A Body Like Hers

With the latest celebrity outcry over Photoshop (Meghan Trainor pulled her “Me Too” music video off the internet due to the unauthorized digital retouching of her waist), it seems a blog post is in order.

First off, I have no dog in this fight. I am neither for nor against digital retouching – authorized or not. The bone I pick is with the fight itself. It is this fight that distracts us from the deeper issues at hand. While everyone is arguing over Photoshop, we are missing the opportunity to develop the necessary media and marketing literacy skills that will save our – and our children’s – sense of self-image, self-esteem and self-worth.

Case in Point:

A while back I stumbled across a blog post by the editors at Shape Magazine that argued why the magazine does not digitally retouch their cover models. They wrote:

A star’s body is on the cover (or at least on the Shape covers) for a reason: to inspire all of us struggling with our weight (me included) that we, too – through hard work – can get a body like hers.

Did you catch that?? The part about getting “a body like hers?”

Well, I hate to break it to those editors, but they will never have “a body like hers” (regardless of whether or not they follow the star’s diet and exercise tips featured in the magazine article). The only person who will ever have a body like the cover model’s (Photoshopped or not) is that cover model. The editors will always have bodies like theirs. I will always have a body like mine. You will always have a body like yours.

But that certainly does not mean that our bodies cannot be beautiful. And that does not mean that – through conscious effort – our bodies cannot be fit and strong and look their very best. And that does not mean that – through conscious effort – we cannot create bodies that we love. We can do all those things. The only thing we can’t do is “get a body like hers.”

But that’s the rub. That’s the pain point created by slick marketers. And they are so good at it that even Shape’s own editors fall victim to the mindset. (Unless, of course, they are part of the marketing campaign themselves…)

The issue is not with the cover model – Photoshopped or not. The issue is this: with the skills of world-class magicians, master marketers misdirect our focus by teaching us to look outside of ourselves. This issue is that – through clever marketing – we are taught to believe that with hard work, we can get something we can never get – “a body like hers.” Marketers teach us to believe that we can get a body – different from our own – if we only knew that cover model’s diet and exercise secrets. They teach us these false beliefs and then use them to sell magazine articles featuring said cover model’s diet and exercise tips.

To truly find peace, esteem and empowerment, we must be able to recognize – and disengage from – these underlying marketing messages. And some of these messages are not so subtle… A local gym features an ad with a gorgeous fitness model and the caption “If we were your gym, you could look like this by now!” Again, that fitness model is really the only one who will ever “look like this.”

When we develop media and marketing literacy skills and learn to identify the strategic assaults on our self-esteem, we become empowered. We can reclaim our sense of self and self-worth. When we stop focusing on other people’s bodies – especially “hers” – we learn to appreciate the wisdom and beauty of our own bodies. But best of all, we can choose to purchase a magazine – or not – we can choose to join a gym – or not – and we can choose to eat in a specific way – or not. The choice is ours – and it is a conscious one. When our choices are conscious, we are empowered to create a body AND a life we love.