Growing Up in the Age of Photoshop

Guest Post by Makeda Touré, student

Until high school I didn’t know photos were edited to the extreme that they were and sometimes are being today. I didn’t look at how skinny or big women were, never paid attention to how long someone’s neck was or how thick their thighs were. I was interested in one thing, will my mom ever buy this for me? Of course this wasn’t through my whole childhood, when I got into high school I started getting more concerned of my weight and what I looked like. I was always super skinny and lengthy so body image never was a huge issue to me. The real issue that started surrounding my image was the color of my skin. Don’t get me wrong I love my ethnicity, race, sex and every little thing about myself. However, around middle school this became another story.

Everywhere I looked there were white, skinny models. Going down fashion runways, on the cover of Seventeen magazine, on billboards and in all of the toothpaste commercials. I always wondered, where all of the people of color were. I am from Minnesota which I wouldn’t call extremely diverse, but everywhere I went to school I was diverse and we didn’t form cliques or friend groups by race. Somehow this misrepresentation in media was affecting me. Yet, it wasn’t until later that I realized that my self-worth had nothing to do with if I was being represented in the media or not.

B ToureThinking back to the alteration of photos, before high school I never paid attention to the curve of a model’s waist. Although, I certainly knew people who were paying attention to model sizes. Some of my girlfriends who weighed 120 pounds soaking wet and with rocks in their pockets were constantly worried about if the pink ‘Barbie girl’ t-shirt they had on made them look fat and I couldn’t understand it. Freshman year of high school I was a bit of a tomboy and I thought it was strange to care about stuff like this. But as I got older I started to care more and more about if looked fat in my purple ‘Barbie girl’ t-shirt.

Is there such a thing as ethically using Photoshop? I believe there is. To be honest sometimes fixing blemishes does enhance an image, unless this makes my senior photos unethical (oops). But there is a line that is often crossed to a point of no return. When people start changing serious proportions of a body by making a woman’s hips smaller than her head we have a problem that is much bigger than software misuse. When we start creating these false images in media, we tell people this is what a woman is supposed to look like. If she doesn’t look like this, you don’t want her. Women and children are often overlooked in society. Yes, there are steps being taken to change this but are they enough and will they work? I certainly hope so because future generations need something more than a pretty face and a skinny waist.

Educational Opportunity for All

This really does matter.

Vicki Madden’s op-ed in today’s New York Times is worth a read. As she says, “In spite of our collective belief that education is the engine for climbing the socioeconomic ladder — the heart of the ‘American dream’ myth — colleges now are more divided by wealth than ever.”

Joanna Neborsky

Joanna Neborsky, New York Times

Do only the wealthy have bright, inquisitive minds? I think not.

I am first generation college having grown up in a blue-collar, middle income family. As I graduated from high school earning a PhD was not something on my horizon. However, after an adventurous journey involving three prior careers and four institutions of higher education, here I am. Yet today, for young people of modest means, the climb up the educational ladder is steeper, longer and fraught with many more challenges. In fact, from 1990-2012 there has been little change in the enrollment of students with less resources. Moving forward it looks as though little will change.

Is it not time for change? Madden’s words give us pause for thought.

Jean

The Photoshop Standard

Guest Post by: Rose Robinson, Aspiring Advertiser

Technology has made it possible for perfection, whether it be true or not. We are flooded with images that have been doctored with Photoshop to make us purchase a product or buy a magazine. It is common practice to enhance photos in order to make them more pleasing to the consumer eye, which makes it the norm to see perfection. The media is willing to distort models to the extremes at the cost of making consumers feel inadequate.

B RobinsonThere have been many scandals about Photoshop but Jennifer Lawrence’s magazine cover stands out to me. She is known for publicly speaking out against poor body image and encouraging girls to embrace their bodies. In 2011, she posed for the Canadian fashion magazine, Flare. It came out recently that this cover had been altered and it went viral on the web showing the before and after photo.

What surprises me the most is that Lawrence’s stand on body images in society, which is largely reinforced by her Photoshopped images. It is unclear if she gave consent for Flare to alter the photos, but I would argue that ethically, Lawrence is somewhat at fault. As a celebrity, she should have a say as to which image is to be printed. If it is inherently against her values, she should not be supporting this practice. A celebrity such as Lawrence has power in our society. People listen and respect her opinions so seeing her image on a magazine cover has big impact. She should be aware of her status and that her actions speak to her personal brand and society as a whole.

On the other hand, I think it is important to look at the consumers. We are well aware that media images such as advertisements and magazine covers are Photoshopped. We know what Jennifer Lawrence looks like. Why are we so surprised when it happens and why does it have such an impact on our society’s standard of beauty? As consumers of the media, I think we have a responsibility to think critically about the messages we see. We aren’t sponges or zombies. We can think for ourselves and realize that this isn’t how a real woman’s body looks like. It’s all about being aware and hesitant to believe that the image the photographer saw is the image you see.

To me, the lines between enhancing and altering a photo are blurred. We all take Instagrams to filter our photos and change the lighting or fix red-eye before posting a photo to Facebook, but we struggle with the widespread use of deceptively altered media images. Our society glorifies celebrities and emphasizes beauty. That is a fatal pairing. The standards of beauty are dictated by what we see in magazines, in this case Jennifer Lawrence’s skinny waist, and affect how we perceive our own self worth. The consumer, the media, and even the person in the image all play a part in the ethical usage of Photoshop. The editors of these magazines or the art directors who create advertisements can distort societal opinion by the click of a mouse, yet, it also seems that consumers and the subject of the photos can and should take more responsibility than they have had in the past. We have the power to change social standards of beauty.

Worse than the Boston Bomber?

Guest Post by: Adam Brown, Student

In the weeks following the shooting of Michael Brown, many stories and articles surfaced regarding the incident and the people involved. One in particular disturbed me. The New York Times put out a profile, just days before the burial of Brown, that portrayed him as being the bad guy. The article made statements such as, Brown “was no angel” and he “dabbled in drugs.” This was especially upsetting to those who remembered how the Boston Bomber was portrayed.

C1 BrownWhen the Rolling Stone wrote their cover story about the Boston Bomber, they almost made the reader feel that the Bomber was a likeable guy. The Bomber, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was made out to be a kid who just fell into the wrong group, as if it was not even his fault. They used phrases like “gentle demeanor,” “laid-back,” and “normal American kid.” They made him out to be a good kid. The way he was portrayed Tsarnaey was much nicer than how Michael Brown was portrayed.

How is it that an unarmed person shot by police is portrayed worse than a person who planted a bomb at an international marathon? Something is very wrong about that and a lot if it very well might lead back to how media outlets sell stories. They usually try to package stories in certain ways so that people will pay attention. For example, by pegging Brown as “no angel,” the New York Times created drama and tension in an another-side-to-the-story kind of way. Sadly, they succeeded. They may have gotten a lot of negative feedback for it, but they still got a lot of feedback generally, meaning a lot of people did take notice. It did catch people’s attention. Rolling Stone also sensationalized their story on the Boston Bomber. It also got a lot of attention.

Sensationalized depictions of both victims and perpetrators are ethically problematic. It would be easy to utterly condemn these media outlets if they were putting out lies about the subjects in question. However, they did not. What they did was spin the stories in ways that fit their agenda. The question is then, how do we combat this form of ethically skewed journalism? As I said before, if the New York Times and Rolling Stone were lying it would be easy to take legal action. So what do we do? I think the best thing to do is ignore such articles. Completely shun them. Do not give them attention, because that is what the media want. Attention. Without attention, media outlets cannot justify skewing stories in order to get people to read their articles.