A few months ago, I launched a lame protest against the unattainable beauty standard set by the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. I was way too wussy to actually pose in my underwear, though, so I made a duct tape version of myself. Duct Tape Suzanne didn't really capture all my bulges, but she did a good enough job demonstrating that people with B cups don't explode out of bras.
Recently, a number of celebrity airbrushing and other retouching incidents have come to light. Catherine Morgan put a nice photo montage of some of the incidents on her blog; Rita Arens described the photoshopping of young pageant girls on BlogHer, and D Listed puts up all sorts of “before” and “after” photos of the famous and retouchingly “beautiful” on his site. Every year, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition contains women airbrushed to the hilt.
With all the airbrushing out there, I wonder why models are even needed any more. Magazines, advertisers, and the fashion industry could save tons of money by hiring shlubs like me at a low rate, then painting a new face or body on the picture since they are already more or less doing so. That said, I am fed up. Other than the Dove Real Beauty campaign, which depicts "normal" women of a variety of body types and ages in order to sell lotion, there are very few public images of just us regular ladies. In fact, it seems that the availability of photo “improvement” software is leading women to increasingly despise themselves so much that they request airbrushing of every day pictures before they put photos on their My Space profiles or elsewhere on the internet. Laurie Ruettimann titled her hilarious post on corporate photo IDs, “I’m So Much Prettier When I’m Airbrushed”, and a lot of women seem to believe that’s true. Why just be you when you can be you minus 10 years, 10 (or more!) pounds, and all traces of personality?
Enough is enough. Let's fight back by reminding people that there is nothing wrong with flab, wrinkles, and character. I’m taking the first step. While generally I regard myself as a person with an average physique, thanks to the constant onslaught of unrealistic images that assault me every day, I tend to hate my appearance. Bathing suits? Suzanne Reisman Enemy #1. If I really want to get out the message that it is OK to just be yourself, I need to accept who I am and what I look like. (Deep breath.) Here's what I look like in my new Gottex Blue bathing suit:
Am I mortified at how chubby I look compared to other the swimsuit pictures I see? Yes, but it is me. I shouldn't feel ashamed at not being perfect. I'm not going to any longer, and neither should anyone else. Join the Swimsuit Brigade for Honest Photos (or give me a better title; this one seems a little heavy-handed, no?) and stand up for normal women. Post a picture of yourself online in your swimsuit (The Sewist beat me to this idea two months ago; she looks great.) and place the link in the comments. It may not be a billboard in Times Square, but it’s a start.
Models don't speak for us, and airbrushed ones even less so. Let's represent ourselves.
Suzanne also blogs against the dominant beauty paradigm at Campaign for Unshaved Snatch (CUSS) & Other Rants A small portion of this essay is cross-posted there and includes f-bombs