Target’s Photoshopping Mess

targetPhotoshopping, digital alteration, photo enhancement, and digital manipulation are all tools used in the fashion industry to portray the ideal woman. Many believe that these tools are used to “perfect” an image with the help of technology. As consumers, we don’t necessarily realize how much these images are actually altered to fit some unrealistic, stereotypical view of a woman. It’s not just on the cover of high fashion magazines such as Vogue or Elle; it’s in music videos, on TV, in movies, and on your favorite brands’ website. Digital manipulation is everywhere.

Recently, the popular store Target, found itself at the center of the discussion about body image and digital manipulation. Target’s website pictured a model that isn’t just overly thin; she’s also missing chunks of her body that look like they were removed with an erase tool. The young girls’ arms are awkwardly thinned out and elongated and her hip is missing a piece to appear thinner than she actually is. The worst part of the manipulation is in the girl’s lower half, where a large piece of the bottom suit is cropped out to create an artificial “thigh gap”. This is a problematic phenomenon that gained media attention after teenage girls were striving for body weights so low that their thighs would not touch when they were standing with their feet together. The most troubling part of this manipulation is that this product is on the juniors section of Target’s website, aimed at teens that are within their critical development stage of life.

The media’s representation of women has drastically altered our idea of what “average” is through the use of extremely thin models and actresses or by digitally altering models and actresses both on screen and in print. The media has normalized something that is far from average. Thanks to the magic of Photoshop, women in the media have become perfectly fit with wrinkle-free, blemish-free, and even pore-free skin. Girls and women now compare themselves to a standard of beauty that simply does not exist in reality.

These ideals and media norms are unlikely to change anytime soon, so we must change our perceptions of the media and of ourselves. As teen girls and women of the 21st century, we must recognize that we are more than just a body or an object that can be judged or altered. What you see in the mirror does not define your worth, nor does is tack a label on you. Beauty is not just skin deep, it’s a reflection of the person as a whole. Celebrate and love the person you are. Be confident in yourself and remember that comparing yourself to an unrealistic image of the swimsuit model on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Cosmo, or on the website of your favorite store won’t bring you happiness or gratification.

When you see an ad or hear a message that makes you feel bad about yourself or your body by promoting only the media’s idea of the perfect woman, stand up for yourself and talk back to the advertiser. Write a letter to the company or the editor of the magazine expressing your dissatisfaction with the way they depict women. Cancel your subscriptions to magazines and unfollow companies and individuals on social media outlets that illustrate women in a negative way. Raise awareness about media messages with friends and discuss the problems with the way the media portrays women to shed light on the issue. Watch this film to see firsthand how professional styling and digital alteration can drastically change the way a woman looks.