Photoshopping and the War on Women

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I remember seeing the unsettling — before and after – photos of Jennifer Lawrence on the cover of Flare magazine, where Jennifer was photoshopped to look thinner and presumably “sexier”. This photoshopping job became public and caused a firestorm of outrage. People were outraged because it was completely unnecessary to photoshop the originally beautiful and natural photo of Jennifer. But, this is the culture that we live in – a culture where unnatural and photoshopped women has become the norm.

What’s worse is that we’re not helping the problem. We’re promoting this by buying the magazines, for making snarky comments to our friends and family about the way they look in the photos we took of them over the weekend or on our family vacation, and the way that we’re treating the kids that are the up-and-coming generation.

I recently came across an article about a Utah High School that photoshopped girls’ yearbook photos to make them “less sexy”. (h/t Josh Bowman.) I know this may sound harmless, especially because they were making kids “less sexy”, but there are numerous issues with this – and ultimately, this “photoshop culture” needs to stop.

This school’s photoshopping was unnecessary and unfairly discriminated against various students. The school randomly chose some of the girls wearing tank-tops or v-necks in their photos, and virtually added sleeves and higher necklines. If there is a dress code for yearbook photos, that’s great, but be consistent. This school (and all schools, really) might want to consider school uniforms or a dress code, as many Catholic schools have. A uniform or dress code keeps consistency with the students and ends a lot of the drama between students, or at least some of it.

The biggest issue with this school’s situation is that they need to work to change the culture in their school and form young minds, and photoshopping girls’ photos is no way to go about that.

The school needs to enforce a dress code and/or talk to the girls about modesty, beauty, and respecting their bodies. Our bodies are beautiful, thus we should present them in the most beautiful way.

Teenage girls are self-conscious enough as it is. Our culture tells them that they need to look a certain way and they need to conform to society’s standard of beauty. Their peers compete with one another and challenge each other to be “more beautiful”, “skinnier”, and to do anything to get the attention of the “popular crowd”. They are living in a Mean Girls world every day. If you thought it was bad when you were in school, I assure you it’s now a million times worse.

But, there’s always hope, and this begins with empowering young people and challenging them to rise above the corrupt ways of the world.

Mark Twain once said, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have left little or no influence on society.” We need to teach girls about modesty and teach them to be self-aware and confident. We need to empower them and teach them to believe in the power that one person has to change the world – and that they can be that change. But, in order to change the world and influence society, you need to treat yourself (and your body) with respect. People will not respect you, if you do not respect yourself.

The stakes are higher than ever for parents, teachers, and other mentors in these kids’ lives. Parents need to empower their kids, not tear them down. They need to engage their children and work to instill virtue from a young age, and then at some stage, parents need to be unafraid to send them “out into the deep” (Luke 5:4).  Raise your kids to be virtuous, self-aware, good people – we need as many of them as we can get.

I’m reminded of one of Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” videos. It’s a good example of how the culture portrays and even expects women to look, which is completely unrealistic and unnatural.

Photo-shopping pictures, whether it be in a yearbook or on the cover of Flare magazine, does nothing to empower women. Sure, we’ve all had days where we wish we could photoshop a picture of us to make us look skinnier or to erase a blemish on our face, but most people learn best by example, so it’s time that all of us learn to love ourselves for who we are. We need to celebrate our perfect imperfections and learn to love ourselves for who we are.

Young girls will follow this example, and we will change the world.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org

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About Author

Kate Bryan grew up in Michigan, but now resides in Washington, D.C. She holds a B.A. in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville and a Masters degree in Public Affairs and Political Communication from the Dublin Institute of Technology in Ireland. Follow her on Twitter at @katembryan.

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