Friday, May 11, 2012

Photo Shop – Off the Page and Leaking into our Lives

By Megan Coleman
Student Projects Assistant
Office of the Dean of Student Life
Enrollment Management and Student Affairs
Portland State University

I have to admit that I am a bit of a reality TV junky. Not all reality television mind you, mostly the competitions; American Idol, The Voice, and most recently American’s Next Top Model. I love seeing all the fabulous photo shoots and the crazy things they do with hair and makeup. The show overall is probably not the best show in the world, and they’ve done some things in the past that I really didn’t agree with but this season something came up that I thought was interesting.

In episode 6 of the current season they were told that their weekly competition would be to create a music video. In order to do their best in the video they were given dance lessons by Tyra Banks. They were told to put on something called “the booty tooch”; which is pretty much spanx with extra padding so that you look like you have a bigger butt.

One contestant, Az, who is known for her androgyny decides to pass on wearing the butt pad. Tyra Banks told Az that if she didn’t wear the butt pad that she could not participate in the challenge and had to leave. Az then decided to leave and it created a lot of tension in the group. The other girls than went into an in depth tutorial about the do’s and don’ts of sticking your butt out in music videos. Later on in the episode Az almost gets eliminated because of her bad attitude and apologizes for not being up for the challenge. Now I’m not a model, and I have heard you have to be up for some weird things when it comes to your photo shoots but where do we draw the line?

There has been a lot of controversy about the media and the amount of photo shop that is used make images “more appealing”. The constant drive toward a homogenized version of beauty is leaking off the page and into our everyday lives. If you go into almost any department store that sells women’s clothes there is a whole section of “body shapers”. Tight spandex to suck in our stomachs and thighs, bras with more padding than the actual cup size we are and now butt pads? Where do we draw the line?

I understand where Az was coming from, I thought the entire challenge was a bit ridiculous to be honest and I wouldn’t want to wear a butt pad either. Women are being pressured into looking a certain way so they buy these “enhancers” to help but what happens when the shapers come off? We are hiding our true beauty in order to blend in better and I think it’s sad.

So where do we draw the line? We are outraged when they photo shop the wrinkles off an older celebrity or when they take an extra 20lbs off the swim suit models, but what about our push up bras and spanx? I’m definitely a girlie girl and I love to straighten my curly hair and put on makeup every day. I could make the case that I do it because I like to do it but what are my underlying motivations? We live in a world where we are constantly trying to enhance or improve upon one thing or another and it’s definitely got me thinking.

I’m not saying I’ll stop doing my hair or playing with make up because I think those things are fun but I definitely think that we should evaluate why we are making the choices we are, and how it could be affecting our self-image. We are all beautiful in our own way and we shouldn’t be trying to hide what makes us individuals. I know that I’ve struggled in the past with my self-image and I haven’t always been happy with it but It’s something I strive for. In the worlds of John Mason, “You were born an original, don’t die a copy.”

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