Photoshop Isn’t Going to Fix This

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.

This is Going to Get Hairy

Everyone in the entire world, at any given moment, is trying to sell you something. Whether it be a new toaster, a new car, or a new lifestyle entirely, we are constantly consuming.

Actually, advertising is such a part of us that we probably don’t even know what is truth and what gimmick has been shoved down our throat enough times that it is now disguised as truth. Usually, we can’t tell the difference. But every now and then, the veil slips, and we get a glimpse.

I caught the briefest of peeks of the world beyond the billboards today.

It was a shaving cream commercial. Or maybe it was a razor commercial. At any rate, it was directed at women and their absolute primal need to have smooth legs, and it was the most ridiculous thing I had ever seen. The women in the advertisement were set up on a staircase and actually singing about how repulsive it was to have hairy legs. They illustrated this point by looking disgusted when there was a close-up shot of a couple of cacti that were supposed to represent the prickly feeling of not shaving.

Which I immediately took offense to. Cacti are one of the most resilient plants in the world, and they provide nutrients to inhabitants in one of the most severe climes: the desert. So, what if they’re spiky? Haven’t you ever heard of self-defense? Why should their appearance have anything to do with their worth? A better question: why should yours?

But of course, more importantly, the fact that a woman’s legs must resemble a baby’s bottom rather than a cacti is the primary concern that I have with this ad. The problem is that society is dictating what personal hygiene and beauty means for women. And we all know the real reason that shaving companies don’t want us to have hairy legs: we need to buy their product. They’re not really concerned with the image we have of ourselves. Just as long as it is hair-free.

Yet, if these companies really wanted to sell more of their product, why don’t they just tell us how much easier shaving with their razor and cream is? I don’t think women mind who touches their legs and feels prickliness. They certainly don’t mind going the entire winter season without taking a razor to their fur coat. (Go ahead. Poll the female audience. They will tell you that this is true. The ones who say it isn’t are lying.) What we all don’t like is how much a pain (literally and figuratively) it is to shave or wax your legs. And when it comes to the hierarchy of beauty rituals, shaving just isn’t at the top. No matter how loudly you are going to sing about it.

In the end, it does not matter what you do to make yourself feel beautiful. It also does not matter what someone else wants you to do with your body, even if they show you some ridiculously crafted metaphor (like a cactus) for how undesirable you will be if you do not follow their rules.

Actually, let’s not split hairs here. Their message is simple: you are not perfect as you are. My message to you? They’re wrong.