Tag Archives: body image

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.

Keep It Real Challenge: Magazines it’s time YOU went on a diet (a Photoshop one!)



I am coming late to the party, but am honored to have blogged for About-Face for the Keep It Real Challenge. They joined alongside powerful forces like Spark Summit and Miss Representation. 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 remove kneecaps, these images are harmful. The Keeping It Real toolkit has some scary stats on the effects of these images and how they make us feel about ourselves and our bodies.



The first day of The Challenge involved utilizing Twitter to call out magazines with the hashtag #KeepItReal .The second involved

 blogging about which I did over at About-Face,

and where I will post my ways to “Keep It Real” full text later today. The last day, today, asks us to photographically capture what “real beauty” means and not those that have undergone the heavy hand of airbrushing.


Until then, let’s get busy snapping “Real Beauty”!


Forever 21 thinks our Kneecaps are Ugly


My newest piece at About-Face.org – Let our Knees Be (Knees!)

Sweatshop famed discount fashion retailer Forever21 is adding another item on the drop-down menu of “body parts to feel self-conscious about”: knee caps.

The website featuring their skirt purchasing options has over 100 items in which the kneecaps of the model’s are completely airbrushed out, or are cleverly obscured so only a hint of curvature is detectable. These photos atrocity is compounded by the fact that they list the model’s measurements, as a very ineffective and pernicious piece of sizing guidance.

As if our consumer culture doesn’t do a good enough job of providing us with an endless stream of warnings about how our organic bodies are inherently flawed, we now need to turn a curious eye to our knees to see how presentable they may appear.

Sure, this idea of feeling insecure about the appearance of my kneecaps seems a tad comical and over the top, but it’s the larger implication that does the most damage. Not only are you forced to come eye-to-eye the unattainable measurements of the model appearing in the photo and her matchstick lower limbs, but a cursory view of the photo itself still lends itself to another way in which we don’t look like the models in the photos, implication being that we are somehow less than. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking anyone whose bodies healthily resemble this model, I’m just calling attention to the fact that every shot showcases similar stems that are highly unrepresentative of the larger whole of consumers that likely purchase these clothes.

Until I read another article that highlighted this oddity, I never really took much notice of the knees of models in skirt shots, but that seems to be the point. It is these pernicious ways in which we are exposed to altered body parts that we unknowingly internalize and contribute to the unattainable and illusory ideal by which women measure themselves against and unfailingly come up short. It’s another bit by which our bodies are shamed for their natural state.

I would be remiss if I did not also mention how horrifyingly unvaried the choice of models are for these pictures. We all know the fashion industry is notorious for reinforcing a specific standard of beauty, but the lack of lower body representation is especially evident in these screen shots. This further reinforces the idea that only individuals that are facsimiles of these models can wear and look good in these clothes. I don’t know that I see many retailers providing lower body diversity while presenting their products online, which just shines a light into another corner of the ways in which the thin ideal is unknowingly reinforced.

In writing this piece, I look down at my own knee-caps, sheathed in ruddy skin,  bearing several discernible scars, battle wounds from youthful adventures. I take a moment of gratitude that they are operational and remember that is how they look. If only we could all feel that way about the totality of our bodies – thankful for all they allow us to do, instead of being constantly exposed to damaging messages about how innately inept we all are. So, Forever 21, I implore you to stop digitally altering your models in this way. Also, your labor practices are abhorrent. (See the clip from the documentary

Made in LA and rethink using your dollars at their fine and fair establishment).

And most importantly:  let’s let our knees be knees, please!

Miss Representation


A dear friend of mine taped the airing of the documentary Miss Representation on Oprah’s OWN network last week as I am sans cable.

We had a wine and dine viewing this evening and I devoured the message with impassioned fervor.

This documentary gave voice to the ways in which women are marginalized, disempowered and objectified in mainstream media and popular culture.

