

    When they cut out Beyonce’s muffintop, they also removed her calf muscle definition. When they shrank Kelly Clarkson, they took away her gorgeous curves. And the last one–was that Sienna Miller?-I love the freckles and they erased everything to make her look plastic!!!

    URGH. I have a hard battle ahead of me to keep my 2 year old daughter’s head on straight about all of this stuff.

    Oh, and for fun if you go to the Eva Longoria pic and move your mouse back and forth over the border of the photo really fast you can make her do the chicken dance. :0)

  22. Ugh……photoshop is NOT your friend people!!! I hate, hate, hate the plastic look. Freaks me out that I’m supposed to admire, aspire and sexualize a barbie doll. *shudder* Creeeeepie! I’m always fast to point out the ‘Shop work to others too….especially younger girls.

    As for the rest of the “beauty industry”….eh, I wear makeup, when I feel like freaking people out (I tend to a more goth/freak look than anything in a fashion mag). I dye my hair….pink or blue or blood red, when I feel like it. I do shave, but it’s about once a month, and just because if I don’t my jeans tend to pull the leg hairs (OUCH! how do men stand that?!). Overall, I use the tools of the oppression, but for the ends that I seek…..which rarely have much to do with the standards they set forth. It’s fun that way. My body is my canvas, and I have lots of fun with the paint ;)

    The only way I’d buy a women’s rag is if I was desperate for birdcage liner and that’s all the store had. That’s the most they’re fit for anyway.

  23. They also took out muscle definition in some of the pictures (most notably Julia Stiles’ arms). Because we have to spend hours and hours every week at the gym “getting in shape” but God forbid we should actually look strong.

  24. Meowser, I’ve been on a total Dar kick lately! I’m delighted to find that Mortal City is *still* the best album ever despite me no longer being 19.

    Tai, I’ve had those conversations, too, and I completely understand your frustration (though I’d hesitate to ascribe it to a monolithic “new” feminism). Not everyone is ready to turn their analytical lens on themselves, as we see every time conversations about privilege come up! I think where people get self-righteous about it is when something they enjoy is rightly called out as patriarchal — they feel attacked, like they’re wrong to think high heels are pretty or that highlights make their hair look great. You’re not wrong to like what you like — but as with everything, your preferences are shaped both by personal aesthetic response and by cultural conditioning.

  25. Because we have to spend hours and hours every week at the gym “getting in shape” but God forbid we should actually look strong.


  26. Littlem — you’re writing Piggy Moo’s first singles! Awesome!

    These photos made my day. Not that I didn’t know it before, but it makes me so happy to know that not even Katherine Heigl looks like Katherine Heigl.

  27. I color my hair, paint my toenails, and wear makeup (just lip and cheek stain, and some eyeshadow for going out) but it’s for me, not to impress a man or anyone else. Sometimes it’s good to pamper yourself. But high heels? Never in a million years. I have wide feet and cankles, and no arch. I’ll stick with sensible flats, thank you.

    As for womens’ magazines, it’s fluffy crock. You can’t take them seriously when on the cover they scream in big bold letters LOSE 15 LBS IN A WEEK! right next to a picture of a elaborately decorated cake that is probably 400 calories per slice. Oh sure, they’ll have stories buried in the back about women who make a difference in the world or have survived tragedy, but the rest is about being pretty and how pathetic we are if we don’t have a husband or partner in our lives. Sometimes even the plus size magazines do it.

  28. I stopped reading women’s mags when I realized every time I read them I felt depressed. (Not sad like “Animal Cops” sad, but really depressed and miserable about my life.)

    But this photo shopping, you just can’t get away from it. It reminds me of that Ugly Betty episode where unretouched photos of an actress were released. New UB this week! SQUEE!

  29. You know, I’ve never been able to stand what my skin looks like when I put (liquid) foundation on. I think I look like a doll. (I mean, an olive-skinned one, but still plastic/fake.) And yet, in order to be taken seriously, I have to do that. I’m frickin’ 25! My skin will NEVER be better than it is right now! Can’t I show it?!?

    (Disclaimer: I mostly wear makeup to look older, so that I don’t get mistaken for a student. I work on a college campus.)

    The first time I heard that they use Photoshop to fatten up models who are too skinny, I think I laughed my head off. You want curves? I got ’em right here!

    Also, the way that women on the covers of magazines stick their hips out unnaturally in order to get that nice s-curve (ogee)? I got those curves just standing flat!

    Why am I not a supermodel?!?

