Saturday, May 23, 2009

Airbrushing and the Women's Movement

I came upon a rather dramatic and glamorous photographic portrait of Michelle Obama on the Internet the other day, and after I admired it I took a second look. I'm not sure, but I think it was airbrushed. It's a little hard to tell with Michelle because she's not exactly a mass of wrinkles. But I wouldn't be surprised if even she had been Photoshopped. It seems to be the rule rather than the exception these days.

My awareness of the prevalence of airbrushing started with a media flap about a heavily retouched shot of Faith Hill. Faith Hill! Faith Hill isn't someone who needs a lot of physical improvements. But the before-and-after pictures said it all: Someone had deemed it necessary to airbrush her face, trim her waist, even slim her back. I thought it was sick, and in fact it turned out to be contagious. Pandemic, even.

I don't think witness to the early days of the women's movement could have foreseen that we (and I use this term loosely) would one day inject botulism into our foreheads to paralyze the muscles so we could no longer frown. (How is Botox different from Scarlett O'Hara's corset-induced 18" waist, by the way?) Wasn't there a lot of talk about aging gracefully, and with strength? Why, then, do most of the ads for anti-aging cosmetics feature 20-something (airbrushed) models? And while I'm at it, why do ads for mascara show photos of models wearing false eyelashes? What ever happened to truth in advertising?

Most of those airbrushed faces lose their appeal along with their laugh lines. Who wants to look as though their skin has turned to plastic? Speaking of plastic, and loss of appeal, what's with the plastic surgery going on? Do you know of anyone who has actually been improved by these procedures? I look at the aging Hollywood population, with their overblown, drooping lips and tight, pulled back eyes, and I wonder what they see when they look in the mirror. I myself see a 19-year-old half the time, so I guess I just answered my own question.

I think it's a silly trend, all of it, and a tad disappointing. We've gone from burning our bras to squeezing into Spanx. To each his/her own, I guess, but when it comes to digitally imposing youth upon a face, I hope they'll leave my Michelle alone.


crystal said...

My mother had a facelift :) She was an example of the culture that thinks a person's worth is based on how they look. Wasn't fun growing up with her and I have sadly internalized a lot of that stuff.

I wonder if past feminists like Gloria Steinem have had plastic surgery.

Susan said...

Boy, I hope not. Or at least nothing major. I also hope she wears a bra. :-)

At least you didn't adopt those particular values of your mother. (Besides, you're too beautiful for a face lift.)

Eulalia Benejam Cobb said...

You make a ton of good points.

I think that with all the airbrushing and botoxing we're losing the sense of what real human beings look like.

crystal said...

I only wish that was true :)

Mali said...

I totally agree with you. Even as a young feminist in the 80s, I would have been so disappointed to find that women's looks would still matter so much.

Anonymous said...

it is all about keeping it real =]

Susan said...

This post has attracted more spam than any other. I guess we can figure out why.