Unretouched Photos: Empowering or Just More ‘Empower-tainment’?

Recently, there have been a few high-profile examples of magazines publishing images of “real” women: plus-sized models, or celebrities free of makeup and/or Photoshop. The ensuing publicity can make it feel that we’ve won body image victories–but let’s look closer at these images to find out how much we should really be celebrating.

February 2009: Love Magazine‘s first magazine cover features a nude Beth Ditto.

April 2009: French Elle’s no make-up edition features eight European models without make-up or digital touch ups.

September 2009: Glamour Magazine features “the woman on p.194” with a belly roll (and a smile).

January 2010: V Magazine‘s plus-size model spread, clothed and nude.

February 2010: Australian Marie Claire puts Miss Universe 2004, Jennifer Hawkins, on the cover nude and unaltered. A cover signed by Hawkins was auctioned on eBay, with proceeds donated to Australian eating-disorder support group The Butterfly Foundation.

March 2010: Tara Lynn graces the cover and the pages of French Elle’s “curvy girl” issue.

April 2010: French Marie Claire releases a non-airbrushed issue.

Just last week: Britney Spears releases unretouched photos alongside  the altered images for her new Candies campaign.

A few days later, Kim Kardashian releases nude photos for the May 2010 issue of Harper’s Bazaar sans digital alteration (and felt so empowered that she tweeted about it).

I’ll admit that I’ve gotten excited about more than a few of these body-image events, and looking at this list it would appear that there’s some real positive change occurring. But after news of Kate Hudson’s alleged breast enhancement made headlines less than 48 hours after Britney Spears released her unretouched photos, I had to ask, Do these efforts matter? Can these images combat the images below?

Yes, unadulterated images matter, but their impact is diluted by the millions of adulterated ones. As consumers we are exposed [PDF] to hundreds of advertisements per day that overwhelmingly feature unnaturally (or genetically predisposed) thin women who have been further retouched. Waists are made smaller, torsos and legs are elongated and thinned, thighs smoothed and  armpits all-but-disappeared.

In this context, the occasional plus-size model appears deeply incongruous: a spectacle, not a part of a spectrum.

In the cases of Spears and Kardashian, featuring striking women without airbrushing isn’t exactly revolutionary–and some speculate whether these images are actually all they claim to be. Kardashian’s body, at least, comes pre-altered by cellulite removal. These photographs set a new unattainable standard, this one for “real” bodies. Plus, both Spears and Kardashian have  published countless altered photographs of themselves, and Kardashian hawks diet pills as a side job.

Without an authentic and consistent message of  beauty empowerment in all its diversity, these attempts feel like gimmicks, or what Samantha Moore of Gender Across Borders calls “empower-tainment“:

It’s going to take more than a celebrity proclamation that my “unique” qualities are beautiful, despite what popular media—and the male gaze driving it—say. Because beauty standards are socially constructed, redefining what “beauty” means is a hairy, multifaceted venture that must consider entrenched social forces. Powerful influences such as patriarchy, historical context, consumerism, and media are embedded in the fabric of almost every society. While boosting women’s self-confidence is peachy, it cannot be a successful driver of social change. What we really need to contest is the beauty myth—the illusion that female beauty standards are natural, inevitable, and backed by some concrete “truth” about optimum femininity.

Images that fall outside the limiting standard can’t produce change when millions of taken-for-granted images constantly cultivate our expectations and solidify the standard. Publishing unadulterated images every so often, with great fanfare, does not successfully challenge the normative Eurocentric image of ideal beauty, which includes vast amounts of alteration. Rather than promoting real change and creating a critical dialogue that explores the creation and maintenance of unrealistic, confining and, often, dangerous images of beauty, the announcement of these unaltered photos can easily become a spectacle designed for publicity and ratings.

TOP:Tara Lynn in “curvy girl” issue of French Elle. BOTTOM: Collages by Nasser Samara.