  30. Julie Burchill (who gets on my wick but has flashes of brilliance) once said something about the widespread misuse of the phrase “pamper yourself”. As in, it ought to mean you do something pleasurable and lazy, like eat chocolates or drink cocktails or take the day off to laze on a sunny lawn – but in women’s magazines it invariably means “do some work to make yourself prettier”. Or just “wash”.

  31. in women’s magazines it invariably means “do some work to make yourself prettier”. Or just “wash”.

    Just had to note that that made me actually LOL.

  32. While I agree that the images in magazines are unrealistic and it goes against common sense and biology to aspire to look like the retouched version of a celebrity or model, I cannot stop reading magazines.
    I only read fashion magazines when I read a typical “woman” magazine, which is a big offender for showing CGI doll! Bodies. However, I don’t look at the clothes and think, ” Gosh, I wish that dress fit me” or “I wish my body looked like ________”, but “ooo! I never thought of wearing pastels…I think I’ll try that”. Then I go and find a dress like the one I saw in the magazine in my size (or at least something similar).
    We should get the clothes that fit our bodies, not the body that fit the clothes, right? With that logic, we can wear everything that they show in a fashion magazine as long as we realize that it might not be very flattering or “normal”.
    True fashion, maybe even this relative thing called “style”, isn’t about wearing something flattering and safe. The styles that I see in the magazines inspire me to try something other than a boring wrap dress, and I like that. Wrap dresses don’t suit my age (19), style (hipster/Lolita/visual kei/goth), or personality (funny, smart, wierd)…but it flatters my shape, which isn’t my goal 90% of the time. I always skim over the wrap dresses in magazines and go straight for the Victorian-inspired pieces (to suit my Lolita aesthetic) or ANYTHING that screams ” rock n’ roll”(which mainstream magazines assume we grow out of when we’re out of high school. SO not true).
    The power of dressing “good” or “daring” is taken away when we forget that it’s a form of expressing ourselves way more than a form of attraction or constriction. Expression can be empowering, right?

    I end my (disjointed, long, borderline hypocritical) argument with this: My inch-long heels and pink dress may be a tool of the patriarchy, but you’ll have to pry them from my cold, dead hands.
    Thank you for your time

  33. I don’t understand the business acumen such a practice entails. Think about it: If you want to portray curvier models, then use curvier models to begin with. Why continue to use super-skinny models which then require additional digital manipulation to fit within an aesthetic standard? It just indicates to me that it isn’t about business sense or even ethics. It’s how can we have our cake and eat it too. Or, in the case of the models, how to continue not eating the cake.

  34. “I just wish I could get that through to these young firebrands sometimes, to get them to understand that no, wearing lipstick is not an empowered choice. It is possible to do femme as theater (retro femme, for instance) and have it be generally understood as a Statement On Gender, but the average everyday woman who chooses to spend her money on painful shoes, padded bras and Botox is in no way promoting the idea that she’s a liberated woman. Carrie Bradshaw is not a feminist, sorry.”

    Tal, you are absolutely right.
    At 19, I made a conscious and serious decision (after a thoroughly blue-bangs, shaved head, punk-rock teens), to dress in -what I called then- ‘drag’ for convenience and expediency.
    I have spent most of my adult life working in fashion, which I have enjoyed, and I have come to love lipstick, but I keep myself clear on the fact that I started this on purpose.
    I am very private and shy by nature, and my look is pretty close to what the patriarchy demands, without any real help from me. I learned very young that letting people know how I spent my free time, or what music I was into, by my ‘look’ was working against the distance I wanted from strangers.
    This is armor, this appearance that I’m a highly-placed and acceptable cog in the machine, and I still think of it as a disguise, one that helps me move freely in the world, and have the things I want (including keeping men from addressing me).
    I know who I am, and why I have made this bargain, and wouldn’t it be nice if I didn’t have to (and to treat myself fairly, I don’t work too hard at it).
    But I try to tell other girls and women that I have at least partly in my care (friends, nieces, interns) about it, because I’m willing to bend to this thing, but not to lie to myself about it, and I want to share that pill with the women I love.
    So maybe they’ll know why they are doing it, and why it’s still important to fight against it, even if we’re ‘lucky’ enough for the comfort of the inside.

  35. The “home” mags can be just as bad as fashion mags with airbrushing – did anyone see Giada di Laurentis on the cover of Redbook in January? SCARY unnatural.

    I have to admit, reading women’s mags (and watching E!) is one of my secret vices. It’s like looking through an art book for me – all the pretty pictures let me dream about what my house could look like or what clothes I could have if I were rich. It’s pure fantasy for me, and I know that going in.

