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Warning: Photoshopped Women

| June 14, 2012

warning labels
The 116-pound Israeli model, Danielle Segal, was told she was too fat for the runway. After losing 29 pounds and being hospitalized twice for malnutrition, she was finally able to work successfully . . . until Israel recently passed a new law prohibiting the hiring of underweight models. Now Danielle has to gain weight so she can work.

The new Israeli law requires models to get physicals every 3 months and produce those reports at each modeling job before being hired, to ensure they have a healthy Body Mass Index, based on World Health Organization standards. So a model who is 5’8” must weigh at least 119 pounds – still super skinny, but at least her organs will have the minimum body fat needed to function properly. But that’s not the only part of the new Israeli law.

Warning: Viewing Photoshopped Models can be Bad for You!

Politicians argued that regulating the skinniness of models wasn’t enough when photo editors have this magic wand called Photoshop that can erase blemishes, lengthen a neckline, slim a waistline or remove half a thigh. So the second part of Israel’s new law places strict limitations on how much models can be edited in advertisements. Any ad that makes the models look thinner is now required to be clearly labeled as “photoshopped” or “enhanced.” Similar to the warning labels on cigarettes, the labels on photoshopped ads imply that ingesting these images might be bad for a girl’s self image and emotional health.

“We want to break the illusion that the model we see is real,” said Liad Gil Har, one of the people who worked on the Israeli bill. Many countries recognize this as a positive first step to regulate the fashion industry exalting putting extreme thinness on a pedestal.

It’s shocking to see how radically the appearance of models are routinely digitally altered for magazine ads:


Wanting to Look like the Photoshopped Girl

In most magazines, girls and women are inundated with images of ultra-thin, perfectly made-up women whose bodies have been digitally altered to have the body fat of a pre-pubescent teen. These images set an unrealistic standard for females. Altered, “enhanced,” images pass off an unrealistic fantasy as reality.

What are these fantasy images doing to our daughters? Are they dabbling in anorexic or bulimic behavior to look like their teen idols in Hollywood?

What are they doing to our view of ourselves? Are we consumed with yet another diet, sacrificing time with family for time in the gym or wasting our ‘fat days’ daydreaming about fitting into those skinny jeans?

According to the Journal of Research on Adolescence, “A study of 136 U.K. girls aged 11-16, experimental exposure to ultra-thin models lowered body satisfaction and self-esteem,” wrote Researchers Daniel Clay, Vivian L. Vignoles and Helga Dittmar.

In February 2012, the Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology published an experimental investigation on the addition of warning labels to fashion magazine images for undergraduate woman aged 18 to 35. The results were positive. It “provides the first evidence that the use of warning labels may help to ameliorate some of the known negative effects of viewing media images that feature the thin ideal.”

The Root of the Problem

Skinny models and photoshopped images are symptoms of an underlying problem. Why is our society obsessed with female perfection? Why do we hold ourselves and the women around us to a ridiculous standard of a fantasy? What’s the real reason?

Actress Ashley Judd blames patriarchy. Recently she was harassed by the press when she appeared on a talk show with her face looking puffy and swollen. They surmised it was from plastic surgery. She explained it was  from allergies and a sinus infection. She chewed out the press, accusing them of “promoting patriarchy” with their unfounded accusations. “We are described and detailed, our faces and bodies analyzed and picked apart, our worth [reduced] to simple physical objectification … that objectification is what this conversation about my face is really about,” Judd said. “It is Patriarchy – it privileges the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women.”

Is she right? Is “patriarchy”–men having greater status than women– really the root of the problem? Is it the guys that are to blame?

The Bible talks about people who have an obsession with physical perfection. But it doesn’t identify the problem as patriarchy, it calls it idolatry. Throughout Scripture, we read over and over  what happens when people turn from God and chase after  “idols.”  Social chaos and destruction ensue.

“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him….they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” Romans 1:21-23

In modern society, we worship the idol of the perfect human body– perfected, Photoshopped, ripped, unattainable versions of the human form. Men worship it. And women worship it too.

As women, we choose to fashion our appearance after a fantasy ideal. Who we worship is found in our checkbook, our priorities and our daily schedule. If a girl compares herself to the models in magazines, in TV commercials and pinned on her pinterest page, then changes her eating habits, exercise schedule and buying preferences in an effort to look like those models . . . that standard of beauty is her idol.

Changing the Object of our Worship

So, what’s the answer? Is it “Photoshopped” warning labels on magazine ads? Or is it enforcing a minimum weight for fashion models?

The Bible tells us that we are created in the image of God. Our physical appearance was handcrafted by Him.  It also instructs us that outward beauty is fleeting. True beauty, the lasting, inner beauty of the heart, is what matters the most to the Lord–and what He wants us to focus on the most.

While warning labels and legislation are a step in the right direction, the best way to counteract this obsession with the fantasy of physical ‘perfection’ is for us to live in the truth of Scripture. We need to stop worshiping the ideal of the perfect human body, and start worshiping the God who created us in all colors, shapes, and sizes.


