Each time I catch up on the recent news events, I more often than not, spot an article where someone expresses their disgust in relation to unrealistically Photoshopped images in the media. If even celebrities and models are saying that it’s not OK to promote such an unrealistic (and often unhealthy) body image, why is it that this is still occurring?
These images are sending the message that it’s not OK to be yourself and that you will never be perfect. The models and celebrities whom many aspire to be like, are not free from the cruelty of being deemed imperfect. The young model whose appearance and image is her livelihood, is being told she is not good enough, not thin enough, not busty enough. The freckles on your face that hint at your heritage and love for the outdoors are betraying you, you’re not perfect. The stretchmarks and saggy stomach you have after having 3 children make you a disgusting unhealthy pig who needs to go on a diet, join a gym and consider making an appointment with a plastic surgeon.
This is ridiculous.
I know I’ve joked in a previous post that I didn’t want to be old and fat (when coming to terms with turning 30), but there is no way I condone the use of excessively Photoshopped images in the media. What most people perceive to be perfect, healthy and beautiful is derived from these unrealistic images, but what we need to see is that each and every person is different, each person is beautiful, but not all in the same way. Unrealistically Photoshopped images and trends such as the “Bikini bridge” are sending the message that if you’re not a size 6 then you’re not good enough.
Taryn Brumfitt, founder of Body Image Movement is one person who is working hard to create a positive and realistic attitude towards body image, one that embraces all body types and states that the Body Image Movement is “… on a quest to redefine and rewrite the ideals of beauty.”
I’ve spoken before about the need to create realistic characters that are perhaps not perfect, as a way of connecting with your audience, creating characters that your audience is able to relate to. Too often I am reading about characters that are the picture of perfection, particularly in the romance genre. A lot of the time, the male lead is always the epitome of male perfection and the female lead is often an insecure blonde bombshell or something similar. Again I’m going to admit to reading a fair few Sylvia Day books and while some of her main characters are picture perfect, often her characters are quite realistic, with different body types reflecting the people of the real world. Not only is the development of realistic characters important to connect with the reader, but also I would hate to think that my own characters and writing would contribute in some way to the unrealistic and unhealthy body image promoted in the media.
When I was 17 I got braces to straighten my teeth and correct my overbite. I admit that I hated my teeth throughout my adolescent years and I often struggled with the cruelly expressed opinions of others (calling me Mister Ed and Bucky Beaver among other things). After about a year I got my braces removed and my orthodontist showed me some of my “before and after” shots of my teeth, I was pretty pleased with the result, while I still have a slight overbite, I was still pleased. Then there was another “before and after” photo. I didn’t really think much of at the time, but the more I think about it, the more I am appalled that this was shown to an impressionable 18 year old. The “before” photo was what I looked like then (after my braces had been taken off) the “after” photo was a computer generated image of what I would look like after a few surgical procedures such as rhinoplasty and a chin augmentation. Now I admit I have a bump on my nose and a gap between the bones on the bridge of my nose, presumably from breaking my nose at some point (I was a bit of an accident prone kids at times) and I don’t really have much of a chin, but seriously, who in their right mind shows an 18 year old something like that? Now I think back to that day, it was like, “Now, I’ve done a pretty good job on your teeth, they look pretty awesome, but your face is still kind of ugly. I know a friend that can fix your bumpy nose and lack of chin, he could make you look like this.” (shows picture)
What if I had chosen to go ahead with something like that? What if I had thought to myself, “Wow, so I’ve got good teeth now but I’m still pretty ugly, better go get this sh** fixed up.” What then, would that have been enough? Would I have been deemed perfect after that? Or perhaps they would recommend I get rid of my freckles and perhaps get a breast augmentation as well, heck let’s get the nose, chin and boob combo! I’m glad I didn’t even think about it then, because if those pictures were shown to me now that I’m older (and perhaps wiser), I think I would have given him a piece of my mind. Letting him know that he was contributing to the unrealistic and unhealthy body image young girls (and boys of different ages). Perhaps his actions even adding to the number of people who develop eating disorders and turn to self-harm, perhaps security would have been called, so probably better that I didn’t pay it any attention at the time!
“You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.”
― Amy Bloom
Whilst I admit that I am not as thin as I used to be (especially after 3 children) and it doesn’t matter how much weight I lose, I don’t think I’ll ever have a “Bikini bridge” and you know what, I DON”T WANT ONE! Sure I would like to lose a few kilos, but my stretch marks, freckles, bumpy nose and other “imperfections” are here to stay, they make me who I am, they make me unique and if that makes me less than perfect then so be it.
So this is my message to you all, in a world where differences are seen as imperfection rather than celebrated, let us remember the old saying and never judge a book by its cover because the chubby girl that walked past you may very well be healthier than the busty blonde with the tiny waist and perfectly toned body that you saw in the magazine. May writers create characters that are a healthy reflection of the real world, where each and every person is different.
© Katherine A. Kovacs and The Writer Within, (2013-2015). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Katherine A. Kovacs and The Writer Within with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.