I detest the “beauty industry.” Some of the most attractive women who’ve ever been in my life have been terribly insecure about their looks, and I put a large portion of the blame on companies who peddle images of impossible-to-attain perfection in hopes of selling products that can never deliver.
I understand the companies’ motivation. I don’t want to legally ban them from selling what they’re selling. I don’t even want to ban the methods they use to sell their products. But I am happy with a small step in the right direction which came this week, when the advertising industry’s self-regulating group issued a ban on the use of Photoshop in ads for cosmetic products.
This won’t stop many abuses. You’ll still be seeing impossibly perfect men and women in fashion photos and in every other kind of ad. And you’ll still be seeing hideously thin models who can’t be real and would be dead if they were. But at least in the field of cosmetics, if a product is shown a certain way, you can be reasonably sure that it’s at least theoretically possible that it can do what’s shown.
In many of the “before and after” shots I see of models, I recognize the “perfection” in the “after” shots, but I’m still drawn to the “before” shots. There’s something plastic and fake — like a Barbie doll — about the image that’s being sold to society today as beauty. Even though the damage is self-inflicted by people who believe the image, it’s hard not to fall victim to it, because those plastic images are pushed at us as reality in every form of media imaginable. Take a look at this video report in which a reporter for a diet publication allows herself to be photographed and photoshopped.
The most beautiful woman I’ve ever known had minor physical flaws that she was horribly self-conscious about. A tiny spot on her face caused her to learn to pose in ways that hid that little “imperfection.” Her weight was a bit higher than what the “beauty myth” says is ideal. In other words, she was a very normal human being in those ways — who happened to be the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. But she couldn’t see that. All she saw were the flaws, not the perfect beauty that made her real.
The world today is filled with women like that. Some of them are stunningly beautiful, like the woman I just mentioned. Others are more plain or moderately attractive, but still attractive in their own right. They’ve been made to feel that they’re defective, because they’re held up to a standard that only exists in the minds of fantasy artists manipulating pictures inside of a computer.
Most real women have curves and “padding.” Most real women have flaws and imperfections. I wish we as a society could learn to accept and appreciate what reality can actually deliver in the flesh and blood. I don’t object to makeup, simply because it’s something that makes most women feel better about themselves. But I do object to showing them a standard that they can’t possibly attain.
The beauty products brand Dove created a groundbreaking marketing campaign about five years ago that played on this theme. Take a look at the 60-second video below that shows the evolution a model goes through from entering a studio until her face is on a billboard.
Personally, I’d take the original version of the woman any day. She seems real. The face on the billboard looks fake. Women like that don’t exist. It’s time to accept that — and embrace the natural beauty of the women in our lives. They’ll be happier and so will we.