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This article is written by Seep Gupta, a student currently pursuing B.A. LL.B. (Hons) from the Institute of Law, Jiwaji University. This is an exhaustive article which deals with the airbrushed images in the fashion industry.

Introduction

Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. It’s quite a famous idiom that we often use. However, societal perception towards beauty has always been cruel and unfair to people who lack many physiological characters that are not up to the benchmark of the so-called societal beauty. As perceptions are delusionary and are deceptive. But, we as a young audience try so hard and put so much effort to make up for those so-called perceptions. In this unfair world of the competition being real is considered as something prude and outlandish. I should not go much into this old school philosophical part and should dive into my unconventional topic. This article will deal with what do airbrushed images mean and how these pompous pics are used as a tool to garner more marketing and to mislead the young generation. 

What are Airbrushed Images

Airbrushed images, which is also known as photo manipulation, is generally a technique that is used in photography where original pics are edited and are changed in order to achieve fantastical and unachievable body standards to fetch more attention and to endorse one’s brand. It may include removing objects, changes in the background, removing blemishes, scars, acne, alterations in natural body shapes, and morphing of original photos. This airbrush technique is used to remove and to eradicate the flaws that are present in the photos. It’s a quite superficial process that gives rise to many psychological problems.

Laws related to Airbrushed images

There isn’t any specific law related to airbrushed images in India or in the world generally. However, the new French law which is known as, “Photoshop Law” makes it mandatory to label the photos as retouched photos that are manipulated or photoshopped by image-editing software. This law aims to combat the unrealistic body images which have been perceived by so-called societal beauty perceptions and to combat the eating disorder. According to the French Ministry of Health, this law applies to both the pictures in commercial magazines and online photos. Violators could face a fine of 37,500 pounds.

French Legislation passed another law in May 2017 which requires European Models working in France to present a medical certificate attesting to their health. The doctors signing off these certificates must focus on these models’ BMI which should not be lesser than 18.5.

These two laws were passed in 2016 but were not approved till 2017. This is a sincere effort from the French government to combat unrealistic beauty standards and to combat eating disorders such as anorexia. This is one of its kind laws which has been passed by European Legislation.

France in 2015 also has made a law that could land a person in jail for advocating excessive thinness and to promote unrealistic anorexic images. The violator also has to pay a fine of 10,000 pounds. The enforcement of these laws is essential to fight photoshopped images and unrealistic beauty and body standards that are not attainable.

The physical and mental effect of Airbrushed Images on body

The physical or physiological effect of airbrushed images varies from age and different personalities. Comparison is an essential part of human nature. Humans especially women and young girls tend to compare themselves with other girls. As, excessive comparison can result in unnecessary anxiety disorders, low self-esteem and even depression. Nobody is flawless and perfect in real life. People tend to compare themselves with models that they see in magazines online as this is the age of social media. They get worried and get a sort of inferiority complex that they are not aesthetic in nature and from inside they start feeling that they will not be valued because they lack certain characteristics such as unblemished skin, polished legs, perfect curves, hourglass figure, and excessive body thinness. 

According to experts, retouched photos can create a sense of discontentment and it can seriously affect our mental health. Young girls feel that they are not good enough and are flawed. This is creating a sense of low self-esteem in this dystopian world. Girls are learning the art of photoshop from the internet just to achieve fake beauty standards. Not even young girls, even women are getting worried that their bodies are not good enough and they are ashamed of the cellulite that is deposited on their legs or post-pregnancy fat. They are embarrassed to embrace their scars.

This low self-esteem is compelling young girls to resort to dieting, body change and even plastic and cosmetic surgeries to correct their so-called flawed features which do not match with the societal beauty perceptions. Airbrushed or photoshopped images create a sense of body negativity which in itself is detrimental to a person’s mental health. Personal insecurities that one is not good enough can lead to serious mental health problems in the long run.

Everyone wants to look good. Humans have this tendency to seek attention and physical validation that makes them feel good about themselves. In today’s world people seek to achieve those false narratives that are nearly impossible to achieve. With the mushrooming of the plethora of photoshop apps, perfect and unrealistic beauty standards are just one click away.

Social media is further triggering this anxiety. According to a leading psychologist, Dr Anna Colton, social media is heavily affecting first-generation teenagers who grew up in this social media world. Social media has affected these teenagers negatively in the past ten years. Almost, half of the teenage girls have tried to lose weight by the age of 17 which is quite fatal for their tender age and prolific mind. This has not only affected the girls but teenage boys also. Most of the teenage boys have shown their desire to be more muscular.

According to one survey, almost three out of five teenagers feel insecure about their appearance and 83 % of 17-year-old teenagers feel that their appearance is very crucial for them. Many teenagers are not comfortable in their own skin. They are heavily biased and give priority to how others perceive them.

