Body Image and the Younger Generation

Hey Strangekittens. I’ve been seeing a lot of articles on body image lately, and heavily targeted at Photoshopped pictures.

Let me explain, from the perspective of someone that works in fashion photography, why I think this action is badly targeted, although it is of course, well intentioned. This will probably offend someone. Good, you should get angry. That means you think and have an opinion.

Take this for example: Israel Outlaws Too-Thin Models.

First of all, I agree with outlawing Photoshop fraud, as long as they’re specific about what ‘fraud’ means. Personally, I will not drastically alter a model or clients appearance, as a matter of good practice. If you want drastic changes, change your lifestyle to a more healthy one, or get plastic surgery. This is my personal rule; I don’t expect it will suit everyone.

This means, If you want to look 3 sizes smaller, or have big giant boobs when you are plainly not a triple D cup, I will refuse you. On the other hand, I will fix minor imperfections that most people have – pimples, stretchmarks, etc. I want to show the best version of you that I can. This means posing you in a flattering manner, with good lighting.

This does not mean turning you into a skeletal alien Barbie.

As a photographer, I’ll hire the best model for the job. Unless it’s specifically for special effects, I will never change much about their bodies in Photoshop. Apart from this being more efficient, changing the model into someone unrecognisable doesn’t help their self esteem either, as well as the viewers.

I will not work with unhealthy models, or models with an unhealthy lifestyle (drugs etc). It sounds old fashioned, but I refuse to endorse or glorify an unhealthy lifestyle. Many in my industry do not, sadly. Many more do, though. The photographers often get blamed – but generally, it’s the model’s agency and the models themselves, putting so much pressure on them. Followed by the clients, asking for the impossible.

In any case, i’m sick of having to defend my model friends because someone said they’re too skinny. We all have that friend that eats like a starving horde of monkeys – a lot of models are just naturally thin. I’m athletic and live the Paleo lifestyle, so I do eat quite a lot. Many models i know eat more than I do, and they’re skinny as rakes.

So, since when was it acceptable to make fun of skinny girls, but not fat girls? Or short girls, or tall girls? I’ve been given crap for most of these. I’ve been the tall skinny girl, and the tall fat girl. Comments about both HURT. All people have feelings, and stupid, rude comments hurt us all. You can never know what’s going on in someone’s life; don’t presume to know.

Maybe that skinny girl has anorexia. Or maybe she’s just really sporty and works hard to look that good.

Maybe that fat girl eats too much. Or maybe she has a hormone issue where she gains weight beyond her control.

My point is, people are too goddamn critical, when most of the time, it’s them that need to reflect upon themselves.

Education is key in this. I think kids should be taught a healthy lifestyle from the get-go; we should be teaching them how to cook a healthy meal, how to exercise and monitor their health, and be in tune with their bodies.

Kids should not be making fun of someone else for being different. It’s not ‘kids will be kids’ or a ‘normal part of life’.

It’s bullying. And in the real world as adults, it’s harassment. 

Why is it that stuff done as an adult, is different to when a child does it? Children have feelings, yes? It hurts just as much when one kid calls another kid ‘fatty’ as when your co-worker calls you a ‘fatass slob’ or something. If your co-worker called you that, you’d probably report them to HR. But what is the kid gonna do? Tell the teacher? Teacher will just laugh it off, and thus begins the cycle of children not trusting adults.

So as well as educating kids about good self image, we need to educate those influencing them as well.

Enough of my ranting for now, I could go on for hours about this, but I want to hear what YOU think.

Comment below. What do you think should be done?




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  • Jason

    Interesting read, I must admit being a guy you don’t often hear about guys having body image and self esteem issues (or at least less frequently), however I am one of them.

    As a kid my mother was overly protective of her baby boy,( no rough sports for my kid, he might get hurt), and my father was the stereotypical working man, gone 10 to 12 hours every day etc etc, but when he was home he was never physically abusive or Trying to be mentally abusive, it’s just how he’s wired, but there would be little comments about how fantastic other kids were doing and very little praise for me.

    I’m 32 now and suffice to say I spend most of the first 26 years of my life trying to be like someone else, someone popular, muscular and who played sports because I wanted desperately to be liked…however this created an environment where I learned to hate my body, I was over weight, book-ish and quite possibly the only Geek in my class.

    in today’s society I don’t think much has changed from when I was a kid in terms of media or even society on a whole and the way the portray celebrities (I applaud your convictions about photoshop etc by the way!) and the people we “should” be idolizing. Stories of Success and cultivating a positive body image are turned into a F’ing Circus and spectacle (See Biggest loser) when they should be something completely different.

    Education is one aspect I think we need to start early with our children as you said above, but also I think teaching children to be introspective, tolerant and to share thoughts, feelings and ideas about themselves without being vilified more would go a long way.

    • nionvox

      Thank-you for your comment. It’s true, you don’t hear much about guys in this respect. My parents were of the type that only paid attention if I screwed up; no matter how hard I tried to achieve good things, no-one cared. So I started being bad instead, it was the only way I got any attention at all, really.
      I agree, people have turned body image into a silly spectacle of a contest; this isn’t cultivating good body image though, just competitive desire to be better than someone else.

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