Glamour editor-in-chief Cindi Leive recently asked readers what they think about Photoshopping, and whether they want Glamour to use less of it. This comes on the heels of…well, years and years of magazines altering photos of models and celebrities to make them look thinner, dewier, younger, freckle-free, wrinkle-free, and body-hair-free, among many other things that I probably don’t even know about.
In their responses, readers — who, weirdly, apparently Photoshop their own online pictures; do you do that? — said that they were cool with taking out a pimple here and there, but not making someone look like an entirely different person, or a person of a different age, or race, or weight, and so forth.
So, Leive is now promising not to stop Photoshopping altogether (don’t be crazy!) but to do it a little less. Here’s the pledge she’s going to run in Glamour’s March issue:
Yes, we DO do it—and so do most fashion publications in the age of digital photography, since retouching includes everything from darkening a sky so a headline reads better to keeping models’ nipples from showing through a shirt (done in our March issue—twice!). But as your responses make clear, retouching has its limits—or should—and Glamour plans to take a stronger role in setting ours. You told us you don’t want little things like freckles and scars removed, and we agree; those are the kinds of details that make each woman on the planet unique and beautiful. And while our policy has always been not to alter a woman’s body shape, we’ll also be asking photographers we hire not to manipulate body size in the photos we commission, even if a celebrity or model requests a digital diet (alas, it happens). “I believe Glamour should take an active role in encouraging unretouched photos,” says Jessica Gordon, 29, of Los Angeles. “It has to start somewhere.”
So, this is cool, I think, and it’s better than refusing to stop Photoshopping or ignoring the problem of overly retouched images altogther. But I’m not crazy about the really passive aggressive tone of this pledge, which reads very much like passing the buck to actresses and models or to those highly offensive things we call nipples, and as defensiveness about what “our policy has always been.”
The problem with not taking full responsibility is that it leaves the possibility for the door to be closed to real change. If it’s an actress’ fault that she gets retouched because that’s what she wants, surely that might happen to pop up in her contract, or she’ll refuse to appear on the cover. And who really is responsible for taking the lead on this issue, anyway? Which comes first, the desire to look thinner or the pressure to look thinner? A straightforward take on this question is long overdue, and while Glamour is taking a nice step here, it’s also pretty half-assed.