    However, since I started reading this blog, I have a strict policy: I do not buy any magazine that gives diet advice/advertises dieting on the cover. As you can imagine, that has severely limited the magazines I buy now.

  36. Despite all my self image work and feeling pretty accepting of who I was, I still continued to read women’s magazines, as a sort of guilty pleasure. Until I discovered the Fatosphere. That day, I called in and cancelled my subscription to Glamour, told them why – and threw every last issue in the recycling bin.

  37. When I was in high school I used to deconstruct sexist messages in women’s magazine ads… then when I was in college I started actually coveting all the pretty things in them. I got to the point that I stopped buying them because it made me sad to not have all of the stupid expensive designer crap that was in them.

    It sounds stupid but it was really hard for me to look at $600 shoes wistfully and not get really sad. So that’s why I stopped reading them, but really the impossible ideals are just as good (maybe better) reason.

  38. It’s worth noticing another thing that photoshopper has done to make women “prettier” is lightening the skintones of the women of color. Because, as we all know, whiter is better…

    (Also: Ditto GH’s comment on Joaquin Pheonix. Way hotter without the touch-up!)

  39. I have stopped reading women’s magazines because of this blog.

    I have been heavier and thinner, and thinking back, neither has really made much difference to my levels of happiness. I’ve been pretty happy, though sometimes situationally unhappy, at every weight. But since I’ve stopped reading women’s fashion magazines, it’s like some open wound inside me, one I didn’t know I even had, has started to heal.

    Just, thank you.

  40. Jill, on April 22nd, 2008 at 11:11 am

    YES! I was actually taken aback by the violence done to the images of these women. It was a really visceral sense of flesh being carved off, and flesh being grafted on…*shudder*

  41. Ahem. I am tiny and voluptuous. We’re calling a D-cup voluptuous, right? And when the girl at the store steers me toward a special brand of jeans for those with “some junk in the trunk?” My hips and boobs balance, and I’ve got a 0.7222… waist/hip ratio. I’m a size 0 and I even have a BMI in the healthy range! And I’m a natural blond.

    Too bad I’m 5’0″. Kinda skews the whole picture, doesn’t it? But I have presence far beyond my statue! If I didn’t, no one would ever see me.

  42. Apparently, Justin Timberlake is the epitome of media-friendly manliness, since it looks like all they did with his photo was adjust the contrast and color balance. ;)

    Honestly… when you see how the original photos looked, and how glossy, flawless and eerie the retouched ones look in comparison, it’s just cheap-looking. The original photos are so rich and beautiful, and the new ones just look like they belong on Deviantart. They’re pretty, they’re artistic, but they shouldn’t be ANYBODY’s beauty ideal, except for possibly characters from the Final Fantasy video games.

  43. Nancy, they can already digitally edit moving film; it’s just expensive like whoa. (They’ve evidently had that ability for some time now; I was just reading in Neil Young’s biography, Shakey, about a fall-on-the-floor funny incident that happened while Martin Scorsese’s concert film The Last Waltz was in postproduction about 30 years ago, when Scorsese was persuaded by Young’s handlers to airbrush an, um, giant white rock that was hanging out of Young’s nose, and no, that was NO booger. Cost ’em tens of thousands to do it. It probably is not all that much cheaper to do that even today.)

  44. I think one of those before-and-afters on iWanex Studio site is Brittany Murphy. The only reason I even think it MIGHT be her is because of the puffiness under her eyes in the befores. The after doesn’t look much like her (if, indeed, it is her).

  45. Photos have been retouched for years, but with Adobe’s Photoshop, CGI and other programs, it’s gone to a whole different level.

    I don’t like the extremes it’s being used for now a days – but having been a fashion illustrator in my youth and being that’s the industry that I work in, this is the way the “art” has always been. Long lean figures to show the clothes, just like the mannequins.

    This is not me saying that models should be stick figures with bones sticking out everywhere – because the sight of that wigs me out.

  46. Sligthy related; seems that now (based on a “study” of a whopping 740 women mind you) the number of calories you consume might be related (or for this article “IS TOALLY THE CAUSE”) to determining the gender of your un-born child. Any guesses as to what sort of diet leads to a woman giving birth to a girl? Did you guess a nutrient deficient, low-calorie, breakfast skipping diet? DING DING DING! You with the prize…. (Article:

    Putting aside the validity of this “study” for the moment; it would be so “fitting” to learn that poor nutrition leads to birthing little girls…its like teaching your girl FROM BEFORE BIRTH that she should starve her body of what it needs….or face the wrath of photoshopping fools in any pictures she might appear in….

