By now I’m sure you’ve seen the Target swimsuit ad in which the young model was completely disfigured at the hands of Photoshop. Her limbs were lengthened, her crotch area was chipped away at, and parts of her already thin frame were made smaller, rendering a completely unrealistic version of a human being. The ad quickly went viral, and Target experienced a massive, and deserved, amount of backlash.
We all know that nearly every image that is printed or posted – in glossy mags, advertisements, editorial spreads, and as Target proved, in online shops – has been digitally altered. It is a disturbing reality that activists and body-positive models grapple with constantly. The reason that these images are most abhorred is because of the detrimental effects they have on the body image of women of all ages; when the only beauty and fashion images we are fed are of altered, unrealistic, and mutilated women, what cultural message does this send?
As Tyler McCall writes for Fashionista, “The problem with this horrible Photoshop job isn’t that Target doesn’t hire people who know how to use Photoshop properly; the problem is that it highlights all the areas where the Photoshopper was attempting to slim down an already thin model,” of the accompanying implications of literally carving away at a woman’s body. Images like the Target swimsuit ad remind us of the constant struggle women endure with their own bodies, they remind us of eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and the other health risks that young women (and men) face because of pressures from beauty and fashion industries to look a certain way. In the case of the Target swimsuit ad, young girls are pressured to look a way that is completely inhuman and altered.
After the ad went viral, Target subsequently released a non-apology that does little to quell the rage of fashionistas and Internet activists globally: “In response to your query about the swimsuit image on target.com, this was an unfortunate error on our part and we apologize. We have removed the image from our website. It was the result of a photo editing error on our part,” explained a Target spokesperson. As Fashionista’s McCall muses, why was such a slim woman being edited to look slimmer still? The problem does not lie in Target’s Photoshop gaffe, but in the culture that has allowed this kind of image to become the norm.
We have to keep talking about how unacceptable these images are in order to let the fashion industry know that we are buying into man-made, dangerous beauty standards. It’s high time for change.