|Source: Wikimedia Commons|
Repeated exposure to photoshopped images in the media has the potential to damage girls’ mental and physical health in terms of body image and self esteem. When the first camera came out, a photo was a photo. There was not any kind of technology back then to enable photo alteration, so it’s not like somebody could look at a photo and think, wow, they totally enlarged her boobs, or those abs aren’t real. Nowadays, a picture can be a lie. New software has allowed us to alter or manipulate images as we please, and this can be dangerous because of course if a picture is obviously fake we can recognize it, but if, let’s say, a human belly was slimmed down an inch or two, or if breasts were slightly enlarged, would we really be able to tell? The answer to that question is… well, no. Day after day we are exposed to airbrushed photos, and we begin to believe that is what beautiful is.
“Children and teens are particularly vulnerable to ‘perfect’ models” (Carolyn Landis). Body awareness begins at a young age, and exposure to airbrushed photos causes young girls to strive for a perfection that can’t be reached. In fact, studies have shown correlations between this exposure and symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. “Among youth 18 and under, breast augmentations increased nearly six-fold between 1997 and 2007” (Miss Representation), which shows that these manipulated images can also encourage and glorify things such as plastic surgery by “perpetuating an unachievable aesthetic” (Baroness Kingsmill). Girls grow up idolizing these fake photos and the celebrities in them, and when they can’t meet these expectations of beauty that have manifested over extended exposure to airbrushed pictures, they feel inadequacy and self-hatred.
The next way that girls are affected by manipulated images also happens to be a growing problem in the US. What do we think of when we think, model? What characterizes them? The first thing that comes to mind for me, and I’m sure many other people, is tall and skinny. Very skinny. Heck, when I buy a Vogue magazine feeling like a confident, thin girl, I finish it feeling fat. Although photo manipulation very seriously affects girls’ mental health, it can also take a potentially fatal toll on their physical health; they could develop an eating disorder. “Body image issues- that are precursors to eating disorders- develop earlier than you think” (Erik Fisher). Fashion photos airbrushed to near-perfection can plant seeds for stereotypes that to be beautiful you have to look straight off of Elle magazine, and combined with this pressure to be perfect it can easily drive a teenage girl over the edge; a simple diet turning into something much more dire. In fact, a shocking “65% of American women and girls report disordered eating behaviors” (Miss Representation). These numbers are too dramatic to ignore, and it could even be considered a health issue. It is not okay for these girls to have to go through this, to feel miserable both on the inside and out. Before Adobe software was available, cosmetic procedures were highly rare for anyone to get them, yet now we live in a society where youth 18 and younger being operated on is relatively normal.This is a problem, America. How about we take a stand for our daughters or friends or relatives who could be affected by this?
However, there is another side to this coin. In fact, some call Photoshop a feminist’s "best friend". There have been claims made that society assumes women are weak and looks-obsessed, when in fact they’re not, and that arguments of why photoshop is not healthy is based on the assumption that women and girls as a whole are neurotic and jealous. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Many women would say that they are strong and independent, and are able to look at an airbrushed photo and think, that’s fake, without going home and skipping dinner. Women look beyond physical appearance and can be sister-like, it’s just modern society that says women are distraught and will shatter at the thought of another woman being more attractive than themselves. Not only that, but tabloids make millions off of releasing candid photos of celebrities looking far from how you see them on the red carpet, and these "candid snaps" are nearly as popular as the ones in a fashion magazine. This is definitely something to consider, but it doesn’t change the facts.
According to Miss Representation, “cosmetic procedures performed on youth 18 and younger have more than tripled from 1997 to 2007” and “liposuctions nearly quadrupled in the same ten-year period". Those facts are real, and there are no signs of them getting any smaller any time soon unless we do something about it.
Reflection: Overall, I really enjoyed doing this project. It educated me on the digital world, and has introduced me to possible solutions to conflicts that I would have never thought of. Reading my peers' blogs was especially interesting for me, bringing light to different problems and helping to educate me on those problems so I could develop a solid opinion. I wrote my blog about the hazards of prolonged exposure to photoshopped images to young girls, and I think that this remains a huge problem in the digital world. People are using software to change the appearances of models to an inhuman perfection, and it is hugely beneficial for advertising. On my blog, I received some great and helpful comments! Constructive criticism and prompts helped me to further build on my argument, such as potential solutions to this problem, which I had not talked about very much in my blog. Unfortunately, I didn't find that all of the comments were quite so useful, some seemed rushed and were neither helpful nor constructive. Many of the comments were in general similar, and I had already done lots of research on my topic so I did not have to do much research to answer the blog comments. Primarily, they asked about potential solutions and pointed out their effect on men, not just women. None of them really argued another point, so I didn't really change my mind about anything.