As seen in SHIFT Issue 2//Vol. 2
There are five senses: taste, smell, hearing, sight, and touch, and whether people realize this or not, these senses are often being deceived on a near daily basis. The things people eat aren’t always completely natural. Artificial preserving chemicals are added to beef jerky to achieve the trademark seasoned and dry chewiness that Americans love, despite its tag claiming “100% natural ingredients.” That new pop soundtrack that sounds like a plain guitar solo recorded in a studio? It’s been put through a program to smooth out the riffs and enhance certain snippets.
One of the human body’s most dominant senses is sight—people obtain a lot of information using their eyes. All across this planet, humans read, observe, examine, peruse, and watch for the majority of their days. Having the ability to see is wonderful, but sight also has its weaknesses; it is the most commonly and easily tricked sense.
From media sensationalism to magazine models altered using professional software, a lot of what readers consume nowadays is not at all the truth. Sometimes the stories being read are exaggerated in order to create a sense of urgency and high stakes. Other times, they are just outright not what they purport to be. They are not raw, taken from their sources and then published. They are distorted.
One of the main distorted elements in the media is photography. Many people think that the gorgeous model on the magazine cover is a pure natural beauty—that her teeth are naturally that white, and that her small waist and large hips were just something she grew into during her adolescent years. The truth, though, is that many companies nowadays adjust their publications as much as is possible without appearing false. Using technology that is available to practically anyone with access to a computer, artists can add a rosy shine to make skin look sun-kissed, enlarge eyes for a dramatic effect, or increase the height of the subject in the picture. Why are the thighs of models slimmed with the liquefy tool in Photoshop? How come the chin also has to be shaved down? Quite simply, the all-encompassing question is: Why are women Photoshopped?
Now, people might not be able to control what these giants of industry choose to do, or understand why they do these things, but as viewers they do have the power to educate themselves and prevent these standards of beauty from influencing their outlooks. The effects of people comparing themselves to these digitalized photos are inexhaustible. Ranging from varying degrees of self-esteem issues to the development of severe disorders like anorexia, a plethora of problems can arise.
One of such problems would be the beauty standards subliminally set for women in such a Photoshop-heavy pop culture. Seeing beautiful models everywhere who have wrinkle-free faces and lifted cheeks can reinforce the idea that all women should look like that. From The Huffington Post, a study in the JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery journal found that women who had facial surgery were typically perceived to not only be more attractive, but also more likeable. This is known as ‘facial profiling.’ It’s essentially how people deduce information based on specific facial expressions. Corners of the mouth that are pointed down typically indicate to others that this person is not as likeable or doesn’t possess social skills. Likewise, full cheeks with a smile are signs that someone is likeable, due to their inherent appearance of happiness. Perhaps, when readers glance at the flawless, glamorous models in magazines, they are not only wishing to be as physically beautiful as them, but also to possess the same psychological effects these models have on others.
So while the effects of facial surgery have plenty of psychological effects, such as convincing others that they are more trustworthy or affectionate simply because of their lifted eyebrows, other body parts have a much different effect. A once obscure surgery, Brazilian butt lifts are now all the rage. Women who have smaller amounts of fat or are simply out of shape can hand over thousands of dollars to be taken into the surgery room. People who don’t know that these aesthetically-pleasing body types were obtained through plastic surgery may think that if they work hard enough – do their squats, eat their vegetables and lean meats – they’ll also build a butt that looks like that, too. But that is unfortunately not the case. It is this manipulation of media that has this profound effect on the minds of readers. To constantly strive for something that is impossible to obtain without the help of software or surgery.
Constantly seeing this distortion that many believe to be real can cause the millions of consumers of pop-culture to set high standards for themselves, ones that are near impossible to reach. In the end, these people do not fall in love with the bodies of celebrities or models; they become enchanted with the distorted versions, put under a spell that brings about a belief that these images are authentic and natural. Perhaps this misinformation is what allows these mere images to control women’s minds, causing them to set a high, nearly unattainable standard for themselves.
Indubitably, the impact of distortion is powerful, and the answer to the aforementioned question: “Why are women Photoshopped?” is not a simple one. The thing is that beauty standards world-wide are constantly changing as society adapts and morphs with each generation, In Rosalind Coward’s book, The Body Beautiful, she notes that a common idea of the ideal female body is characterized as having a height between 5’5” and 5’8”, possesses long tanned and athletic legs, and “above all, without a spare inch of flesh.”
There is one lesson that can be taken away from this, and that is that perhaps the most important thing people can do to empower themselves is to understand this distortion that is so prominent in our daily life, and to keep this manipulation of reality in the media, away from their lives.