  1. Yes and yes, I totally agree that a few images here and there are not cutting it for a truly progressive media landscape. Additionally, I think it’s critical that in the attempt to acknowledge, create and show “real women” that we don’t exploit these “real” women as well. I think systemically we need to deal with these unattainable standards not simply by putting more naked female bodies to be “male gazed” at and/or exploited. Let’s celebrate and create positive and full representations of women and not just to sell a product.

  2. Anita, excellent point! Thank you.

  3. Dominique says:

    I believe the very fact of emphasizing beauty and appearance, whether natural, inclusive or not, keeps us right down in the trap of being something to look at more than anything else. I don’t want “real beauty” so much as I want beauty not to define me or my life. When beauty defines a woman, it defines her purpose as decorative. I want to be defined by my intelligence, my abilities, my talent and my grit. My beauty, however it manifests, should only be for me and my pleasure, to share as I please with companions of my choice, and privately, certainly not as an obligation to anyone or, especially, to society iself.

  4. Dominique, thanks for your insightful and thought-provoking comment. Both you and Anita raise issues that will be explored in further posts. As you state, outward beauty should not be the primary way a woman is defined or valued. As it stands, culturally constructed definitions of physical beauty have trumped the myriad of ways women have been valued in the past and could be valued now. Joan Jacobs Brumberg explores this in her book, The Body Project. Similarly, Naomi Wolf raised the warning back in the 1990s with The Beauty Myth (I have a career, independence, etc but I still have to be conscious of the beauty standard no matter what is is lest I lose my worth). So, yes, beauty as the sole variable that places worth on a woman is confining and keeps women trapped. This is part of a much larger analysis that will certainly be addressed.

  5. hikikomorihime says:

    I’m just wishing they’d do away with airbrushing women for magazines. I find it very creepy… :-/ I like to see what she really looks like. We’re pretty enough without having every pore painted away, without having every lovely ‘imperfection’ treated like something shameful. 🙁 In the end, it makes it hard for me to relate to the women in magazines.

  6. Great post! @ Dominique – I completely see what (and agree with) what you’re saying! I understand the presence of women and, obviously, their bodies in fashion magazines, but it’s become such a ubiquitous spectacle! Today there were photos of Susan Sarandon’s daughter in a bikini on Huffington Post?! For what? That isn’t what they DO!! They are in news and politics. I was so disappointed.

  7. jessicao says:

    You’re accurate in your analysis! It’s completely true that the images we’re shown, even the ones not “cleaned-up” have been affected by some other “clean-up”. What’s amazing to me is that these women are “airbrushed” beforehand. They’re sprayed with tans. I don’t know if this is for every woman in these photos, but as a person who has experienced “changed” photos firsthand, I was surprised to be airbrushed on my face & then makeuped to where it was very heavy… I wanted to do my own makeup but was told that the photographer shoots with such impressive lighting that my face would be washed out if I didn’t have heavy makeup & wasn’t airbrushed–when I got home my face was a different color than my neck. In the untouched shots my body looked gorgeous in a bikini vs. the normal overhead lights I dressed to. And my face was the same color as my body. Lighting also changes images.

  8. Kat Michelle~ says:

    …As the technological manipulations continue to advance in keeping the beauty delusion alive, so do my years on the planet. My attention becomes snared on bold prints of ‘how to remain encapsulated within the 18 year old asthetically perfect vessel’…next to a photo of an angelically stunning large breasted poreless zygote almost daily. I pull my eyes away, shake off the shame of being a real person and move along.
    It’s not just men who place value on a woman’s worth acording to her looks. A large percentage of women do this (unkowingly) to each other as well. (In reality they have been conditioned and trained to beleive that they are being suportive).
    …I’m fit, healthy and usually hear that I look younger than my age – but the phrase “you look good FOR 40″……..its usually attached to a face full of glee whispering~~ “OH! Your making it!”. And, for a sucked in moment, I do feel a sense of releif of….HUH?…What!? Damn! As intelligent as I am, I’m affected(infected) by the media and the vanity value craze. Thank you for illuminating readers to these absurdities – it helps with my empowerment process and allows a broader platform to stretch out upon and to SHOUT BACK! 🙂