The scary stats and main message was not one I was unfamiliar with and some would argue it was a didactic dispatch. I found it important to try to remove my feminist frosted goggles and remind myself that the statements made are geared towards the unwitting flocks of females in our society who simply swallow the cultural candies they are fed, never really questioning or acknowledging the STILL ubiquitous disparity in equality among women and the continual perpetuation of an unattainable beauty ideal that is fueled largely by advertising, capitalism and a need to maintain a sense of social order. I think that it important for those in the feminist community to be aware of the critical target audience, we as a society, must hope this film reaches.

Regardless of cinematic critique, the message was powerful and potent. The vast viewing platform, Oprah’s literally and figuratively OWN network, encouraged a large female viewership, which was the only caveat I could consider, as I think it is equally important for men to understand the atrocities facing women today and the sexism still stewing in so many spectrums of our social presence.

We hear from prominent talking heads in the political, comedic, journalistic and activist genres, as well as heart-wrenching divulgences from youth so addled by the pressure to slide into a certain standard of special. The damaging and far-reaching effects of this idea that young women must sacrifice any sense of self in order to breed acceptance and alignment with our societal sold form of beauty and personal value.

The thematic vein of the entire piece was the encouragement of ingesting media responsibly, an unveiling of the systemic ways in which the very nature of our social order in this country marginalizes women. The film speaks to the idea of media literacy: the promotion of responsible consumerism, the understanding that the images and stereotypes and definitions perpetuated by the media are simply idyllic and not attainable. The flawless models we see are not in fact real, but digitally enhanced. Yet, our children and youth are spoonfed these artificial atrocities and led to believe they will never measure up. We are breeding our future female leaders to value the size of their hips rather than their SAT scores.

After watching this film, even I felt embarrassed that I still reflexively react to certain media impetuses in ways that I’ve been culturally coached. This has further recommitted me to challenging the automatic and making a concerted effort to be more aware of the unconscious ways I may be responding at any given point in time.

I cannot encourage the viewing of this documentary enough. It inspired me so much that I could have easily pumped out an impassioned tome on all its implications and subtleties. I was moved, not so much because there was any pioneering precept of sorts, no revelatory realization either, but just simply the fact that there were so many other women exercising their vocal chords about something I feel so deeply about.

We must contribute to the collective voice of challenging popular culture and continue to encourage others to acknowledge and fight against the insidious ways in which the media holds women back, limits them and trivializes them in society.

As a culture our females are trained in self-objectification from birth, the majority of our worth lies in our outward appearance. While males societal worth grows as they age, a women’s currency is in her physicality, her youth and diminishes as she grows older. It is a stifling paradox, that of the older, well adjusted and presumably successful male seeking out a youthful counterpart.

The sexualization of females in all forms of mass media is nothing short of repulsive.  .  I was especially happy to see the distinction highlighted between mainstream cinema, the lack of female protagonist and the seemingly innocuous way in which all the major plot lines somehow revolve around a man. Big budget films either have a male leading character, or if the front runner IS a woman her power is largely sexualized (a suggestive and scantily clad superhero or latex-lined and lithe, a la Catwoman). Female leads are also highly popular in the indigestible genre that is chick lit, where  the plotline still tirelessly orbits around a man.

I fully intend to expound upon this highly nuanced film and provide additional insights into the many streamlined subtleties. Each incites its own unique and in-depth discussion and expansive pieces of perspective.

There is an overhaul needed in the portrayal of women in the media, the world over – and it needs to begin with expansive attempts at education and increased advocacy in media literacy. There is an irrefutable and inherent sexism still alive and well in our patriarchal society.

If you haven’t already seen this doc, it will be airing again on November 12th at 11:00AM.

Read more at http://missrepresentation.org.

Make arrangements to view it, DVR it, heck – throw a party! Regardless, it is certainly a must-see for the masses and a popular culture vegetable that promotes the increasingly important cause that is media literacy.

I’ll be saddling back up on my soapbox shortly, so stay tuned. Until then, pass this along.