When Naomi Woolf published The Beauty Myth in 1991, she exposed the not-so-lovely effects of beauty advertising on women’s self-esteem. Most of all, she called bullsh*t on the ‘have it all’ attitude perpetuated in glossy magazines, the crazy aspirational tone that grew in tandem with increasingly unattainable images of the ideal woman.
Food and weight preoccupations became the kryptonite that stripped women of our control and, to a great degree, still are. No one would have predicted the social media revolution that would unfold in the next decade but Woolf did foreshadow an inconvenient truth: although we may be more upwardly mobile than our mothers and grandmothers, we’re not doing ourselves any favours in caving to a currency that trades solely on physical worth.
At the time Wolf was writing The Beauty Myth, women did not have the power to directly affect the images that were being presented to them. That, thankfully, has changed. We are in a position now to create a new reality – one that will bring us closer to a happy medium; we just need to lay off the retouching sauce a bit.
Knowing your angles and finding the light is all well and good but so is being real and relatable. People want to see themselves in you, not just you in you. Masks may add drama but they also hide the real person beneath flaws and all.
In the words of comedian, writer, actress, producer and all-round Renaissance woman Tina Fey,
‘Photoshop itself is not evil. Just like Italian salad dressing is not inherently evil, until you rub it all over a desperate young actress and stick her on the cover of Maxim, pretending to pull her panties down.’