Kaitlin Schuler wrote a beautifully eye-opening post about the way women are portrayed in the media. It serves as my inspiration for this post, which partially responds to hers and partially takes this issue into different territory—Photoshop and plastic surgery.
Something in Kaitlin’s post that immediately grabbed me was her statement, “The way women are portrayed by the media is not something I ever questions. And I should have a long time ago.” I thought this was so powerful, and I fully agree. The only times I’ve thought about how women are objectified were in classes that required me to think about it; once those times passed, it slipped my mind yet again. I, too, was fortunate to grow up in a very supportive family. For years I ran cross country and played soccer, and I always felt pretty confident about my body. I had never given the pretty women gracing magazine covers much thought at all.
That made finding out that one of my closest friends was bulimic even harder. I couldn’t understand how she could feel like that about herself. She was gorgeous and had an amazing gymnast’s body, yet she wasn’t satisfied. It made me so sad—and still does—that girls and women feel like they should be held to such impossible standards.
It reaches beyond women though, as men are often sexualized in the media, too. I wish you could all see the tweets on my timeline from when the Calvin Klein underwear ad ran during the Super Bowl…girls objectify guys too, to say the least. But I remember watching a video in class one time where they went through the Photoshopping of a male model. They literally relocated his nipples to make his pecs look…better? That was the goal anyway. They made his muscles larger, his jawline more defined. And let me tell you, he was hot to begin with—there was no need (in my eyes) for any of that. It is ridiculous that the people we look at and think “Wow they look great” are not good enough for the media—they must be poked and prodded with the various tools of Photoshop.
I find it so inspiring when celebrities release their original, un-Photoshopped photos to send the message that there is no “perfection” and that they, too, are normal people with flaws (flaws that wouldn’t even be considered flaws to most of us). Buzzfeed had a really interesting page of gifs comparing pre- and post-Photoshop pictures. Check it out.
In addition to Photoshop—the virtual side of things—there is also plastic surgery. This is where things get a little dicey. While I agree that there is a problem with the objectification of our bodies, I find that I have become much more accepting of people undergoing cosmetic procedures. Does this make me wishy-washy? A hypocrite? I’m really not sure.
This probably has to do with the fact that I shadow a plastic surgeon, and he is someone for whom I have immense respect. Yes, he performs breast augmentations and facelifts. He also does his best to fix the sometimes gaping holes left from skin cancer removal, rebuild breasts (and confidence) following mastectomies, and provide the best care for his patients, whatever their needs may be. Plastic surgery tends to carry a negative connotation, as people often picture the over-the-top, botched surgeries we see on TV, but it doesn’t have to be this way. The people I see coming into the office—men and women—see something they don’t like about themselves, and they want to fix it. They aren’t asking to be “perfect” and they aren’t hoping to look twenty years younger. I don’t mean to say that I am in favor of everyone going under the knife to fix any and everything, but I certainly don’t hold the same negative feelings towards plastic surgery as I do towards the media’s obsessive use of Photoshop.
I think it has something to do with the media’s objectification of our bodies and the inexorable tie to Photoshop. Photoshop creates ideals that are impossible. Plastic surgery can help to change things, but it is never perfect and it doesn’t make that claim. It is also true that in this part of the country, plastic surgery tends to be less extreme—I’m sure I would feel differently in L.A.
I think what it really comes down to is building confidence in people and making sure that the choices they make about their bodies are well-informed. There is a difference between wanting to change something about your look and idolizing an unrealistic image of “perfection.” Understanding that there are so many pictures of beautiful is the first step. There shouldn’t be a standard for beauty, especially one so unrealistically created by throwing images at us everywhere we turn. I heard a quote from an anti-bullying video that recently went viral, and it really stuck with me: “If you can’t see anything beautiful about yourself, get a better mirror.”
I’m curious to see what everyone thinks about all of these issues. There are definitely a lot of ways to look at these problems and how our society handles them. What do you think?