  9. Dominique says:

    The problem isn’t beauty itself. As a photographer, I see beauty everywhere I set up a tent to go on a shoot. The problem is that beauty has been coopted as an instrument for the control of women and for the entertainment of the patriarchy (like sex, in the case of prostitution). Everytime I hear “men can’t help looking, they were born that way”, I think well, I can’t help grabbing another ice cream because *I* was born that way, but the way both acts are perceived and mediated is radically different: he gets off the hook, or gets a high-five, and I get shamed for having taste buds. The fact that we’re “naturally” one way or the other has completely different consequences, depending on where you are on the social ladder, doesn’t it?

    Beauty is coopted and appropriated for the use of the patriarchy in several ways:

    – Its function is to please, usually the male gaze. Women are socialized to derive fulfilment and identity from complying with this function. This is part and parcel of internalized oppression, in which the subordinate class identifies with the master class and internalizes the opinions of the master class concerning itself.

    – Its standards are set by prevailing opinion (read: patriarchy) even though they are policed and enforced by everyone, including its targets – women.

    – Women are shamed if they do not conform to them. They are insulted, silenced and marginalized. This shame is held up to silence and bully other women, who then wish to escape such opprobrium.

    – Women must go to bizarre lengths and spend inordinate amounts of attention and money to comply with the notion of beauty. In a free society where beauty is a joy to the soul, rather than a commodity or a shackle, this would not be necessary. Therefore, beauty once again emerges as an instrument of control.

  10. Theresa Senn says:

    I honestly don’t look at fashion magazines because it’s so deflating. Your never gonna be thin enough, rich enough, or popular enough to live the fictional life portrayed. I found the images interesting, because I don’t believe I’ve never seen these bodies except in oil paintings. This comes from a time when a belly roll implied wealth. I’m not sure what the message is now. Acceptance? Empowerment? A new trend? Fashion and advertising feed of each other. I took a class in college that changed the way I looked at art and media forever. Ask yourself what is the image “selling”, whether it be Michaelangelo or Vanity Fair. I would hesitate to dismiss it completely, because it does indicate a shift in consciousness if not commerce.

  11. I have to wonder why the “average” or “overweight” woman always has to be naked when photographed when you rarely see naked anorexic skin and bones models in the magazine. Shades of Elephant Man. Also, why not just a normal woman, you know, not obese, just carrying the normal weight as opposed to super skinny. Feels like Elle is overcompensating. Here’s another post on the topic

  12. @Dominique Again, that was going to be covered in my next post on the subject. Thanks for your insightful and intelligent comments. Beauty standards have always existed but they have not been as difficult to obtain and they have not been the most important aspect (or asset) of a woman’s worth.

    @Karen I included that image in my post. She’s the woman on p.194. Actually, images of women, no matter their size, are disproportionately nude when compared to men.

  13. Dominique’s response to this post. Must read. She says it much better than I ever could: Beauty isn’t the problem, its ownership is http://bit.ly/bDa8H9

  14. Great post Melanie. While change is good, a true sign of change is when the non-photoshopped, plus size models are included in the regular fashion spreads in these magazines, and on the catwalks in the runway shows, and not just shown in a “special” issue. When it’s not breaking news that a size six model who wasn’t photoshopped to perfection is featured.

  15. Can’t say that I disagree with anything contained within (not that I was searching for land mines). So, is the goal to not OBJECTIFY women at all…. or not to objectify the concept of BEAUTY… or just to not objectify women and/or beauty in the same way they have been objectified to date, by the dominant (patriarchal) culture… Is it possible to construct and maintain any social dialog (about any issue or existent) on a purely subjective level? I guess what I’m seeking is an understanding of how we as a society can conduct dialogs and communicate in the absence of objective concretizations of our abstract concepts? It seems we can not…. and so, the issue really seems to be, how the object is defined, by whom (what majority) and with what biases, agendas and assumptions?

