I consider myself a somewhat fit person. I try to do yoga at least once a week. I bike to school. I force-feed myself smoothies (I’ve almost convinced myself that I like them). I also think I’m a fairly confident person. The mental image I hold of myself is, if anything, a little too gracious.
That being said, after unwillingly encountering photo after photo of perfectly photoshopped women day after day, sometimes I start feeling pretty freaking ugly.
This feeling of inadequacy, directly linked to viewing altered images, makes a lot of people wish there was a wider representation of body types in the media. We want to see people who look like us on TV and in magazines. And we want to see those people presented as attractive, not merely as comic relief or as a foil to the attractive characters.
That’s why Dove’s real beauty campaign has been so successful, even if they also happen to be the ones bringing you those incredibly sexist Axe commercials.
That might also be why a topless photo of actress Kiera Knightley received considerably more views recently [it was released in August] than it otherwise would have in light of her mentioning it in a recent interview condemning photoshop.
I’ve talked about the power of female nudity and discussed cultural beauty standards quite a bit in the past, so you would think that when I came across an article titled “Keira Knightley on posing topless on her own terms: ‘Women’s bodies are a battleground’” I would be excited that a movie star was sticking it to the (photoshopping) man.
Well I was excited, until I actually looked at the photo.
You see, I was expecting someone that looked flawed and vulnerable. Instead, I was greeted with a photo that looked like a sexy pin-up poster.
Don’t get my wrong, I really do appreciate that Knightley is using her recent topless photo to challenge the habit of photoshopping in Hollywood.
The photo itself, however, reminded me of those people who “complain” that no one believes them when they say that they aren’t wearing makeup. It’s not an actual complaint, it’s just a reminder that they are so much better looking than you that they don’t even need it to look good.
In the same way, Knightley’s topless photo doesn’t really highlight a flaw, instead it highlights the way her “flaws” are not actually problematic. Yes, we now know that Keira Knightley does not have a porn star body. We also know, however, that she does have body of a runway model. Either way, her body type is something our culture decidedly favours.
“Keira [sic] Knightly poses topless, unphotoshopped to protest against air brushing.
Men everywhere share the article, because tits.”
The point shouldn’t be that Knightley is so attractive that people are going to gawk over her naked body, photoshopped or un-photoshopped. The point should be that we have unrealistic beauty standards.
When it comes to those standards, the issue has never just been about putting an end to photoshop. It’s been about challenging the way our culture only considers a small range of body-types beautiful.
Keira Knightley meets our cultural standards for beauty whether she is photoshopped or not. That is why I don’t consider her photo at all groundbreaking in the battle against photoshop. Don’t get me wrong, I respect that she refused to let her image be altered, but that doesn’t mean her photos can, in any way, represent the everywoman.
There are plenty of photos that do a great job of highlighting just how unrealistic celebrity beauty standards really are. Keira Knightley’s topless photo just isn’t one of them.