Ways to Keep It Real in a Faux-toshop Media Landscape


As promised, here is my full piece originally publisehd at About-Face for the Keep It Real Challenge.

Somebody needs to go on a diet and it’s not us. It’s the media. Their  current regimen?  High in digitally deceptive additives (ahem, photoshop), low in nutrient rich reality and diversity.  The cure?

 We want real. Not retouched. That is why About-Face is honored to join the frontline of the three-day social media KeepItRealChallenge alongside powerful forces like SPARK Summit and Miss Representation.org. The collaborative initiative began June 27th and runs through the 29th and targets mainstream magazines, asking them to publish one unaltered image per issue. Whether it’s trimming tummies, lightening skin, or removing kneecaps, these images are harmful.

Here are my favorite ways to “Keep It Real” amid a world of pixelated perfection.

1. Educate To Empower: Our media reflects our society and influences it and what we see is rarely reality. Corporations are profit-driven powerhouses complicit in fostering unattainable ideals. If we are striving towards the unattainable (because it doesn’t exist) we will never cease purchasing their products, or services or reading their often counterfeit content. The success of these industries is entirely contingent upon believing that it is possible to attain physical perfection. Magazines have a vested, financial interest in producing articles that support the ads paying for  production.  Everyday, the 20 billion dollar beauty industry exploits our insecurities for profit. We fight back when we learn how to consume media responsibly and bring critical media literacy skills to our daily lives. This begins with awareness. Notice all the brand name booty given out at talk shows or featured on reality TV like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition? Surprise! They are all corporate sponsors that make this programming possible. We take back our power when we expose the industry’s motives. About-face is already doing this in the San Francisco Bay area where they hold media-literacy workshops around body image and self-esteem.


Same model, same time (2009), same body, two different ads. The horrifying wonders of Photoshop!

2. Know Thy Value: We are subjected to millions of messages growing up, tireless programming that teaches us to equate our with our worth with our appearance and compare ourselves to what we see in the media. We become desensitized to these images and accept impossible ideals of beauty as real and attainable. We buy into a culture that discards us as people with unique talents, gifts, and personalities. Our appearance is not our value. We know that advertisers make money off of deceiving us. This can empower us. I don’t know about you, but I take pride in knowing that I’m on to the media’s motives. We need change our thoughts, not our bodies and find real role models that embody what strong and empowered means to us. Set goals that have nothing to do with body modification. Listen closely to  your internal dialogue. Curiously question where any demeaning messages originate from, but don’t judge yourself for them. Chances are internalized messages from society and past experiences and not a part of you. Talk to yourself from a place of loving self-acceptance, not appearance driven evaluation. Our worth is immeasurable and we deserve deeper lives that stretch beyond face value.

3. Ask Questions: Ask questions about the media you ingest. Photoshop and the ubiquity of advertising have changed our standards of comparison. My formal education is in marketing, and I am here to tafirm that marketers and advertisers exploit our insecurities when they market products and services. They sell lifestyles, ideals, dreams, etc. that are driven by culturally concocted fantasies.They actually use psychological methods  to lure consumers to make purchases. The Proctor and Gamble brand Pantene showcases their hair products with models tossing impossibly shiny manes. Subtext: Want this shiny hair? Buy this shampoo. Ask questions! Think critically about what is being depicted. What is it saying about this person/group of people in society? What idea is being sold beyond the actual product?

4. Be part of the solution, not the problem:  Personal Responsibility is key.We already know the images we see in magazines are not real, but we need to begin with developing healthy relationships with our own bodies.  Are we contributing to fat talk, conversations that disparage our bodies  Are we complimenting others solely on their appearance? How many times have you heard or been involved in connecting with others over body size/shape? How is our relationship with our bodies affecting  our siblings, children or loved ones? Our own attitudes are powerful and potent and can have a great effect on others. We have to harness this to help, not hurt.  Use social media to call out companies and read up on the tools of persuasion and target audiences as related to advertising. Change conversations that contribute to body shame and stay alert for the wolves in sheeps clothing, the promise of confidence/empowerment if we do x, y or z.  We must respect the bodies we have and not resort to unhealthy or punishing behaviors to look a certain way.  We cultivate meaningful relationships with others when we’re not connecting over negative body image. We are best able to serve the world in this fight if we are at peace with ourselves and embracing our own imperfect, human beauty.


Taking back our power from the perilous hands of the media means pushing back against problematic portrayals and alienating beauty ideolology. We need more diverse depictions that celebrate all bodies, races, and ethnicities. We deserve accurate and honest representations, redefined standards of beauty and real reole models. Will these powerful media outlets heed the requests of real women? This remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: we have tools to do our part in keeping it real.

Help us fight back by tweeting this article, sharing it on Facebook, capturing your own pictures of beauty and bidding adieu to photoshopped phoniness.

About Ms. Mettle

I am many things. Runner, yoga enthusiast, nonconformist, bookworm, lover of learning, blogger & self-proclaimed writer, traveling fool & body image, media literacy and feminist issues advocate. I have a penchant for philosophical musings, cultural commentary and white wines. I enjoy stand-up comedy and profanity-laced television series. I enjoy watching said series by season in rapid succession. Committed to personal growth, unabashed authenticity and empowerment, I encourage critical thinking of mainstream media messages and popular culture and believe in questioning our society’s definitions of gender, sexuality and power. I eschew stereotypes, rail against the limited notions/definitions of beauty, the destructive idealization of thinness and the marketing of packaged perfectionism that leave women feeling inadequate and shameful about their bodies and themselves. I believe in empowering and educating our youth on harmful media messages that call them to equate their self-worth with appearance and body size and equipping them with the tools that support healthy self esteem, positive body image and confidence. I enjoy cocktails and quality conversation, spending time with my soulmates, pithy proclamations, positive precepts and witty wisdom. Additionally, I adore alliteration (as if not already evident). I have an affinity for gutsy gals & guys, brazen broads and sanguine strangers. I work to encourage my insatiable aptitude for education. I am a feminist, word nerd, reading addict and prefer my literature like my coffee, dark and rich. I have indescribable gratitude for all of the unwavering support and incredible individuals that make my life a resplendent one. These relationships are my currency. Reformed pessimist/chronic cynic, perpetually pursuing positivity, encouraging self acceptance, supersizing my dreams and learning to love life.

2 responses »

  1. Please go to http://www.change.org and create a petition to target one of these advertisers. Their petitions have astounding power, including shutting down national legislation aimed to control the internet (and petitions like theirs)! This is the most potent way to make changes. Just keep targeting each advertiser until the word gets out! Let it go Viral! And THANK YOU for what you are doing!

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