Photoshop blesses — curses, rather — the idea of beauty with quite a few uncanny possibilities.
To witness its power, watch this YouTube video by Global Democracy.
In order to combat these shocking manipulations and unrealistic archetypes, body image activists are going corporate — or at least they’re trying.
My hopes for humanity fluttered when I heard the news that aerie, American Eagle’s lingerie brand, announced its 2014 campaign to feature models in their true skin — without Photoshop. However, my optimism fizzled slightly as I scrolled through the ads.
Sure, aerie made a stride but certainly no leap.
Advertisers launched “aerie Real” this month with the slogan “The real you is sexy,” according to the Huffington Post article by Ellie Krupnick. The ads feature models in the underwear brand with the words, “The girl in this photo has not been retouched.”
The airbrush absence is nonetheless noticeable, with evidence of less-than-perfect skin tones, not-so-tucked tummies, a few tan lines, and even tattoos. But to truly award aerie for bravely challenging our society’s skewed depiction of beauty, its advertisers still have some work to do.
Sure, aerie’s looking quite a bit more down-to-earth than competitor Victoria’s Secret, straying away from the porcelain skin effects and skinny-Minnie bombshells with stiletto legs. However, aerie’s making a statement about reality, and its portrayal of the average girl is still off.
Its models are still curvy and slim in all the right places. Cellulite and muffin tops still don’t exist. Careful lighting still gives the glowing skin effect. And, yes, the average butt cheeks are still that round.
It’s lovely what the campaign states: “We think it’s time for a change. We think it’s time to get real and think real. We want every girl to feel good about who they (sic) are and what they look like, inside and out. This means no more retouching our girls and no more supermodels.”
I commend aerie for trashing the after-touches and approaching lingerie from a more realistic angle than Victoria’s Secret. However, its advertisers are still carefully posing and selecting the faces and bodies of aerie to stick with society’s often unfair and unobtainable beauty standards.
Stretch marks? Nuh-uh. Flat chests? Nope. Visible pores? Nada. Acne? Hell no.
Sadly, aerie is still adding to the noise, just not as blatantly as the rest of the media. Women and girls are still looking at these ads with envy — perhaps even more so now, knowing Photoshop isn’t taking credit for these body images.
Aerie’s slogan, “The real you is sexy,” is heartwarming. But when the text is stamped next to an image that is most likely not what the average girl would consider her real self and, yet, what society says is the standard, confidence and self-perceptions are still corroding away.
Above all, aerie does deserve some credit, though. Out of all the lingerie stores, aerie would now be my first choice. Its campaign is noble and idealistic, and in a perfect world, other lingerie brands would follow suit.
That’s just the problem, though. Our world is no Utopia, and other brands won’t follow suit. Call me a cynic, but as competitive as the advertising world is and as deeply saturated as we are in such a superficial standard of beauty, it’s too risky for brands to stray from the standards and start promoting reality rather than perfection.
If we want change, that’s where we, the consumers, come in. It’s up to us to deflect these standards and harden ourselves to envy, unfair expectations and unhealthy goals. It’s up to us to share that knowledge with our daughters, sisters and friends.
After we change our attitudes and demand for realism rather than fantasy, that’s when the advertisers will change. They’re just giving us what we want, after all.