You see a lot of interesting things walking through the mall. Some poor fashion choices. Some terrible cell phone accessory kiosks. Some dangerously tempting sales.
And of course, models. Model after model after model in broad relief behind the cash wrap. Videos of models on loop on Victoria’s Secret’s runways. Sun-kissed girls in tank tops posing in the sand at Pac-Sun. Duck faces with indelible lipstick and wind-swept hair at Sephora.
But it’s what wasn’t there that caught my eye at Aerie. The company boasts that they don’t ever photoshop the images of their girls. That is, they don’t airbrush tummies or touch up from the waist up. And of course, your first reaction is something like, Finally! An honest advertisement! A look that I can achieve on a woman that looks like me!
But then you look at the rest of the ad. And you realize pretty quickly that the girl in the picture doesn’t look like you.
Well, unless there is a really buff and beautiful me running around in another universe. But even if there was, I would never look like this girl. The hint of a six pack peaks out through her skin. Her hair is light blond and thin. And of course, she looks fantastic in the underwear she is modeling…even laying down. (Oh, and the underwear is pink. Not my color, completely ruining the parallels.) Not to mention she is comfortable being half-naked. Like I said, I would never look like this girl.
And so I have to ask: is not photoshopping women doing us more harm than good?
Because here is what I imagine happens. So, the marketing director of Aerie thinks he or she is doing a service to women everywhere by eliminating photoshop in the ads. By using “real” women in them, whatever that means. But the marketing director is still like, we need to have attractive people to sell the ads. (I mean, who would ever want to buy underwear from a person who was bigger than a size 0?) This means Aerie will have to find people who are “naturally” good looking. And I don’t mean they are “natural” looking, like they don’t wear any make-up. I mean that they don’t need to be photoshopped. They have the abs, the hair, the teeth. They are already flawless. They don’t need to be corrected.
So what ends up happening is that women get told that they are looking at a woman who isn’t photoshopped. Do they feel empowered or strong? No. They try to work harder to look like the women they see in the ads who don’t even need photoshop to look good in the first place.
Because when things were photoshopped, you could at least say, well, they gave her bigger breasts and shaped her stomach and covered up her zits. At least I know that they’ve done all that so I don’t have to feel that I could (or should) look like that every day. It is impossible to look like this woman, so I can soothe my ego.
But now? Aerie is making sure that there are women out there that actually look like that with no extra help. Doesn’t that make you feel like buying a pair of underwear and dancing around in them? No, I didn’t think so.
So, instead, I want to see girls who are photoshopped. I want to see the girls who are above a size 0. But I also want to see those girls who aren’t photoshopped. Those girls who are a size 0. In the same ad, hopefully.
But I want to see all of them on one condition: they need to feel good in their own skin, and that they aren’t worried about the standards imposed on their gender. I don’t want their self-esteem to be digitally enhanced ever again.