Tight Stomach, Thin Thighs and Clear Skin

by Juicycouture on April 25, 2017 - 2:37pm

            Being seen as beautiful has become an unattainable goal in our society. One of the main causes of why beauty has reached such unattainable standards is photoshopping. Many individuals have shown their hatred towards photoshopping through social media, such as the famous singer Lorde who tweeted, “I find this curious - two photos from today, one edited so my skin is perfect and one real. remember flaws are ok [sic]” (Calkins, 2016), showing everyone that they should love themselves for who they are.  According to the ethical framework of utilitarianism, the media should not use Photoshop without informing the public that they are doing so since the outcome of Photoshop is linked to setting unrealistic body expectations. However, Photoshop supporters may claim that it is a form of expression and demonstrates creativity.


            First of all, photoshopping sets unrealistic body standards. Many look through magazines and admire celebrities with tight stomachs, thin thighs, and small waists without even taking into account that their bodies were most likely modified. People then feel an uncontrollable need to look like the celebrities in the media. According to the ethical framework of utilitarianism, it is the outcome of the action that determines whether something is moral or not. The main objective of utilitarianism is to create the greatest good for the greatest number. In this case, Photoshop is seen as unethical because it tells people that there is only one type of beauty in our society, and if you do not look like the people in the media then you are not beautiful. This message sets unrealistic beauty expectation when people should be able to love themselves for who they are. Thus, people often start to think poorly of themselves and their self-esteem becomes affected. Poor self-esteem is not proven to be caused by Photoshop although it is correlated. People begin to think that it is the norm to look like the photoshopped celebrities in the media when it is nearly impossible to appear as such. While thinking it is the norm, people then feel the need to fit in. According to the article Following and Resisting Body Image Ideals in Advertising: The Moderating Role of Extrinsic Contingency Focus, “A number of influential social psychological theories suggest that self-esteem motives are strongly connected to a need to fit in” (Williams et al., 2014). In short, Photoshop does not create the greatest good for the greatest number and creates an unrealistic exception when it comes to appearances.


            On the contrary, Photoshop supporters use the counter-argument of freedom of expression and creativity as a defense mechanism. Many of them see the act of photo editing as an art form and suggest that it is their right to express their creativity. As Ashley Brown quoted in her article entitled Picture [Im]Perfect: Photoshop Redefining Beauty in Cosmetic Advertisements, Giving False Advertising a Run For the Money, “In the famous words of Aqua, with very little ‘imagination, life is your creation’ ” (Brown, 2015). However, although freedom of speech is legal and usually supported in our society, a certain moral standard should be sustained.  The right of “freedom of speech” is not meant to be used as protection against content that could cause harm but rather as a means to allow individuals the liberty to express themselves while using their critical judgement. Furthermore, the ethical framework of virtue ethics shows that creativity is a virtue. As stated by The Cambridge Dictionary, a virtue is defines as “a good moral quality in a person, or the general quality of being morally good.” Although creativity is a virtue, it is still incredibly immoral for the outcome to harm such a large population. According to Steve Inglis, “Photoshop has created a disturbing reality that causes women to undergo unhealthy diets to try to become something that is simply unrealistic” (Inglis, 2013). Photoshop is also a main strategy in marketing cosmetics. It is suggested that the excuse of it being an “art form” is purely to create demand for the company’s product. Companies have the need to make consumers strive for an unrealistic body standard by showing them a deceptive image of what they will look like if they purchase the product (Grey, 2015). In sum, Photoshop supporters protect themselves with free speech and creative license without taking into consideration the harm it could be causing to a large portion of the population. Additionally, the term “art form” is in reality used to cover the fact that photoshopping is consumer manipulation.


            In addition, there are several different ways to resolve the imposed dilemmas of Photoshop. The first method is to include a label next to the photoshopped image in order to warn the consumer that the person in the image is not what the look like in reality. This method will prevent deception consumer’s appearance. They have already started this method in some areas of the world such as, “In Brazil, Congressman Deputy Wladimir Costa proposed a bill […] requiring all digitally manipulated advertisements to have a warning label that would read, ‘Attention: image retouched to alter the physical appearance of the person portrayed,’ notifying the consumer that the image had been enhanced” (Brown, 2015). The next method is to show an image of what the individual looks like without having modified the image next to the Photoshopped image. Thus, this method will erase unrealistic beauty standards, show that there is more than one form of beauty.


            In conclusion, the ethical framework of utilitarianism shows that the outcome of Photoshop could potentially be extremely harmful. It is therefore, important for our society to use a method that will erase the unrealistic beauty standards linked to this form of technology. However, Photoshop supporters may think otherwise. They may claim that it is an art form, it shows creativity and that they have freedom of speech. Furthermore, this topic is significant because it is important to show the world that people should love themselves for who they are and should not need to wish for “the perfect body”. 


Works Cited

            Brown, Ashley. "Picture [Im]perfect: Photoshop Redefining Beauty in Cosmetic Advertisements, Giving False Advertising a Run For Introduction the Money." 16 (2015): 87-105. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.

            Calkins, Isabel. "13 Times Celebrities Called Out Magazines Over Retouching." Cosmopolitan. Cosmopolitan, 06 Jan. 2017. Web. 24 Apr. 2017

            Rwgrey1, Author. "The Dangers of Photoshop Editing to Self-Esteem." RGrey Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.

            "Virtue Meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary." Cambridge Dictionary. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.

            Williams, Todd J., Jeff Schimel, Joseph Hayes, and Murat Usta. " Following and Resisting Body Image Ideals in Advertising: The Moderating Role of Extrinsic Contingency Focus." Following and Resisting Body Image Ideals in Advertising: The Moderating Role of Extrinsic Contingency Focus 13 (2014): 398-418. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.