How to cope up with body negativity perpetuated by Airbrushed Images

Airbrushed images or photo manipulation is not a new trend. Retouching or photoshopping pics for aesthetic purposes has been there since 1846, so this trend is not new. The main question that arises is why do we photoshop or airbrush images? What flaws we want to hide or what poor body image we are embarrassed to show to the world? People’s fixation and obsession towards the body standards which clearly reflect that they are unattainable is huge.

Airbrushed images pose an immediate threat to one’s mental health and definitely promote body negativity. Renowned feminist and activist Jameela Jamil has come forward to protest against airbrushed images. She has asked not to airbrush any of her images. Having suffered from depression and anorexia herself. She believes that one should stop setting such impossible beauty standards that one can’t herself or himself meet. People are much more than the number they weigh on the weighing machine. The flaws that people want to hide should be worn as a badge of honour.

The cellulite on your body, black skin, uncarved nose, muffin tops, body fat, chubby face, all these things are not flaws but they are meant to be celebrated as personal achievements. Jameela Jamil has asked other celebrities also to come forward and to protest against these airbrushed images. Airbrushed images are a crime against women. They promote Anti-Feminism, Fatophobia, Anti-Ageism and it is robbing people of their time, money, comfort, integrity, and self-worth.

Standards of beauty vary from place to place but looking physically good and acceptable has been there throughout history. There has always been pressure to look physically and aesthetically good especially for women either due to societal, family or cultural pressure. Women most of the time have paid for the suffering to get perfect curves and to be able to attain societal beauty standards. It has become the norm now. Photoshop is used to clearly distort a woman’s body into something she is not. Many women are losing their self-identity and themselves in the process.

The promotion of barbies like figure and general perception associated with them that this is the ideal beauty standard drives common masses towards the pit of self-hatred and body negativity. The negativity that these photoshopped images propagate is awful and gross for people who are already suffering from body negativity issues.

Airbrushed images in pop culture

Airbrushed and photoshopped images have become a part of pop culture now. Many celebrities airbrush their images to hide their flaws and many celebrities have come forward in opposition of airbrushed images. Many magazines such as Vogue have been accused of airbrushing the images of celebrities in order to beautify them. Many celebrities such as Zendaya have recently come forward in opposition of airbrushed and photoshopped images. According to her, these types of things create unrealistic beauty standards in society.

Many models now have advocated body positivity by propagating the idea that one should be in love with his/her flaws. People should be self-conscious about their image but that should not become a mania. Recently, in 2016, Megan Trainor posted her airbrushed photo side by side of her real image. She has called out the website for intentionally photoshopping her real image to make her body appear too thin with perfect curves.

Iconic singer and songwriter Britney Spears also has recently come forward to share her photoshopped and real image. She has opened up that she has struggled with her body image in past years. She has always opened up about her body struggles. We find her efforts as sincere and commendable, and it is indeed a really good thing that she wants to tell young women out there beauty is not only about having a pretty face. It is more than that. It is not about getting adhere to unattainable and unrealistic beauty standards.

                   

Criticism

Towards the end of the century, photoshop technology has become so advanced that airbrushing images have become the child’s play. Earlier, there was a time when it took hours and days to manually photoshop an image or to change its flaws. Technology in the 20th century took days to retouch any photos and it was indeed a painstaking and mammoth task. Retouching required specialist equipment- paints, gelatine and brushes.

In today’s time, anyone can retouch images in the nick of time but still, this task is quite tedious and complicated and photoshopping software is quite expensive. People can now retouch any image without spending much on complicated and expensive software. But, still airbrushing is quite infamous and it also has a dark side associated with it.

The critics of airbrushing claim that it produces negative body image and standards that are too hard and almost impossible for young women to achieve. The concept of airbrushing the imperfection lays the foundation of self-loathing behaviour and it propagates the low self-esteem from within. The fetishization of underweight extremely thinned pre-pubescent models in the west is fatal. This should not be applauded and appreciated. There is much more to the fashion industry than these extremely thinned anorexic models.

Retouching and airbrushing of images not only for glamorous purposes but also for social media such as Facebook and Twitter trigger depression and anxiety among young teenage girls who treat these bimbo type and glossy models as ideals. Almost the majority of the images of celebrities are either photoshopped or retouched to hide their body flaws and defects. Airbrushing has become normal now. According to one survey, nine out of ten teenage girls photoshop their images on Facebook, and one out of ten girls would doctor themselves to look excessively thin. In August 2011, Britain banned one of the advertisements that featured the images of Julia Roberts and Christie Turlington as being too unrealistic that could mislead the common masses. Though some multinational companies such as Ralph Lauren have pledged to be more careful of producing airbrushed images in advertisements.

Conclusion

After having an in-depth discussion on the negative effects of airbrushing. I would just like to give a pause to my article by quoting one of the most common saying that, “Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder”. One who finds you beautiful will find you in every circumstance and will embrace all your flaws. Beauty is not only about having flawless and blemish-free skin, perfect curves, hip dips, breasts, and all. It is much more than it. It’s also about having a perspective, razor-sharp views, and brimming confidence and power of self-love and self-compassion.


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