    And the key to that seems to be continued protection of personal liberties, such as the right to the content of one’s thoughts and intellectual property, freedom to form and voice one’s opinions and objections, and continued education of people as individuals, rather than as a majority or collective body…?

  16. In Holland, I have undertaken a project exploring the concepts of beauty by combining interviews of real women with photos, drawings or paintings of the women. So far there are 29 volunteers and counting. The project will be a art show in Antwerp at the end of May. It is also a blog. Together I think we can make a difference, especially in the art world. Certainly we and the volunteers have been changed by the experience. The following is the mission statement from the project:

    We believe that beauty is not always thin, and beauty is not always young. In Exploring Beauty, women are invited to explore their thoughts about the nature of beauty. The pairing of their ideas and images expands the definition of what is beautiful.

    Melanie, I’m curious to hear your reaction. I hope that you check out the site (www.exploringbeauty.org).

  17. Erik, your project sounds incredible. I will be sure to check your site, post the link on twitter and FB as well as giving you my reaction. I’ll contact you directly at the email address provided on your site to discuss further.

  18. We cannot expect change to happen overnight. Ten years ago, I never would have imagined seeing a woman of my size in a major magazine. These examples make me hopeful that change will continue, and women will just get better and better at loving their bodies they way they are.

  19. Melanie is right on.

    It’s incredible that if someone releases an actual real photo, there is a public reaction. Are we so used to and obsessed with these digital images, that real ones are a scandal? Yes, good for those that come out with the released photos, but these are the ones that are famous enough they can do it without hurting their career. I have plenty of actress friends that say, “Thank god for retouching!” For what they actually look like isn’t good enough (according to their agent and the “biz”). And these are the people are society considers beautiful already! Well shoot, if they’re not good enough-we are all screwed! Releasing the untouched photos is a start, but not until celebrities demand to not take part in any re-touching, will there be an actual “beauty revolution”

    The actual name of plus-size bothers me as well. What’s so plus-size about being a 12? I think that’s an average woman-but an average women is never good enough-nor will it ever be in a patriarchal society. I used to have people tell me I should be a plus-size model; to be honest, I was horrified. That name “plus-size” made me feel less than, like the b-team or something. I wanted nothing to do with that title-I almost felt it said, “Your Almost pretty!”. Do you remember the Plus size bachelor show? This wasn’t liberating-it was a guy t they called a “chubby-chaser”; essentially mocking these women in an embarrassing condescending manner. I am ready for “plus-size” models to just be a damn model. We don’t categorize some models as “under-size”; but perhaps they should!

    “Empower-tainment” is being used perhaps because marketers are realizing that the average women is the average consumer, and the average consumer is feeling like shit about herself. Well you know what? I still feel like shit, b/c as Melanie stated, compared to the rest of thousands of images-1 image doesn’t make me feel better-it just makes me angry that I feel tricked all the time with these false digitized crap. If your going to be a model/actress-aren’t you already some of the most beautiful women (by societies standards)? Being a size 2 isn’t enough-you have to be retouched as well?

    The question perhaps is: as consumers, as feminists-what do we do to combat this? How can we demand for a “beauty revolution”?

  20. It’s just a bunch of crap! We’re still just looking at a bunch of women being objectified, aren’t we??! You don’t see them putting men up there like that. This stuff is so darn frustrating to me=(

  21. Showing images of plus-sized women is the other side of the same coin. They are people who you usually do not meet in the streets. People are not as skinny as top-models but they are not also as super-sized as the other kind of models. So super-sized models can be turn into people women reject, and as they cannot reach the beauty mith (the aspiration), women are still unempowered.

  22. I wonder how many of the super skinny models shown above will still be alive a year from now?

  23. Good point, Paen. The model in the top collage, 7th from left, died of anorexia shortly after the image was taken.

  24. i think the bottom line is, women’s bodies, whether large or small, are being used here as a vehicle to sell an idea muddled by patriarchal perception. as an artist, i don’t have an issue with photographing a nude, if the purpose of the image is celebratory and empowering; i do, however, have a huge issue with bodies (both female AND male!) being used to propagate false ideas of beauty. why IS plus-size a size 10? since when? and why does an image of a real woman have to be a nude image? it almost feels like we’re being mocked.

