Thursday, May 8, 2014

Photoshop: A Political Problem?


Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons 
Teenagers are influenced by the examples around them. We learn to adapt to how we are expected to look or act. We don’t learn to adapt by having someone teach us, it’s a biological instinct. We feel better about ourselves when we are like everyone else. We can’t help it if we see an extremely skinny and impossibly beautiful model in a magazine and want to be like him or her. Photoshopping creates a false and unrealistic body image that raises physical expectations. Younger generations, being immature and persuadable, do not always understand that not everything online or in magazines is true. Seth Matlins, creator of Feel More Better, a site that encourages women to be happier and healthier with their bodies, writes that 53 percent of 13-year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies and by the time they’re 17 it rises to 78 percent (Weissman). This problem has become so severe that countries are creating laws that prevent or discourage the use of photoshop. Countries like Israel and the United States are starting to pay attention. Because photoshopping in the media is still very new, with the recent major advancements in technology, not many countries have worried about it. As a young teenager, I can see the way photoshopping has affected the way boys and girls define beauty. Photoshopping has erased imperfect human flaws in order to sell products that may not even give you what was promised in its ad, pushing teenagers to feel like they are not what society wants. Countries need to do more because the industry won’t act on its own against photoshop and its misuse in advertisements in order to spare their younger generations.

In Israel, the government has created a photoshop law that bans any model under a certain body weight from being included in magazines. The models must have a doctor’s note saying they meet a certain body mass index (BMI) (Rubin). The photoshop issue was addressed by the Israeli government in 2007 after Adi Barkan, fashion photographer and models’ agent, had his client, Hila Elmalich, who had anorexia, die in his arms after having a heart attack from smoking a cigarette (Rubin). Barkan was inspired by Hila’s death to work against being too thin for the media so younger generations don’t feel the need to starve themselves to please society. Barkan worked with Rachel Adato, a member of Knesset, the legislative branch of the Israeli government, to raise awareness of anorexia (Rubin). The former lawyer and gynecologist says, “Beautiful is not underweight, beautiful is not anorexic” (Rubin). According to Sigal Gooldin, a Hebrew University Medical Sociologist, 3 percent of girls ages 11 through 18 suffer from eating disorders in Israel (Rubin). Because of photoshop and its effect on younger generations, the message of being thin is even stronger. To begin with, our society encourages being thin but photoshop shows a drastic idealized image of it. Hila and many other models felt the need to be impossibly thin in order to become what society wants. The United States has also decided to address photoshopping and its effects on younger generations.

In the United States, the Truth in Advertising Act of 2014 was proposed by two congresswomen, Republican Representative, Ileana Ros-Lethinen and Democratic Representative, Lois Capps (Congresswoman). The bill restricts the overuse of photoshop in the media. Organizations like Eating Disorders Coalition support the bill because they are tired of the “bold-faced lies” that the media is sending to younger generations (Waldman). Capps feels that “just as with cigarette ads in the past, fashion ads portray a twisted, ideal image for young women. And they’re vulnerable. As sales go up, body image and confidence drops” (Congresswoman). Capps explains that as women feel more and more insecure about themselves, they will feel the need to buy more and more products in order to reach a photoshopped model’s “beauty”. On average, a woman spends about $15,000 dollars in her lifetime on makeup and other beauty products (Women).


Contrary to my argument, photoshop is art. It’s a way for photographers and artists to express themselves. Jeff Schewe, of Photoshop News, feels that “we have wonderful tools to create images, new digital cameras and photographic digital printers and powerful tools such as Photoshop and we are expected to do what -- nothing? I don't think so" (Diller). Particularly, photographers and artists feel that the world has judged photoshop too quickly. Michael Graupman, author of the article ‘Photoshopping on the Chopping Block’ thinks that "perhaps it is time for a refresher course for the media and Americans of what Photoshop was created for originally: bringing a subject more into focus, not creating works of fiction" (Diller).

With the improvement of technology, photoshopping has come to a point where the difference between realism and idealism cannot be determined. We are trying to achieve the unachievable. Of course we have our hopes and dreams, but this is an illusion. Photoshop tricks you into thinking that the perfect face or the perfect skin can be reached with a certain cream or makeup brand. It dehumanizes regular everyday people. If the extremeness of photoshop ends altogether, no one will expect false characteristics. With the end of high physical expectations, governments won’t feel the need to worry about the influence it has on their younger generations. We could be happy with who we are, not what the media want us to be.
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Conclusion, updated May 25, 2014

The recent comments have helped me learn that banning photoshop is not as easy as it may seem. Countries like Britain and Israel do not have a Constitution that prohibits the the Freedom of Speech. Completely banning photoshop would go against the Freedom of Speech in the United States's Constitution. Although the complete ban of photoshop may not be achievable because of the Constitution, the the limitation of it may be. This has helped me realize that all factors need to be taken into consideration when the government passes a law. Another important factor that the government has to realize is the effect that the limitation of photoshop will have on companies. Companies typically use photoshop in their advertisements to make their products look good. The problem is, without photoshop to enhance the product, the amount of sales that the companies typically make will plummet. This would concern the government. I have not overly considered the finical point of view companies have on banning photoshop or at least limiting it. I can imagine that it would cause some job losses and a plummet in sails, but should those companies have relied on photoshop in the first place? If those companies need photoshop to sell their products then aren't they falsely advertising them? The commenters have helped clarify this this valid point. They have change my mind about how much the government can really do in a situation like this where many things can be majorly influenced. I've learned that listening to other people's thoughts and opinions help make good arguments.