What do you think?  Should North America follow Israel’s lead and put photoshop warning labels on advertisements?  How can women combat the underlying problem of idolizing the human body? How can we care for our physical appearance while avoiding the sin of idolizing it?



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  1. Molly S. says:

    I struggle with this problem.. I need to start caring about matters of the heart rather than the flesh. Thanks so much for this article. I pray that myself & other ladies will realize that the Lord of all created each one of us individually & in the way He designed. The world’s idea cannot replicate God’s design for His creation.

  2. Amanda says:

    A mother of two with baby weight I always hear you should be skinny so and so is. And the military is cutting people out for being fat. My hubby doesnt even look fat and they wanted him to lose more weight when I was in they wanted me to be super thin. I am a small woman and struggled with an eating disorder in middle school and I think it is stupid to follow after these idols of skinny. I am happy to be chunky.

  3. Amy says:

    It’s hard to go through any check out line and not be bombarded with “shopped” women. Imagine the unemployment lines for graphic artists if such a law was passed in the US?!

  4. Bonnie Jean says:

    I have done live modeling. You put your own makeup on and do your own hair if you work for a human being and not a crazed greedy mogul. I think as Christians we should have the most healthy bodies possible without obsessing and dress well and present ourselves well as ambassadors of Christ. That includes inner and outer beauty… not just weight, clothes, hair and makeup. I think too many overweight people use programs like the Dove program to cop out … I do not believe God means for people to be fat because it is not healthy. That does not mean He wants us to be anorexic. There is a healthy, happy medium. The key is who is first in your life ? And if God is then you won’t over eat or eat junk all the time and you will take care of yourself and get enough sleep and exercise and you will dress nicely but not too revealingly and if you like makeup you will wear it. My thinking is that we were all “perfect” prior to the fall (or Adam and Eve were)… and we are all “tainted” and will have to fight the effects of sin in some area. But this world is visual. If you expect to reach this world, you have to at least try to put your best foot/body/self forward and take care of all of you… inner and outer self and soul and spirit all in balance. Not in a New Age way, but in a Godly way. I am in my fifties and do not dye my hair… and it is gray… but I do try to look my best and live my best. I get compliments all the time and people say “I wish I had the courage to do that… I hate having to color my hair every three to four weeks” or whatever… to me then their idol is their hair. God says that Gray hair is a “crown of splendor.” That is my belief. I have walked through the halls of high schools and college campuses and am complimented by people of all ages out of the blue… I do not think it is my makeup or my clothes but the light of Christ shining through and the other stuff just supports it.

  5. Audrey says:

    I really appreciate this article; it is much needed. Thank you! I also agree that if our relationship with God is priority He will give us His heart on this matter. When we see ourselves as an image of him and our purpose here on earth to glorify Him, it will change our perspectives about ourselves. I also believe that the way men view women as objects has impacted our society more than we realize. And without God we as women have fallen for the abuse of our beauty to fill the void. We have wrongly interpreted their “love” and it has left us hungrier than ever. God bless those of you who speak out and bless others with truth!

  6. Monica says:

    Hi Mary,

    I am quite close to the 5’8 & 119lb mark, and it’s really hard to hear other women constantly telling me how skinny I am. I see an internist and am very healthy. I eat well and regularly, never having struggled with an eating disorder. And though I know I should, I never exercise. My plea to women is to please be more sensitive toward women like me. I don’t make comments about other women’s bodies, and it’s really hard to hear them always commenting (and not necessarily in a kind way) about mine. Just because I’m “super skinny” as you say, doesn’t mean I’m fair game for public commentary.

    I’m sure these Israeli models feel the same way.

    Please know that I appreciate your blog and what Girls Gone Wise stands for. Thanks for all you do.

  7. Cindy says:

    Excellent article. The last line says it all. We make our own images into idols instead of idolizing the one who created us. Thankyou so much. I get such wonderful things to share at Ladies Meetings from you. I pray for the Lord to continue to impress these things upon you so that we may help spread the good news!

  8. Nicole says:

    Great article. Two things, though –

    First, patriarchy, while as you have insightfully pointed out as not being completely to blame, is still a very big part of the problem. In most cultures (and religions, for that matter), while lip service is often paid to ideas of valuing women equally, the reality is that women are still not treated with the same dignity and respect afforded to men, and are suffering enormously for it.

    Second, I’m concerned about the video you have chosen for your illustration. It makes a fantastic point, but was created to advertise the Dove brand, which is owned by a company called Unilever. Unilever is guilty of rank hypocrisy with this campaign – they market ‘skin-whitening’ and ‘breast-enhancing’ creams under the Dove brand in other countries, and with other brands eg Axe deliberately market their product by objectifying and demeaning women. Can I suggest this video instead – makes the same point, but without the confusing corporate messages



  9. Glenn Graf says:

    I work with men being freed from addiction, primarily alcohol and drugs. An unreal, idolatrous view of women as objects of consumption is nearly always present along with the substance obsessions. I am heartily in favor of depiction of women accurately, modestly and realistically. Sadly, fallen men have sought satisfaction at the altar of a phony, idolatrous facade lacking substance.
    It strikes me that what you are really fighting here is lies – and the father of lies.
    Be strong in the Truth, sister.