  25. Jennifer says:

    Melanie, this is an excellent article. It’s ironic that as I was looking at the normal women I started to feel happier about my own body – and a magazine on beauty like that, I would buy! Too bad is so rare – someone could be making a mint.

    This reminded me of Jamie Lee Curtis’s “daring” unretouched photo from 2002 – she insisted on showing love handles, etc. The readership of the magazine she was in went up. (Link at the bottom – and from there, you can find a link about how Dove’s “real women” were apparently retouched to make them look real!)

    What’s sad is that since Curtis’s photo was shown to a lot of women’s hurrah’s, JLC took on a new project: getting into perfect shape. She now does yoga eats entirely differently, she later says. She bears no resemblance to that bare-all picture anymore. I guess she was determined to, as Melanie says, airbrush her actual self. Now I look at her photo and think of how unacceptable that body was too her…I wonder if she had to listen to unkind reactions and it put the shame back into Real. (I have noticed a preponderance of really mean age-related digs at Susan Sarandon since her break-up with Tim Robbins and it makes me furious for her sake – she is far more attractive than he is!)

    Great work, great post!


  26. @Jennifer. I remember those photos and share your opinions on JLC and your side note about the age related digs at Sarandon. Thanks for sharing and posting the excellent link.

  27. Overly critical! A few years ago, there is no way that celebrities would be doing photo shoots without touchups. Instead of ripping apart something that could be seen as progress, suggest a BETTER thing to do. I’m so sick of seeing empty “intellectual” criticism with no alternative suggestions.

  28. @Erin: Actually, as @Jennifer pointed out, JLC did a series of unretouched photos in 2002 (although her photos were more reminiscent of ‘real women’ than the photos of unretouched models and celebs that have an array of individuals that are paid to help them maintain their physical appearance). I appreciate your feedback but I don’t agree that this article is overly critical and doesn’t offer any answers. First, I clearly stated that these images do matter and that I have been more than a little excited to see these images because they do represent a shift in (as @Theresa commented)… something: consciousness or commerce (I’m not entirely sure at this point) But I think its important to examine this recent trend with a critical eye because, yes, on the surface it would appear change is occurring and there are some body image victories being won. In my work as an educator on women’s issues, media literacy, body image and pop culture it became apparent that women still feel like crap and that the dominant flood of images contradict these select few. Plus, they’re not enough. We need to examine the images and the industry that creates them critically. In other words, use media literacy as a way to deconstruct the images and the trend. This is a solution. In addition to media literacy skills by way of cultural analysis, these images must become the standard expectation not the exception. I hope to see more of these images, more means more than , what?, one every few months? See timeline above.

  29. This piece at Jezebel is one of the many reasons I don’t see Kardashian’s unretouched nude photos as 1. reflecting an image of what “real women” look like and 2. empowering or 3. a “real” shift in consciousness: http://jezebel.com/5526431/this-week-in-tabloids-everyone-you-think-is-pretty-had-plastic-surgery/gallery/?skyline=true&s=i

  30. @ Bea

    i don’t mean to throw a wrench in the spokes, but for the record, men may not be “objectified” in the sexual context that you seem to view the objectification of women, but it is happeneing all the same.

    ever see an abercrombie ad? or see the calvin klein underwear ads? while it may not appear to be as overtly sexual and may not be as leered at as ads with women, it is very similar.

    how are men supposed to stand up to the images of eight packs and perfectly sculpted pecs we see around us? should we NOT feel objectified in some sense as well? i do not have an eight pack ab structure. i do not have big pecs. and yes, i DO have issues with this portrayal of men, and women.

