Friday, May 18, 2012

Realistic images of women make a real difference

My mum regularly goes to England to visit her family there and she always brings me back a British magazine. Six years ago I asked her to look for a feminist magazine because I wanted to check out the lady-power publications from across the pond. What I ended up getting was a lesbian magazine called Diva.

My mum didn't realize she had bought me a lady-lovers mag until said she decided to read it on the plane ride home, which is an amusing mental picture for me. Anyhow, from that year on, she always brings me back a copy of Diva, and I've grown to really like the magazine even though I'm straight as an arrow.

The most recent issue I received was from May 2012 and I was thoroughly impressed. I'm really passionate about the representation of women in the media - in particular, the over-saturation of impossibly perfect, highly Photoshopped images of women that are jammed down our throats every day. Over exposure to these images of super skinny women with no pores, fat, wrinkles, imperfections or stray hairs creates an an unrealistic beauty standard, which results in many women feeling inadequate.

That's why I was so excited when I saw these models in Diva magazine - they made me feel great! It's not very often that I feel good about myself after looking at women in magazines, but this time I did. It was a fantastic feeling. And I know that it wasn't just me "reading too deeply" into the images, because a friend of mine flipped through the magazine and upon seeing the images said, "HEY! These girls are like... normal! It's so awesome!"

In my personal experiences chatting with women about this subject, I find that women are crying out for images like this in the media. Are you listening, magazine editors? WE WANT MORE REALISTIC IMAGES OF WOMEN!

This is perfectly illustrated by the recent online petition started by 14-year-old Julie Bluhm. She requested that Seventeen magazine print just one unaltered photo spread per month. Over 70,000 people have signed the petition, but Seventeen magazine has refused to budge.

The women in Diva magazine's spread are both slim and have great skin - basic requirements for most models - but they are softer, fuller and their "imperfections" (such as moles) have not been erased by Photoshop. They convey a healthy, natural look and their skin isn't plastic-like. Their faces aren't caked in makeup and their hair styles look like something I could actually achieve at home and feel comfortable wearing in public.

I'm sure that these images have been touched up with Photoshop to some extent (it's pretty much standard in the industry), but it's not ridiculous. They are a more realistic, down-to-earth representation of women. Kudos to Diva magazine for using models like this. I can't wait until we see more of this in all magazines.

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