Over the years I’ve posted a number of blogs about body image and how tremendously the images of women in the media shape our understanding of beauty. And while most of us realize that these images represent a tiny percentile of the entire human race–and likely an unhealthy, semi-starved percentile at that–it turns out these women don’t even live up to the images themselves.
Just check out this video released by the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty:
As shocking as this video may be, it documents a practice that is actually quite commonplace today: Airbrushing. The term “airbrush” dates back nearly a hundred years ago when photographs were literally airbrushed with paint to minimize flaws or change details. Today, this term refers to any kind of digital alteration of a photo.
The extent to which airbrushing can alter a woman’s physique, face, or any “undesirable” feature is quite remarkable. Just check out these airbrushed women:
Kim Kardashian is known for her beautiful curves, but they are noticeably minimized here. Apparently she was too curvy.
While Kim Kardashian was too curvy, Keira Knightly wasn’t curvy enough, as this movie poster clearly conveys. Which one is it, people??
And now, the one that takes the cake…
Gisele Bundchen, international super model, is pregnant in this picture. But you wouldn’t know it. Why? Because they airbrushed out her pregnant belly!
Now I’ll admit there was a part of me that breathed a huge sigh of relief when I realized how thoroughly these beautiful women had been altered before appearing on the front cover of magazines. (and News Flash ladies–those six-pack abs you see on women who’ve birthed 3 children are often airbrushed and touched up as well!) It’s as if we’ve finally admitted that the Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes. These women aren’t real–not on some ideological level in which we mean that real women don’t have time to look that way–but in a very literal sense. The images themselves aren’t real. Those women don’t actually look like that.
My relief, however, quickly morphed into something else entirely. I was deeply disturbed that our culture’s standard of beauty is literally unattainable. In what can only be considered reckless marketing, these magazines are selling an outright lie. We’re not just seeing the prettiest of the pretty–we’re seeing the touched up, doctored version of them. The Father of Lies has found his weapon, and we are the target.
How, then, are we to combat this onslaught? The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty created a second video that offers a really wonderful answer:
“Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does.” But don’t stop there. Talk to your friends, your family, younger women at your church, and most importantly speak truth to yourself. Our best defense against the lies of Satan is the truth of Christ. And our fellow soldiers in this fight are our sisters. So help them fight, but not by affirming them in areas that the world values, thereby feeding back into this culture of distorted beauty. Instead affirm them in the unfading beauty of their gentle spirit and the adornment of their good deeds. Affirm them in their modesty, their purity, their passion for Christ, their servant heart, and their hospitable kindness. Affirm them in those things which God calls beautiful, not the world. It’s not wrong to affirm women in their outward beauty, but we need to check our priorities. A pretty face is nice and all, but a woman who fears the Lord is truly worthy to be praised.