  31. SORRY!!!!

    last msg was in regards to melanies comment

  32. @Matthew: It’s not a wrench at all. This article was written specifically on the trend of unretouched photos and curvy pics of women being presented as empowering. This was not designed to be an essay on the unrealistic and virtually unattainable images of men or women. I understand men are increasingly pressured and discuss this at length in my Women’s Studies classes. Patriarchy and consumer culture predicated on advertisements designed to sell images and lifestyles impact all of us. In fact, I was going to mention this in a blog post today:


    “There are enough fun moments in Jon Favreau’s playful direction (from Justin Theroux’s workmanlike script) and Downey’s performance — a tycoon who’s equal parts Warren Buffett and Kid Rock — to satisfy a weekend audience, but one needs a forgiving nature to get past the flabby midsection … All told, ‘Iron Man 2’ suffers the same fate as many a sequel. Where the first film felt buoyant and occasionally inspired in helpfully demonstrating that, done right, there’s considerable treasure to be culled even from second-tier occupants of the Marvel universe, the new pic feels more duty-bound and industrial.”

    But, I do want to acknowledge, that while I am aware of male objectification and increases in eating disorders and plastic surgery among men: 1. Men are not solely valued on their physical appearance 2. There is a greater array of image diversity featuring men: you can be older, graying, lacking in the 8-pack department and you’re still sexy AND we see more men in pop culture that aren’t necessarily classified as hotties but they aren’t the butt of jokes, make-overs, made invisible or devalued 3. the # of images that feature unrealistic definitions of beauty featuring women outnumber these images of men by a large margin

  33. Great post. I also think it’s very interesting how these “body diversity” or unretouched issues of magazines often serve as effective publicity stunts, through which editors are applauded for their sensitivity and let off the hook for the REST of their not-so-empowering content.

    As an advocate for healthy body image it’s a tough one. I want to give positive feedback to media outlets and celebrities who acknowledge that beauty can fall outside the thin, white, airbrushed ideal. But the problem is that these before/after/sans makeup reveals don’t seem all that effective when they’re not part of any sustained effort.

    I’m always a little wary of celebrities talking about healthy body image because their survival in Hollywood pretty much depends on their ability to conform to UNhealthy standards. I wrote about that here:

    “Katharine McPhee’s Shape Cover: The Problem With Celebrity Body Image Role Models”

  34. heatheraurelia13 says:

    This is why I love being feminist.

  35. Joshua. S says:

    I think that it is horrible that they airbursh these women to make them look like the "ideal perfect woman". I really wonder and am very curious to see what these women look like without all of the computer effects that are done to them. These advertisements are constantly telling women who they are and who they should be.

  36. I agree! look at those women like britney and kim does it look like they need any retouching at all! There adds do not empower real women accross America but more over scare them and make them feel worse about themselves.

  37. I'm not going to lie, when I saw the first image of the plus size model on Elle magazine my judgmental side kicked in and I began questioning and picking at the photo. After reading on I realized that the reason I had that reaction was because I'm so accustomed to seeing retouched, photoshopped pictures of gorgeous women everywhere in the media, and anything besides that is "ugly". I think it's important to continue exposing pictures of real women in the media and being consistent about it so we can begin to open our eyes and realize that those retouched images aren't real; and by doing so we can hopefully begin to get used to images of real women as well.

  38. When magazines attempt to be different and have select issues with no air brushing and or make-up it creates attention and magazines are seen in a positive light. However, that changes after the next issue and it seems as though the magazines haven't accomplished anything. In order for change to happen, magazines and the media should portray women of all shapes and sizes sans air brushing and not causing a spectacle when they do it.

  39. It is nice to see pictures of celebrities like Kim and Britney, that have not been retouched, because it shows women that they are like us- they are not perfect. Magazines use photoshop to sell an image of beauty that is unattainable, and unfortunately we compare ourselves to these images that do not exist in real life. Moreover, there are some ads in the media that stand out from all the other skinny and tall models depicted in the ads. Yet, it does not have a great impact, for it is only one out several hundred ads, we are used to seeing. And the themes we see constantly (tall/skinny) have been cultivated to the point that the values have become imbedded in us and our society.

