Real Beauty Doesn’t Need Retouching, But How Do We Really Make Change?

This is the "beautify" action retouchers thought they were getting.

This is the “beautify” action retouchers thought they were getting.

FBG Kristen sent me a pretty powerful video of the Real Beauty campaign Dove was doing in Canada, and I’ve wanted to share it for weeks. But, I wasn’t exactly sure what to say about it. Part of me wants to cheer, high-five and chest-bump every female on the planet about it. And the other part of me? Well, it’s just not sure.

Here’s the video … (And if you can’t watch it, here’s the abridged text version: Dove created a Photoshop action that changes edited photos back to their original state, along with the message “Don’t manipulate our perceptions of Real Beauty.”)

It’s kind of awesome, right? Like, ha! Gotcha! No retouching here because we’re all beautiful and wonderful as we are!

Which is true, but I know lots of art directors and graphic designers who are really good, confident and body-image boosting people. Being tricked to download an action called “Beautify” and then putting your (albeit awesome) message in there seems … I don’t know. Unfair.

The whole concept is amazing — and I’m all for bringing more awareness to issues of positive body image and confidence. But, maybe, just maybe, it feels good to point the finger because we don’t want to take responsibility ourselves. I mean, can we really point blame at just one group of people for the rampant airbrushing we see everywhere? Isn’t it their bosses who are more responsible? The CEOs and people funding projects?

Aren’t, actually, we to blame as well? If we stop buying the airbrushed magazines and products that feature heavily Photoshopped models and start being more vocal with companies, things will change a whole lot faster than a Photoshop action, methinks. Every time we buy something it’s like voting. So how are we really using our power?

I guess, for me, it just feels kinda wrong to shame someone for shaming others. Shame and blame never generate quite as much sustained and real change as does discussion, education and community action.

I’d love to know what YOU think. Do you think this video is awesome? Or do you think it just passes the buck? Nothing like a good “does the end justify the means?” discussion on a Monday! —Jenn

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  2. Ashley says:

    I have to say that I agree with a lot of the points Jenn made in the article. I think what Dove is trying to do, as far as promoting real beauty and a positive body image. I honestly think there needs to be a LOT more of that in the world. I think this little affect is empowering and witty. However, I don’t particularly like that this specific campaign is directed to designers or art directors, not all of these people are truly responsible for these things.

    I am a graphic designer, its is my job, and it is what I love. I personally think there is a small window where a little retouching is ok, i.e. covering up pimples. I also use photoshop predominately to adjust coloration, add small effects like lens flares and such. With that being said, I most definitely do not support the use of air brushing or completely transforming someones body to fit industry standards. I thankfully have never been forced to photoshop or change a persons appearance to fit a specific idea.

    I wish there was a way to end this madness of unrealistic images in the media. But how? It is literally everywhere.

  3. Naomi says:

    We have the Dove Real Beauty campaign here in Aus too, but hadn’t seen this particular bit as yet. Tough one – I don’t think that it is as simple as art directors etc named in the vid to just say ‘not my job’ given that they choose to work in an industry that is (still) highly reliant on these techniques. However, at the end of the day, it’s all about supply & demand – as you make the point, if we will buy it, someone will make it.

    The Dove campaign is fabulous, but does kind of make me wonder, given that Unilever, who own Dove, also own Lynx brand (not sure if that’s in the states? Also goes by ‘Axe’ in some countries). Lynx makes commercials such as these:

    http://vimeo.com/33885076 (yep, probably opening up a can of worms on the Lingerie Football debate)
    http://vimeo.com/33885076 (ok, I’ll admit – I did have a childish chuckle at the start of this one)

    Point is, making ads like that for another of their brands (and over the years that have been some doozies worse than this) – is Unilever really into the Real Beauty campaign, or have they simply found a very clever message to really get to their target market?