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Real women aren’t an anomaly


woman at beach with bikeMore artists and activists join the fight against digitally altered images of women.

Two new projects are providing an antidote to the inescapability of airbrushed images of women that most societies are subjected to every day.

Jane Beall, a photographer, is planning to publish her book of photos of women’s postpartum bodies in January 2014.

Titled ‘A Beautiful Body,’ the book is Beall’s way of trying to stop what she told the Huffington Post is “an epidemic of women who feel unworthy of being called beautiful.”

In Beall’s interview, she mentions the “shaming” of women over the shape of their bodies after giving birth.

Yet what women are being compared to is a false ideal.

In its 2011 announcement of new policies, the American Medical Association (AMA) recommended the development of advertising guidelines to ‘discourage the altering of photographs in a manner that could promote unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image.’

An example cited in the announcement was of an image of a model whose waist had been reduced so much by photo editing that ‘her head appeared to be wider than her waist.’

Beall has already exceeded her goal of raising USD20,000 via crowd-funding on Kickstarter for publication of her book and says that she is planning future volumes covering cancer, aging and eating disorders.

In Australia, Jessica Barlow published the first issue of Brainwashed magazine in April 2013, saying that she wants “body-positive content that is inclusive of all genders, sexual orientations, skin colors, body shapes and religions.”

And by body-positive content, Barlow specifically means no digital retouching.

Inspired by teen Julia Bluhm, who successfully petitioned Seventeen magazine to publish one unaltered photo each month, Barlow started a similar one asking popular Australian magazine CLEO to print its Photoshop guidelines in every issue.

CLEO agreed to the request.

As the number of campaigns against the use of unrealistic imagery grows, more and more women are publicly challenging the accepted norm of thin, young and sexy as the female ideal.

Objectifying women has become ingrained in many societies through complete saturation of the advertising and media industries with falsified images that promote fake and unattainable concepts of beauty.

As its name suggests, the Everyday Media Sexism project is fighting just that by providing a platform for women to share their experiences.

The voluble and growing support for the No More Page Three campaign suffered a serious setback with the recent announcement by The Sun’s new editor, David Dinsmore, that the images of topless women would be continued because they are a “good way of selling newspapers.”

With research putting numbers to the acknowledged dearth of women in positions of public power, and Port Magazine declaring this time to be a golden age of print media, under the stewardship of six white male magazine editors, women continually face the chicken-or-the-egg problem.

The solution appears to be to jump into the fray in whatever way possible, publicly using and appreciating the reality of women’s beauty.

Each campaign victory and positive news article, no matter how small, is important in bolstering the growing resistance to images sold as perfection that are often composites of several women’s body parts, all smoothed together through the use of photo editing software.

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