The Truth About Perfection

Who doesn’t want to be perceived as attractive?

I, like many girls, have conformed to the pursuit of perfection.  Girls want to be attractive.  However, it is imperative that girls recognize what real beauty is.

As the Miss Representation’s website states, “[we live] in a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader.  While women have made great strides in leadership over the past few decades, the United States is still 90th in the world for women in national legislatures, women hold only 3% of clout positions in mainstream media, and 65% of women and girls have disordered eating behaviors.”

By questioning whether what you are doing to your body is for you or the person or group of people you are trying to attract helps to draw the line that allows you to grow and feel comfortable in your skin.

The prevalence in our culture of pictures of women that have been Photoshopped to perfection creates unattainable goals. The expectation of flawlessness has risen to a point where even the people we believe to be perfect no longer fit the quota. Not even the models and celebrities we see on billboards and ads can achieve this skewed view of beauty.

Even Angelina Jolie has to be photo shopped.
Photo Credit: http://www.chilloutpoint.com

We are victims of a media that promotes a beauty that does not exist.  When girls see images such as this Photoshopped image of Angelina Jolie they believe that it is based on reality and measure themselves against this unattainable level of perfection.

What is beauty if Angelina Jolie, considered one of the most attractive women in the world, still gets Photoshopped? Where should the lines be drawn? Is it okay to Photoshop a blemish?  A mole?  Does even the slightest change of an image send a message to the world?

If you have to make something unnatural, which is what Photoshop does, than you are sending a message to society that for you to be beautiful you have to remove this or change that about yourself.

It has come to the point where almost all photos you see in magazines or billboards have been photoshopped to “perfection.” Ms. is one magazine that takes a stand against this and instead provides images and ideas that are more powerful than photoshopped, half-naked women.

We the people can change what the media creates.  The media’s goal is to make money, so what we buy influences what the media keeps providing.  If we want to see turtles in dresses than that is what the media will show us. A unified group can demand change.

We have to insist on a world that promotes healthy, beautiful, intelligent, and inspired women instead of demeaning women by holding up perfect yet false images. The documentary Miss Representation makes the case about how we must leave a world that is better and safer for future generations.  It is the same dream that Gloria Steinem began fighting for more than 50 years ago.

The beauty culture in today’s society promotes a very specific type of beauty: gorgeous hair; thin body; perfect skin; tall, high cheek bones; full lips; a “cute” nose; small ears; long thin fingers; almond shaped nails; a round full buttocks; and perky large breasts. This image of beauty is imprinted on the minds of young girls and they, in turn, view their own self-image through the lens of this commercial standard.

By looking at these photoshopped images that represent what is thought of as perfection, we end up holding ourselves and others to this unattainable standard. We create the expectation that for a woman to be beautiful, she has to be flawless. Individuality becomes a negative instead of a positive.

Do you really want to live in a world where this is done?
Photo Credit: http://www.chilloutpoint.com

How do we solve the dangerous problem of plastic ideals of beauty?  We have to be educated and be able to identify different types of media manipulation. We have to think critically about how stereotypes about femininity and masculinity limit girls and boys, women and men.

We have to examine the impact media has on a woman’s ability to be seen as a leader and obtain a leadership position.  We have to understand how behind the scenes, decisions affect the way gender is represented in media and impact our culture. And we have to become engaged in efforts to influence positive change in the media and advertising industries.  These are the steps that Miss Representation teaches.

We have to solve these problems collectively; not just me, not you, but us.  It is a matter of realizing we can make a difference and act upon it. Together we can affect real change and provide a future to be proud to pass on.

Without coming together as a group and fighting for what we believe in despite our different lenses, we will never see change.  It is a matter of recognizing our strengths and building off the thousands of others around us.  Deciding that your voice matters and making it heard is the first step, but then standing next to a group of people and having all of your voices matter is where the change will be seen.

20 thoughts on “The Truth About Perfection

  1. I really liked how you wrote about Angelina Jolie being photoshopped. It definitely made me rethink the media’s idea of beauty. The idea of beauty that they are expressing is artificial and clearly unachievable if like you said “Angelina Jolie, considered one of the most attractive women in the world” still gets photoshopped.