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14 comments:

  1. Hey hassanyou, I really enjoyed reading this. I was especially amazed with the video. It is crazy to think how much time and effort is put into making these changes that are used to fool us. I don't know how I would feel if I was a women who had my whole body totally redone because I didn't look "perfect." To be honest when guys see all the magazines and pictures that are photshoped they think that that is really how the model looks. I think that as men we tend to want a who looks like a picture on a magazine, when in reality, that person doesn't exist. Do you think that the omen in these pictures should rise up and make a stand? If the do stop doing this to women, what do you think the publics reaction will be when they see the new magazines?

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    1. Hey, Neymar the Dragon. I'm glad you enjoyed reading my article and gave some honest thoughts that men seem to have. I do think that the women who are being photoshopped should take a stand. I'm sure many women have wanted to say something but then didn't in order to keep their jobs intact. I think that once the un-photoshopped magazine issues come out, it will help younger women and men realize that the before issues were dehumanizing and unrealistic. Thanks for commenting!

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  2. Hi, Hassanyou! This is great discussion of the need for regulation in the advertising industry when it comes to Photoshop and ideal depictions of models. You mention Israel, which passed a law in 2007, and I believe that Great Britain has had similar legislation for the last couple of years. While there does seem to be a push now for the U.S. to follow suit, I wonder why it has taken so long. I read an article in The Daily Beast that suggests there are concerns about free speech if the government attempts to impose content restrictions on advertising. Do you think this a valid concern? Thanks again -- Ms. Riches

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    1. Hi, Mrs. Riches. I do think its a valid concern. I understand the the complete ban of photoshop would fall under a regulation of preventing free speech (and expression) but because it has such concerning effect on younger generations a limit should be set in place. It seems to me that its up to our government to decide if the effect that photoshop has on our younger generations (like anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating) is important to deal with or not.

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  3. Hi, Hassanyou! Your blog has some really great information! I think that what you were talking about with young girls and their ridiculous expectations for what their body should look like is not fair and puts way to much pressure on young women. However, I do not necessarily think that there should be any laws preventing photoshop or constricting model's weight. Do you think that if young women knew what the media shows them is fake, that they would feel more confident or happy with their body? Thanks, Indika.

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    2. Hi, Indika! Honestly, even if young women were aware about how women are photoshopped in the media, I feel like they would still make it some kind of goal. Im sure some young women would find peace with themselves about it, but as long as the male population still witnesses it, they'll still expect it, so women will still want to achieve it. I respect your opinion about not completely banning photoshop. The least that Congress should consider is at least putting a limit on excessive photoshop. Thanks for commenting!

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  4. Thank you so much for addressing this issue, Hannanyou!
    I think that Photoshop has created/expanded a huge social problem in our society. I applaud Israel in protecting its models from starving themselves, and would absolutely support a law like that being passed in America. I think that the law regarding Photoshop is slightly more controversial, potentially violating the first amendment. However, I think that it should be seriously considered by congress, and I hope that the government listens to its people, not just the large corporations who can speak so loudly. Have you considered the financial point of view for the companies which do not like the law regarding Photoshop? Do you think that the companies are really concerned about free speech, or do they just want to advertise so that they can sell their products and make more money?

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    1. Bonjour demoiselle! I have not overly considered the finical point of view companies have on banning photoshop or at least limiting it. I can imagine that it would cause some job losses and a plummet in sails but should those companies have relied on photoshop in the first place? If those companies need photoshop to sell their products then aren't they falsely advertising them? I believe companies are just using freedom of speech as an excuse to prevent photoshop laws in order to spare their sales. Thanks for sharing you opinion!

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  5. Hi Hassanyou, great blog post! I love how you really give the reader an understanding of how Photoshop can be used. I read this article published in the New York Times about image manipulation. It mentions that "it now seems fresh, even exclamation-worthy, when a magazine presents an unvarnished image." It's pretty noticeable that some magazines are making a commitment to not use Photoshop on their images. Although there aren't many magazines doing this, it is a step towards a world where images of models aren't ridiculously edited.

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    1. Hi Kate! I agree that some magazines are making a change. A popularly known teen magazine called Seventeen recently took a No-Photoshop Pledge after an 8th Grader campaigned against the use of it. Thanks for commenting!

      Check out the story:



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    2. Sorry it didn't link properly. Here it is in a URL: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2012/07/05/156342683/seventeen-magazine-takes-no-photoshop-pledge-after-8th-graders-campaign

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  6. Hi Hassanyou! Thank you for a great blog and interesting information.
    You wrote a great blog on a topic that definitely needs to be addressed more than it is. Your video was very interesting and I liked the that you put the fact about Israel banning models under a certain body weight. Although I wish the United States was the one making that ban, I'm glad to see that some countries are taking action about this growing issue. I agree that photoshop is an art but I don't think making models look fake is art. Thanks for the post!

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    1. Hi, Lynn429! Im really glad you liked my article. I also felt that it was a topic that needed to be addressed more. I agree with you that making models look fake isn't art but photoshop can be used in different ways to create art. There is a very famous Marilyn Monroe photo that Andy Warhol turned into art. You can read and learn about it here: http://www.webexhibits.org/colorart/marilyns.html

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