  40. While reading this I come to the realization that nothing is brough up about the implications of colorism, racism, and homophobia. Apparently, only white straight womin can go nude and digitally untouched in magazine adds and still be considered beautiful. I am left asking,, how about a lesbian, black, plus size nude model ad? Can that go in the cover of vogue? Hooray to the sexist, objectifying, racist, homophobic, capitalist ads they sure make me feel beautiful and normal!

    • Thank you for saying that. I just get so fed up with racism and representation in the media–even though these images shouldn't be there in the first place.

  41. Danielle G says:

    I always feel a little confused by ad campaigns that show "Real Women". If they're showing real women then why do they need to publicize their efforts of equality with a big pat on their backs. I've been told since I was little that doing something to get a congratulations totally devalues the good deed that you did. If we really want to change people's opinions about beauty, I think we should just start running pictures and ads of REAL WOMEN and not making any comments about it…then see what happens.

  42. Melani DG. says:

    I feel as if the only way to truly challenge this society's high standard of non existent beauty is to keep spreading the awareness or simply spreading the real beauty that all women acquire naturally. It is important to start showing the mass, what real beauty is which includes no altering of the body, natural poses, and anything that will represent women globally of today. People want to look upon something is real and to what they can relate to, we need more people who is going to stand up to the media and actually have the audacity to spread real images of women. And women who are euphoric of their bodies regardless of the shape, color, or size.

  43. It is not until images of real women outnumber the images of photo shopped, unrealistic women that the message of real beauty will really make it’s impact. The images above begin the effort, but much more is needed to really make an impact.

  44. Tandis Shams Fard says:

    I agree that much may not change from putting out these images that fall outside the limiting standard, but I think that we can all agree on that we have to start somewhere. Yes, they might be “empower-tainment” tricks, but who knows, maybe Britney and Kim want to be free from the images that they are constantly compared to as well. Im all for it (hoping that it is coming from a good place), lets try to stay positive after all.

  45. I don’t think that the epidemic of eating disorders and distorted body images among girls and women everywhere will not stop until photo-shopping in magazines stops completely. Even retouching a photo to get rid of a simple blemish supports the harmful message that blemishes or marks (things that certainly don’t ruin your face) are unacceptable. I also don’t think it helps that all these celebrities are posing naked and “unaltered” on the covers of magazines. That isn’t going to do anything for anyone’s self-esteem. Kim Kardashian’s job is to be unbelievably gorgeous. I’d think she was beautiful even if looked like she rolled out of bed hungover. She doesn’t represent most of the women who buy those magazines.

    And the whole widespread fad of calling girls with curves “real women” and stick thin girls “fake” isn’t helping anyone either. I don’t believe in starving and dieting yourself until your thin, but some girls are naturally like that, just like some girls are naturally curvy. Women come in all shapes and sizes. The acceptability of calling one body type “fake” and one “real” just pits groups of women against each other and continues to encourage girls to be ashamed and embarrassed of their bodies because they will always be under scrutiny.


  1. […] posted at The Delphiad Blog by Dominique Millette in response to my post at Ms. Magazine yesterday, Unretouched Photos: Empowering or just more “Empower-tainment?” Cross-posted with […]

  2. […] Unretouched Photos: Empowering or Just More ‘Empower-tainment’? A really interesting commentary from the Ms. Magazine blog on the slew of unretouched photos and plus size models seen in mainstream magazines recently. I haven’t said much on the issue because I’m curious to see what happens next, but for a lot of media observers it has just been a bunch of “empower-tainment” porn rather than meaningful progression and discussion about body image. […]

  3. […] the “stick skinny models” on magazine covers, including Playboy. As I said in my recent article on Kim’s nude and unaltered photos, this is less about empowerment than it is about […]

  4. […] most interesting things about Kim’s empowerment tweet when she posed nude and “unaltered” for Harper’s Bazaar is that while Kim Kardashian is not stick thin, she definitely does not represent most women out […]

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