Learning to Love Our Bodies Through Acknowledging Photoshop

[From Theory to Praxis Flyer–Alternative to Grant Proposal]

Rosie Molinary speaks to the collective you in her book, Beautiful You: “Yesterday you looked in the mirror, and, instead of your inherent greatness, you saw flaws. […] This morning, you walked into work, class, the grocery store, wherever and compared your body to someone else’s” (Molinary xiv). Molinary’s introduction to her book only serves to corroborates Jen Baker’s TED Talk on Total Body Love where she shares the shocking statistic that, “only 4% of women call themselves beautiful”.

From the time babies are just six months old they are able to recognize advertisements and logos as they are ubiquitous in our society (Kilbourne). Starting at a young age these images are retained in our subconscious and we learn to normalize these images and the actions that these images perpetrate. By the time we enter grade school we only understand one definition of beauty—thin—because this is the only definition we have ever been exposed to. As many of us strive to reach this “gold standard” it is not uncommon that low self esteem, depression, and eating disorders are developed along the way. We perpetuate Laura Mulvey’s concept of the male gaze by unknowingly objectifying ourselves through this lens set forth by the media.

However, even beyond size, women of color are subject to white-washing.  Their skin color is often lightened to resemble the “white ideal” our society has created and they are not just victims of one element of editing, but often multiple. Before taking GSS 101 I was only slightly familiar with the concept of “intersectionality” and I had no idea to the extent it plays into the mainstream portrayal of women of color in media.

The negative way we view ourselves is amplified through the widespread use of Photoshop. By college age most students are aware of the use of Photoshop, but few fully understand to what extent this application is used or how to recognize its use. By creating a flyer to hang up around campus—in Chambers and in several dorm buildings—I aim to have more woman be able to recognize the widespread use of Photoshop and in turn learn to call themselves beautiful. Although men are also victims of Photoshop, it is not to the extent that women are and so I am focusing on just woman for the sake of this project. The images on the left side of the flyer are all images before they underwent Photoshop and the images on the right are all the images after they have been extensively Photoshopped. Although these flyers would be more effective hanging up in a grade school, where 81% of ten year olds are more afraid of “being fat than having cancer”, these flyers are also pertinent at the college level because these issues transcend age (Baker). I wanted to also capture the affect of Photoshop on woman of color in my flyers because most people are unaware of the role intersectionality plays in women of color—they not only have to deal with the false beauty standards of size but also of color. For even mainstream celebrities like Beyoncé and Michelle Obama have been altered by Photoshop. By recognizing happiness is not defined by a size we can redefine the beauty standard together and move toward understanding that beauty and health are at every size and color.  Jen Baker explains in her TED Talk how we have to recognize that body hate is learned and so it can also be unlearned—and I hope my flyer will help to do this.

Work Cited:

Baker, Jen. “Complete and Total Body Love.” TED. 2014. Lecture.

Kilbourne, Jean. “Killing Us Softly IV: Advertising Images of Women.” TED. 2014. Lecture.

Molinary, Rosie. Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-acceptance. Berkeley, CA: Seal, 2010. Print.