  2. This post was very interesting to read. I liked how you made many comments on the people “behind the scenes” and how the media “just want’s money.” Sometimes we forget that what the media puts out is what we’ve told them to put out. They’ve seen what people respond to and that just so happens to be impossibly “attractive” women. I loved the line you wrote that said: “If we want to see turtles in dresses than that is what the media will show us.” Which is so true!

    I also found it interesting how you told the ways in which we can have an affect on the messages the media portrays, after we are the consumers, and we are the ones that have the ultimate control – we just have to become, as you said, “A unified group can demand change.”

    One of your opening sentences, “I, like many girls, have conformed to the pursuit of perfection” – was very intriguing and immediately made me want to read more. It proved that even though we’re up here writing blog posts about the negative effects of the media – we still succumb to it. We all know it’s wrong, yet we all still strive to be that, “Ideal women” that is so carelessly portrayed in the magazines, tv etc. It proves that just because we know what’s going on, doesn’t make us immune to the terrible messages we receive everyday.

    Your post was incredibly informative, and I enjoyed how you focused on different aspects of the people in the media.

    Your photo examples were also really great, specifically the Angelina Jolie one – and how you explained that she is seen as one of the most beautiful women in the world, yet even she gets photoshopped.

    Well done!

  3. Josey, I think this is a terrific post. Really interesting and memorable. Right, if Angelina Jolie needs to be photoshopped…and the impact of media on a woman’s opportunity to earn a leadership position…important to consider. Thanks for sharing! Proud of you and the whole class.

  4. Firstly, thank you for writing such a frank and informative article, and secondly, kudos to you for admitting that you too have succumbed to the media pressure to be “perfect”.

    1. If we can all admit to having been pressured by the media, we will at least have a society that is is aware of what is being done to them, or rather inflicted upon them.

  5. Very well written blog! The media has indeed distorted the real idea of elegance and beauty, not just with programs like Photoshop, but also, by the kinds of clothing, jewellery, accessories and makeup women associate with it. Apart from the photo editing, many women are misled into believing that expensive clothes, etc. are what create beauty. The fact is, a women can wear absolutely anything and look beautiful, because real beauty is radiated from within a person, thru character and personality. Outer appearance is just an added extra.

    1. So do you think that makeup shouldn’t be used? At what point do we need to draw the line and say this isn’t okay: make up? plastic surgery? When does it stop being okay?

  6. It was really groundbreaking how you and Nathaniel both compared and contrasted how these people look before and after these photos are edited. This builds a standard that is impossible for people to look up to because the people in the pictures themselves dont even look this way.

  7. I find it interesting to see that the women that tons of young girls desire to look like, don’t even look like that, relating back to the first sentence of your post where you wrote “Girls want to be attractive. However, it is imperative that girls recognize what real beauty is.” Interesting thought because the idea of beauty portrayed by the media is one that is an inaccurate depiction of what a women should be as well as, in many cases, virtually impossible to obtain.

  8. This is a really honest and well written post. You really nail it when you say, “We are victims of a media that promotes a beauty that does not exist”. It is true. This standard of what girls “should” look like is truly unachievable because of the double standards that society has set in place. Girls are either to loose and wild, or they are too conservative and boring, and this is all determined by men’s vision of a “perfect woman”.

  9. I agree with so much of your post, and I ‘ve always felt as though the standards in magazines and on tv for how women should look is unattainable, as you said: “We are victims of a media that promotes a beauty that does not exist. When girls see images such as this Photoshopped image of Angelina Jolie they believe that it is based on reality and measure themselves against this unattainable level of perfection.” I agree, that it must really say something about our society if even the most beautiful women are altered. But also liked the way that you posed a solution to this. Because a lot of people talk about it and say it’s a problem but don’t say what we could do to fix it: “We have to insist on a world that promotes healthy, beautiful, intelligent, and inspired women instead of demeaning women by holding up perfect yet false images.”

