photo manipulation

Blurring the Line: Sports Illustrated meets Barbie for the Cover

Can you believe that it’s been 50 years since the first Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition?

No? Me either…but that doesn’t change the facts. In 1964 the first edition hit newsstands and ever since had sparked controversy concerning objectification of women, pornography, and other hot button issues. But this year, Sports Illustrated and Mattel either sank to new lows or soared to new heights depending on your personal convictions. Barbie will be the cover model, and in my opinion, both organizations have successfully and completely “blurred the line between women as objects and actual plastic objects.” (CNN)

We’ve all seen a Barbie doll, but just in case you’ve never seen the blonde bombshell, here she is on the cover of the magazine:

sports-illustrated-swimsuit-edition-2014-barbie-doll-377x500Her make up is flawless, her features completely exaggerated, her feet contorted to the form of permanent six inch heels.

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition has long been criticized for only promoting “hypersexualized images of women” (Nicole Rodgers, editor-in-chief of RoleReboot.org)  and a homogenous form of beauty, emphasizing thin frames, little clothing, and leaving almost nothing to the imagination. But this pairing between the magazine and Mattel blurs the line still further. Rodgers argues it this way: “Barbie is not a woman, she’s an inanimate object. Juxtaposing her alongside real women as though the two are indistinguishable is dehumanizing, and in a literal sense, objectifying.”

But does any of this really matter? Are the little girls that are playing with Barbie actually influenced by her unrealistic portrayal of femininity? Some say no, but a growing body of research says yes.

Multiple studies over the past decade assert that play is an essential element in children learning who they are and how they fit in to their world. Point being that when they play with toys that portray an unrealistic sense of beauty, promote unrealistic values of femininity, and are generally distorted fabrications of reality, the children themselves are much more likely to experience low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy.

It was this body of research and popular opinion that inspired Nickolay Lamm to create an image that portrayed Barbie, a doll with extremely unrealistic body proportions, next to a doll made with the proportions of an average 19 year old female in the United States. He wanted to challenge the notion that average is not beautiful and in challenging the status quo, he flipped it on its head.

normal barbie  This image is a representation of what Barbie would actually look like as an average 19 year old. When the internet rejoiced at Lamm’s creations, he took it a step further and began working to produce an actual doll. He created a crowdfunding site to get Lammily into production that has now raised $470,802 of the requested $95,000.

Lamm made a statement about his new Lammily doll: “[she] is an alternative to dolls with unrealistic beauty standards that dominate the market, like Barbie, or the hypersexualized Bratz dolls,” “My doll is a cool-looking doll that just happens to be average.”

lammily

Lammily is a wonderful beginning to what can hopefully be a new trend in children’s toys. While children themselves don’t care about what their toy looks like, as long it looks like fun, their parents do. Think of it this way, if your child doesn’t like vegetables are you just going to say “Ok, you never need to eat them.”?

Of course not! Vegetables are required for their growth and health, but you might try to disguise their cauliflower into their mashed potatoes. That’s what Lammily does. She’s a cool doll that provides a natural representation of beauty. Most likely, the girls playing with her won’t notice anything different about her than a Barbie, but most likely the girls self-esteem will be the better for it in the long run.

There has been some flack about Lammily; most notably that she is fit, white, and not all encompassing of racial diverstiy. Lamm has plans to release other dolls, “I’m hoping to extend the line to embrace diversity. From race to body type, I want this doll to be true to you!” (Lammily.com) Lamm does not promote that Lammily is the standard of normalcy, only stating that “average is beautiful.” As for Lammily’s fitness level, on the website he also asserts that Lammily promotes a healthy lifestyle and as a result of that lifestyle she has a fit body type. So, yes. Lammily is fit and white and she doesn’t encompass every single body type or race that exists today. However, there are plans to make more models that promote this diversity; and there is no denying that this is a step in the right direction.

As a woman living in the United States today, it is impossible to escape the hypersexualization of women from media to advertising to film to college campuses. The skirts keep getting shorter, the V-necks keep getting lower, the make-up keeps getting thicker, and overall — our level self-worth and self-confidence isn’t getting any higher. Thanks to big name companies that prey on the weaknesses of men and the sexiness of women like Sports Illustrated and Mattel, America has crossed into precarious territory. Their objectification of women took a step over the guardrail and now we’re dangerously close to the edge of accepting that women are like Barbies – plastic objects to be ogled and touched and undressed all while keeping our make up looking fabulous. 

Thanks to people standing up and calling for change like Nickolay Lamm, Stella Boonshoft, Lady Gaga, and many more there is still hope that women can be seen as humans again. We have the ability to affect change by instilling values into our daughters and sons that promote healthy body image.

Don’t sweat being average. Don’t sweat not being perfect.

None of us are.

Barbie isn’t a real woman.

Hell, those women in Sports Illustrated are only photoshopped manipulations of their former selves.

So be you.

Be normal (whatever that is).

Be who God created you to be.

Because, like Lammily’s slogan reminds us:

“Average is Beautiful.”

And so are you.

Stay Smiling, Beautiful (: Happy looks great on you.

 

Visit www.lammily.com/average-is-beautiful for purchase or more information on the Lammily doll 

 

 

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Ethics in Photo Manipulation

There’s two sides to every story. I’m not sure who first said that statement but I firmly believe it to be a lie. There are dozens of sides to any story including the ethics of photo manipulation in the fashion and beauty industries. 

There are articles plastered all over the web slamming photo manipulation. Proclaiming it to be harmful to our self esteem and self image. Many articles make the case that it is “altering images and our minds.” And while the supporters of these views are screaming loud and proud against any and all photo manipulation, I would be willing to put money that those same authors have used an Instagram filter. 

This is an ethics debate. Where is the line in photo manipulation? When is it okay to remove a piece of spinach caught in someone’s teeth, to completely smooth an 80 year old woman’s skin? Is it ever acceptable to make minor changes? If so, what is the line between minor and major changes? 

As a general rule of thumb according to Glenn Halbrooks, simple photo manipulation is acceptable – removing red eye, adjusting color and lighting – as long as it’s fully disclosed. The areas that are fuzzier include overly fixing unflattering photos, deciding why you’re using (un)flattering photographs to begin with, and unfairly presenting an image of a person whether positive or negative. 

The fashion industry is strangely silent on the topic, even in the face of massive criticism from the media and other sources. There’s an old saying that goes “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” From my perspective, that is exactly where the fashion industry is coming from. There isn’t enough backlash to warrant change and they’re still selling plenty of magazines with highly modified images. 

Assuming we all agree that minor modifications (filters, removing spinach, etc.) are acceptable, why don’t we see more backlash about images that have been heavily modified? 

That answer lies in history. 

There is a fascinating article concerning the history of photo manipulation and it all started with an iconic photograph of Abraham Lincoln in the 1860s.

 Image This is Abe Lincoln meets John Calhoun, a Southern politician. Lincoln’s head was cropped onto Calhoun’s body in the 1860s. 

The first photograph was taken in 1814, so just within a few years of photography’s invention people were already attempting to distort reality. People want to put their best foot forward in life, so equivocating some simple alterations is an easy choice to make. But what people are facing now is the idea that perhaps people like their reality distorted; they like the unattainability of perfection. And that is scary stuff. 

This article isn’t about presenting my opinions. I simply want to get you to think about something difficult. Struggle with it. Discuss it. 

Do we condone photo manipulation because we are dissatisfied with ourselves or because we believe that we are capable of more than we are?