  47. I was reading the current Bitch issue concerning an interview with the director of America The Beautiful:

    Unfortunately this isn’t being released anywhere else other than Chicago…so perhaps you can see it Kate?? Maybe give us a review??

    I’m really interested in the aspect of “poisoning”. In that, this beauty ideal, which changes and alters day to day…week to week….poisons all of us. We’re to expect ourselves and others to achieve this impossible ideal. How does this really affect our interactions with others in personal, professional and romantic relationships?

    The director mentions “Men on the couch”, which I assume is men who observe and critique women from afar based on this beauty ideal. This in effect is suppose to give the viewer an idea of how the beauty industry has damaged men and in effect their romantic/personal/professional relationships with women. One interviewee is quoted as saying “I look for slim, but I am not sure why”. Again, pointing out to the viewer that perhaps none of us are even aware of what we really want anymore because we’re so poisoned by why the beauty industry tells us we want or what we should be.

    So yeah, I’d love to see this, but expect that it may be sometime before I have a chance.

  48. April D, I don’t think your diet has SHIT to do with the sex of your baby. This article doesn’t prove it one way or the other. I am currently 5 1/2 month pregnant and expecting a girl…I don’t skimp on calories or high nutrient food….so yeah. I’ve always heard that the younger the male providing the sperm is, the more likely your chances of having a boy. But again, there are women that birth boy after boy regardless of the age of the father. Who really knows for sure?

    At ANY rate, this article comes across as sexist. Opening up with “BOY” implies that every person attempting to conceive would prefer a male. WRONG.

  49. seems that now (based on a “study” of a whopping 740 women mind you) the number of calories you consume might be related (or for this article “IS TOALLY THE CAUSE” ;) to determining the gender of your un-born child.

    Oh god. And you know what ignorant fools who don’t understand biology are going to make of this? That they can determine whether the embryo becomes a male or female by how they eat in pregnancy, so women who want a girl will eat poorly throughout pregnancy, risking all the possible complications of malnutrition. :( In reality, if it’s true that diet affects different embryos differently, what that would mean is only that embryos would be more or less likely to survive based on the mother’s diet. I.e., more or less likely to spontaneously abort.

  50. Nancy, they don’t “Photoshop” movies, but they do edit them, all the time. The editing process isn’t just a cut and paste of frames anymore, its as scrubbed as any magazine picture. Whole limbs will be moved, inserted, removed, and moved again. Colors get “corrected.” Even the audio has all of its little sibilant s’s cleaned up. And this isn’t just for movies, either. Its for that little 30 second laundry detergent ad you barely noticed. Tens of thousands of dollars can get spent on that single 30s commercial that isn’t even spending any time at prime time. For a movie, well, I’m not sure of percentages, but those hundred million dollars they spend on the blockbusters? More than one of those tens of million went into the editing process making everyone and everything look cleaner, sharper, more gripping. That’s why Kiera Knightly looks perfect even with dirt smeared on her face in the movie.

  51. Fashion magazines capitalize on the fact that women are very aesthetically motivated. It’s not just about feeling the need to please men or employers or whatever, or even necessarily about that at all, as several people on this thread have attested to, although that’s not to say that such things don’t have a HUGE effect on the choices people make and how they see themselves — just that the desire for pretty, sparkly, interesting, new things is a human phenomenon in its own right.

    I can relate to whoever it was who said that she continues buying fashion magazines just for the love of design and inspiration. I did the same thing for a long time with the house/decor porn magazines, and while I couldn’t bring myself to buy the women’s magazines, I’d still pour over them at friends’ houses.

    But oh how I love the internet, and this is one reason why: it gives people the opportunity to find and create another source for that beside that of rich, powerful people who motivation is solely to manipulate me into giving them more money. It’s totally weaned me of my desire to look through those mags, because actually it’s even better. Because it’s grass-roots, it’s much more subversive and there’s more variety. I’m more likely to find my interests represented somewhere online by someone just putting up their own stuff, than I am looking through mags in the grocery store. I’m in love with groups on Flickr like “wardrobe remix” and “corners of my home”. Looking through fashion mags just makes me depressed and jealous. Looking at photos of what real people are doing is what inspires me to create my own life, because it’s accessible and realistic.

  52. IMO, the conundrum with getting inspiration from online street style is that some of these well-dressed people were initially inspired by fashion magazines from either past or present (remember, folks: Vogue has been telling people before us what “fashionable” people wear for years. It turned 114 years in 2006, and who knows how many more years the old woman has in her). That said, I do not see it as an alternative to fashion magazines, but simply documentation of how people work with what’s in magazines. In that way, I see magazines as cutting out the middleman and letting me make my interpretations from scratch.