  10. I like the fact that you were extremely honest about how you’ve also fallen into the trap of conforming to what the media’s view of attractiveness is portrayed as. I feel like this tends to be hard for many people, who want to reform society, to do because they are afraid of coming off as hypocrites, but your personal anecdote has made your blog post just that much more interesting.
    I also love your great detail into the issue of photoshop. It is one thing to fix the lighting, a few stray hairs here and there, and even the quality of the photo, but it is another to completely change the body of the person in the photo by combining many different “perfect” body parts to make one complete “perfect body.” It provides people, that are naive about the usage of photoshop or how far it actually goes, with this idea that the body in the photo is completely attainable, when it’s actually relatively impossible unless you go through extreme, and most of the time pretty dangerous, measures (that include starving/dieting, over-exercising, and cosmetic procedures) to attain it. And then what are these people left with? Low self-esteem, crippling health problems, and a reduction in one’s mental well-being.
    I love the way you mentioned how exactly we should analyze the way media is influencing our culture, first, before going on to try and reform our society.
    What a wonderful post! I look forward to reading more.

  11. I found this post quite similar to mine, and I found it quite informing. I really appreciated when you admitted that you have also conformed to society’s idea of beauty. The moment that you included the quote “[we live] in a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader”, I was hooked. That was a very good analysis of the society that we live in. I also agree with the ending point, that only through togetherness, can we change the hyper-sexualized images in the media.

  12. Josey, I have learned so by much reading your post! I was amazed learning about how Angelina Jolie, considered one of the most “beautiful” women in world, still needs to be photoshopped to be the beautiful person that everyone knows. People who photoshop do so much to remove a blemish, a wrinkle, or a mole of a celebrity’s face just because they those features are not considered part of a beautiful face. I like your last paragraph! It is something that I truly believe in and wish to fight for. Everyone’s voice needs to be heard to make a change. This reminds me of intersectionality, and as we have both learned, it is crucial to the feminist movement. If everyone fights this corrupt media, then positive changes will be made! I know it.

  13. When a woman has the courage to step up in front of a crowd of millions and is working to lead the nation in the right direction and she is defeated because she doesn’t look like Jennifer Aniston, I am just so shocked and I cannot believe that people only pay attention to beauty. That is something that definitely needs to change. This image of beauty that the media portrays really messes with people’s heads and I really liked that you admitted that even you have “conformed to the pursuit of perfection.” I think this is a really strong post and the fact that you are not only stating the problem but also the solution is great because now I know that the first step is education. Also, in both pictures you posted, I did not find anything wrong with the original photo and it just tells me even more that photoshopping a girl to fit this perfect beauty standard is ridiculous.

  14. Great, great blog! You are right to point out how photoshop can be dangerous, when girls are trying to live up to an expectation of beauty and perfection which LITERALLY DOES NOT EXIST. I’m not sure if you’ve ever read Tina Fey’s book, Bossypants, but your post made me think of it. Tina is a self-proclaimed feminist, and goes into her thoughts on photoshop in one chapter. She says that she is constantly being photoshopped in magazines, but that her favorite photoshop job was done by the feminist magazine Bust. She said she liked what they did because it was like her, in beautiful clothes, with the best hair, in the best lighting, on her best day. They didn’t photoshop out her knuckles, or her deep-set eyes. They simply made her look the best she possibly could, exactly the way she was. I was wondering what your thoughts would be on this. Awesome job!

  15. Great job, I agreed and could relate to many of your points, I also found this post gave me new insight on issues. I really appreciated most of all your introduction “Who doesn’t want to be perceived as attractive? I, like many girls, have conformed to the pursuit of perfection. Girls want to be attractive. However, it is imperative that girls recognize what real beauty is.” This is incredibly truthful and courageous of you to write. I can relate to it as a girl and realize its meaning as a member of society. Nowadays “beauty” has become the only medium in which women can be recognized as worthy of any acknowledgment, even if this “pursuit of perfection” is an impossible one. Not only because there is no perfection but also because society has never dared to state what is perceived as attractive. Because of this girls conformed and do anything to achieve this goal of perfect beauty but can never reach it. There is where things as photoshop come to power. I really liked how you showed the difference between how these girls we are meant to look up to are before and after editing. I also found it very powerful that you added a quote from the movie Miss Representation that “65% of women and girls have disordered eating behaviors.”

    Another thing I really loved about your post was how you answered the question of how to solve this problem, “We have to be educated and be able to identify different types of media manipulation. We have to think critically about how stereotypes about femininity and masculinity limit girls and boys, women and men.” I could not agree more and through this and your post as a whole I really see you gained insight on feminism and have great solutions to offer. Great post!

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