Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The one topic you should discuss with your daughter (Part 1)


Do you know why Julia Robert’s photo was banned?

article-0-0A53FDF0000005DC-50_468x794 mail onlinePhoto: Google Images

This is what I know about Julia Roberts. She’s a pretty woman with an exuberant laugh and a great smile.  She’s a wife and mother of small children and when she’s not making movies and looking like a gorgeous Hollywood actress, she appears refreshingly normal. A quick glance at the check-out counter tabloids only reinforces this image. There she is, dressed for comfort in casual jeans, regular shirts and with her trademark mane pulled back in a ponytail. In fact, with her kids in tow, she looks like any Mommy who might have goldfish crackers stashed in her purse, next to the wipes.

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Photo: Google Images

But surprisingly, her photo on the right was recently banned in Great Britain. Can you guess why?

The ban is the sort of event that slips under a busy woman’s radar, but you should care about this topic because this issue has everything to do with how females view themselves. Do you have a daughter? This is something you should know.

So here’s what happened. Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority actually banned these cosmetic ads featuring both Julia Roberts and model Christy Turlington because the photos were considered misleading to consumers. That’s right. These images were so altered by the use of excessive airbrushing that the results were too perfect, and so devoid of human flaws that these photos were no longer considered realistic.

It turns out that British parliament member Jo Swinson is a friend of women everywhere, and in her battle against overly-perfected, unrealistic images of women in advertising, she lodged a complaint which resulted in this progressive decision. And what loud message is being sent by this formal action?

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This message: women everywhere! Beware of the craziness going on inside the beauty and fashion industry.

Because let’s be real. What kinds of ridiculous beauty standards are being set for women and young girls everywhere, when faces like those of Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington require excessive digital retouching.

Yes, I know. There are plenty of people who disagree with a ban like this; people screaming for hard evidence that links a woman’s low self esteem with the manipulation of such images. And I understand. From a clinical perspective, there’s no one villain responsible for a woman’s insecurities; no one reason why a young girl might feel so bad about her looks.

The Healthy Thing to do…

But when we discuss headlines like the ban on Julia Robert’s photo, it destroys the silence around this topic of overly-perfected, fake pictures. It allows women to stop and consider how these images may distort our own real-life flaws. Discussing these manipulative practices exposes the “craziness” of it all, and dilutes the power these images can have on our daughters and yes, on us too.

For example, the use of Photoshop and airbrushing are common practices in fashion and beauty ads and only occasionally make headlines. But any of these photos shown here present teachable moments, an opening to discuss pressures about looking a certain way. In 2003, actress Kate Winslet, who has been criticized for her normal body shape, protested when GQ magazine digitally altered her magazine cover saying, “I do not look like that, and more importantly, I don’t desire to look like that.” 


Kate also said, “I actually have a Polaroid that the photographer gave me on the day of the shoot… I can tell you they’ve reduced the size of my legs by about a third. (BBC report)

And here’s an already youthful-looking 51-year old Madonna, getting a little digital touch-up.

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And below are some photos of Kim Kardashian before and after Photoshop effects. When this before photo was leaked she impressively quipped, “So what: I have a little cellulite. What curvy girl doesn’t?”

The_Biggest_Retouching_Scandals_08 kardashian

I realize that digital manipulation is here to stay. And that those beautiful models and celebrities that we see in magazines are commonly tweaked to fool us; to give us the impression that they have no flaws. But this doesn’t mean that we should stop talking about the damaging effects these practices can have on the female mind. Because I will tell you one important fact I know after all my years as a psychotherapist treating eating disorder patients.

Perpetuating the idea of Perfection is ALWAYS treading into emotionally dangerous territory.

Why? because Perfection doesn’t exist; it’s a temporary illusion, a fake thing. And when we believe in something fake and chase it, it only creates unhappiness.

Now, let me warn you about one belief that caused pain for every eating disordered woman I’ve met. Maybe you will relate.

See Part 2 -  The one topic you should discuss with your daughter.






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