Laurie and Debbie say:
Fashion models are, almost by definition, people with “perfect bodies.” That’s how they get chosen. Bodybuilders have become, for a large segment of the populace, the symbol of a different kind of “perfect body.” Let’s take a look behind that perfection.
Coleman, stepping off the stage after a competition, is dependent on supplemental oxygen. “The strain of intense dieting, dehydration and muscle-ﬂexing,” says Zed Nelson (who took the picture) “places high levels of strain on the heart and lungs, rendering many contestants dizzy, light-headed and weak.”
So, the image we see on the stage, of a man who has refined his body and built up his strength in a way we can envy and wish to achieve (or come close to), is a lie.
For the last three weeks, she’s been working out twice a day. “It is really intense, it’s not really the amount of time you spend working out, it’s the intensity: I jump rope, I do boxing, I lift weights, but I get bored doing that. If I am not moving I get bored very easily.”
She sees a nutritionist, who has measured her body’s muscle mass, fat ratio and levels of water retention. He prescribes protein shakes, vitamins and supplements to keep Lima’s energy levels up during this training period. Lima drinks a gallon of water a day. For nine days before the show, she will drink only protein shakes – “no solids”. The concoctions include powdered egg. Two days before the show, she will abstain from the daily gallon of water, and “just drink normally”. Then, 12 hours before the show, she will stop drinking entirely.
“No liquids at all so you dry out, sometimes you can lose up to eight pounds just from that,” she says.
Lisa’s point is that “Bodybuilders and models, then, represent aesthetic extremes of masculinity and femininity, but their bodies aren’t the natural extension of male and female physicalities. Instead, achieving the look requires significant sacrifice of one’s body.”
In other words, like the bodybuilder’s strength, the model’s health, attractiveness, and desirability are a lie. Trust us, she’s nowhere near so desirable when she’s drinking her daily gallon of water, or parching herself to drop eight pounds in twelve hours.
In this context, it’s heartening to read Chloe at Feministing, writing about Norway’s minister of equality, Audun Lysbakken (why doesn’t the U.S. have a secretary of equality?), who “is pushing for advertisers to begin disclosing when their billboards have been retouched.”
Similar campaigns have happened in the United Kingdom and France, and some ads have even been banned in the U.K. for being excessively retouched.
Lysbakken and her counterparts in other countries are trying to make sure everyone sees and notices what many of us already know–pictures like the one just above are a complete, total, and irredeemable lie.
As Chloe points out, awareness of retouching and Photoshop is not sufficient. Many young women who understand that the images are photoshopped still want to look like the resulting picture.
Forcing advertisers to reveal their lies would likely have the secondary effect of having fewer advertisers use retouched photographs. And having fewer deceitful images out there would help change people’s goals. Similarly, revealing just how much models and bodybuilders wear out and destroy their bodies so they can pretend to “perfection” can help us all re-evaluate what we really want to look like–and what it would cost.