    It’s like that moment in The Devil Wears Prada, where the interns’ sweater is revealed to be just as much of a product of the fashion industry as one that cost three times the price. No article of clothing in circulation today isn’t based off of articles of clothing that was “the style” and in magazines everywhere as what people wore. For example, if you go back in the 1960s, you’d have to scour special boutiques to find a corset and/or petticoat to wear on a daily basis. Go back five years or earlier, and you could find one easily. Today, it’s even harder to find a functional corset that isn’t expensive.Nowadays, people don’t wear corsets every day, but they sure as heck used to. That said, it may be appropriately sexy to wear a corset on it’s own, but it cannot be said that the corset is a stranger to the naked body. It just hasn’t been out in the fresh air.

    To anthropomorphize and issue, we’re complaining about living in our cruel grandmothers’ basement, but we haven’t made enough cash to buy our own apartment…yet. Until then, we have to eat her horrible bran muffins and say gold leggings are a great idea until we can think of something we haven’t discussed, or she hasn’t lived through on her own( “remember the fifties?” “Yes, I wore a nice flared dress with pearls”. “Remember the 90’s?”, “Ah, I remmeber those years well. That’s when I got introduced to heroin and forgot what fit me”). Of course, one could argue weather the styles on the street influence the fashion or the fashion influences the styles on the street. I have yet to see a good outfit on a street style blog that hasn’t had an element taken from a magazine or current trend.Of course, I’m into the more extreme styles such as lolita and visual kei, thus it takes something extremely over the top and rediculouse for me to be floored. Look at any Angelic Pretty advert and anyone could feel like they’re a bit boring. Some of these girls are wearing fake cakes in their hair! They just don’t sell fake cake headbands in America, so I am not yet convinced we’ve hit a wall in sartorial possibilities unless we can wear pastries like that. BTW: brands like Baby The Stars Shine Bright and Metamorphose have items that come in sizes that can go into inbetweenie range , and sometimes the clothes stretch even further with enough shirring. Considering Japanese sizing, that’s more variety than some American brands.

    The moral of the story I’m failing to communicate is that so many of the things people are wearing is connected to fashion, and we’re still not at the point where our sartorial choices are 100%independent from the ones made by designers and magazine editors. As you can see, I’m very devoted to this, and probably need to find a better hobby…or move out of my parents’ home ._.

  53. I’m sorry, did I read correctly that the name of one of those studios was I-Wanks? Oh, no, sorry again, IWanex. Silly me.

  54. @ Kate upthread (planning a home birth in New Zealand) – Kate, you’re in the same country as Debra Betts – midwife and acupuncturist – check out her acupressure booklet at
    Its full of tips that are excellent both for you and for any partners you may ask to be around to help – it helps them to know how to help – if you know what I mean. Best of luck
    PS – apologies for going off thread

  55. Getting back to the thread, it brings up some thoughts about eyes –

    First, we got rid of our television when the kids were small, and the first thing I noticed was how startling it was to find I was now spending so much more time looking at the faces around me – my children, my husband, any passing visitors. It was great – the lack of a screen distraction meant I was seeing mainly eyes – and reading eyes. And the interesting other thing that happened then was the realisation that if I looked at the way I was reflected back to myself through the eyes of people around me who loved me – I was beautiful. They looked upon me and were pleased.

    Second, I don’t look at these kind of mags, because they instantly do the opposite. They reflect ugliness back at me, and I won’t have it. Nevertheless, inspired by a seminar on emotions, I did try a trick it recommended when I was confronted with a raft of anti-“women’s” mags in a doctor’s waiting room. I used my fingers to frame the eyes of the pictures of the models and celebrities, trying to guess what emotion they were actually feeling. And you know, they are not a happy bunch.

    Finally, the word choice comes up here, as in other places, and it’s an idea I want to develop further, but it strikes me that choice and power are two different things. Choice is airbrushing, power is beauty. Choice is saccharine, power is rich chocolate cake. Choice is fake, it is the illusion with which we are bought and sold. Power is what we actually need to reclaim, to have, to use, and to share.

  56. “It was great – the lack of a screen distraction meant I was seeing mainly eyes – and reading eyes. And the interesting other thing that happened then was the realisation that if I looked at the way I was reflected back to myself through the eyes of people around me who loved me – I was beautiful. They looked upon me and were pleased.”

    scotlyn, i’ve been thinking about this since i read it….i think it’s a pretty profound thought. and mainly for the exact opposite reason. if you look into someone’s eyes and see ugly, maybe that has a little to do with how they feel about you, but really it’s how ugly they are inside or how ugly they feel they are.

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