Friday, November 21, 2008

What Little Girls Are Made Of

On the left is a picture of Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice. She won 3 gold medals at the Summer Olympics this year. In addition to her obvious swimming talent, apparently she’s also kind of notorious because of her partying habits and some wild Facebook pictures. But, that’s not what this is about.

On the right is Stephanie on the cover of Inside Sport magazine. The photo on the cover of the magazine is obviously airbrushed.

Here’s the thing: She’s a beautiful girl; she’s in shape and she’s healthy. Why did they feel the need to airbrush her inner thighs away? Or make her outer thighs disappear? Or give her an artificial waistline? What was wrong with her “before” picture? The editor of the magazine said the only manipulation that was done to the picture was to make her skin tone look consistent. To my eyes, they succeeded in making her skin tone look plastic.

I got this story from a message board that I visit occasionally. Most of the people that post stories and make comments are young women in their early-to-mid-20’s, with some skewing younger and some older (like me). When I first read the small article that was posted with the pictures, I was worried about what kinds of comments were going to be made. I expected a flurry of “Look at the size of her thighs!” type comments, along with some worshipful comments about the way she looks on the magazine cover.

What followed though was a chorus of “Why’d they airbrush her? She didn’t need it.” And “She looks better in the picture on the left.” And, “Her body was fine without the airbrushing.” And, “I do not understand the need to create the illusion of the ‘perfect’ body, especially out of an already perfect body.” And, “Look at her thighs! Barbie wants her thighs back!”

So, there was a thigh comment, but it was picking on the airbrushed one, not the normal girl one.

I cannot tell you how heartened I was by the comments that were made. I’ve got a goddaughter who turned 9 not that long ago and I have two nieces who are only 3 and 5, but will be old enough to understand all of this stuff soon enough. They’re all three beautiful and talented and special in their own ways, and the thought that looking at a magazine cover might make them feel bad about themselves breaks my heart. But, if the comments made by the young women on that message board are any indication, maybe we don’t need to be as worried about girls in general as we thought we did. Maybe despite the attempts to shove “beauty” down their throats, girls know what’s up and know that real women don’t look like Barbie dolls. Or like magazine covers.


Hilary said...

Well said, Mel. There's so many fake bodies out there in magazines. It's no wonder women never think they look good enough. It's hard to live up to lights, makeup and Photoshop. I'm glad to hear those responses from the young women too.

Protege said...

I agree with Hilary completely Mel.;) This was a wonderful post and this issues have been on my mind too. Magazines make it impossible to live up to the ideals of women they portrait. All the covers are unnatural and they create illusions that drive young girls into eating disorders.
I am completely thrilled though to learn from reading your post that young women today have the intellect to realize this and applaud the healthy, natural, feminine woman look instead of a plastic, superficial Barbie doll one.;)

Diane said...

It's on my mind a lot, as you know, and I try hard to find a way to make sure Ryan understands it should be about being fit and healthy and not some 'perfect' size or shape. It's hard. Reading those comments was encouraging, though. Good post, pal o'mine.

C-Bone said...

Psh, I WISH my thighs looked like that.

Heather said...

Since learning the ropes of the Adobe software (ie: PHOTOSHOP) for my job, I have become very, VERY skeptical of almost every picture I see. I attended a seminar once where, in less than a MINUTE, the instructor made a girl who was probably a size 16 look like she was about a size 6. It's too easy, and so unnecessary. I wish they'd realize that everyone is beautiful the way they are. If we'd stop emphasizing the unattainable "plastic" beauty standards, maybe more women would understand that they are perfect in their inperfections.
Good post.

Red Cup Mom said...

It's a tough world out there. My four year old daughter already picks up on this when she says I will just have a salad for lunch. The real pic looked so much better too.