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Disclaimer for airbrushed models: an effective solution?

Date: November 13, 2013 | Posted By: Allie
Before and after shots of airbrushed model.

Virtually unrecognizable.

Airbrushed images of women and girls are bad for our overall health: mental, emotional, and sometimes physical.

We can reasonably assume that the vast majority of media images are altered, even those of famous figures who are celebrated as examples of these “attainable” beauty standards.

So, why not draw attention to this issue through an actual disclaimer that calls out the use of airbrushing?

The idea for a disclaimer was raised by Global Democracy, a site that uses social media to identify solutions to world problems. Their description of the proposal is as follows:

“We all now know that seeing thousands of ‘perfect’ body types in the mass media is having negative [e]ffects on young girls and more. Airbrushing as a practice should be discouraged when it transforms otherwise permanent features on models. A ‘mandatory disclaimer’ to state that a model has had her physical body manipulated on a computer is a very simple step in the right direction to addressing the harm that we’re causing.”

The proposal was accompanied by a video that’s been making its rounds on the Internet as of late. It shows the evolution of a model, before and after airbrushing. Hair and makeup transformations for the naturally pretty model are only the beginning:

Once her photo is taken, dozens of other manipulations take place through airbrushing technology: her eyes enlarge, her stomach shrinks, legs lengthen — blonde hair is made even blonder, white skin turns whiter. The woman is virtually unrecognizable (pun intended).

While the idea of a disclaimer initially appealed to me, I wonder how effective it would be in practice. Based on the wording in the description above, it would be very easy for companies to avoid the disclaimer requirement when “permanent” is a more fluid concept than ever.

People’s weight can fluctuate, so one of the most problematic airbrushing issues is invalidated. And what about the popularity of plastic surgery? Are facial features even considered permanent anymore?

Keira Knightley before and after Photoshop.

Keira Knightley before and after Photoshop.

And even if images featured this disclaimer, consumers wouldn’t know exactly how the images were manipulated, so people still wouldn’t have a true understanding of how much airbrushing occurred.

Videos like the “Body Evolution” video above and Before/After images are more striking and effective in showcasing how significant these airbrushing changes really are.

Big picture-speaking, unique ideas like this disclaimer proposal should be encouraged in bringing attention to issues with harmful consequences, like excessive airbrushing.

The challenge will be making sure that our demands are as specific and objective as possible to really hold companies accountable.

Do you think a disclaimer would be helpful in discouraging airbrushing practices and fostering healthier body images for women and girls? If a disclaimer was implemented, what should be included in the warning?

Allie Semperger studied English at Kalamazoo College and screenwriting at UCLA. After studying abroad in London and traveling around Europe, she became a travel lover for life, and is always making plans for her next adventure. She recommends Marina and the Diamonds. She created the feminist Tumblr blog, Women’s Issues Are Society’s Issues, and aspires to make the world a better place for women and girls.




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7 Responses to Disclaimer for airbrushed models: an effective solution?

  1. Esther on 11-13-2013

    Yes a disclaimer is good but seeing the original and alter image is the best!
  2. Reply
    • Elizabeth on 11-15-2013

      I agree that seeing the original is most effective... It would be really great if a small version of the unedited photo had to be displayed near each edited photo!
    • Reply
  3. Lovely Links: 11/15/13 on 11-15-2013

    [...] About Face asks, “Do you think a disclaimer would be helpful in discouraging airbrushing practices and fostering healt...” [...]
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  5. emily on 11-20-2013

    I think one of the worst (and most dangerous) things about photoshopped photos is that when shown side by side with the original image, you can very clearly see how removed from real life, ridiculous and unrealistic etc. it looks, but when you're only presented with the 'shopped version, it's a completely different story.
  6. Reply
  7. Disclaimer for airbrushed models | Allie Semperger on 12-05-2013

    [...] Click here to read my About-Face post which examines a proposal by Global Democracy to feature a mandatory disclaimer on airbrushed images in the media. It’s an interesting idea, but I question how successful it would actually be in practice. The article also features this video where you can watch the transformation of the girl in the picture above. Share this:EmailFacebookTwitterGoogleTumblrPinterestRedditLike this:Like Loading... Tags: about-face, airbrushing, body image, feminism, feminist, media [...]
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  9. Airbrushing in Photography | City Wave Studio's on 02-13-2014

    […] http://www.about-face.org/disclaimer-for-airbrushed-models-an-effective-solution/ […]
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  11. Martha on 03-28-2014

    It's sad they airbrush the models , I have a 25 year old daughter that hates her life for this reason she thinks she's not pretty enough so she suffers from depression she always compare herself to beautiful models . I tell her they don't look like that in real life but she always thinks she's ugly and then she suffers from psorias with that it makes it worst for her , I wish they would put more models like them real self.
  12. Reply