Seeing is believing

My last few posts have centered on just how industries are essentially playing on our own senses of normality and portray images of women and men which reinforce societal ideals as to what has become the standard of beauty or the characteristics a man should have. Even though we know such images are there to sell us things and that they are enhanced they still have real impacts on us. Often we feel inadequate when we see such images. Think about it, how often do you catch yourself admiring an advertisement and wished you resembled that model or how often have you been sitting on the couch, vegging out with 2 of the greatest guys known to man, one called Ben and the other Jerry, when you see an image of some person looking far too good for going to the gym, and you can’t help but feel that twang of guilt?

Okay so the story is old, but then why do we keep falling for it? We dismiss ad claims as unrealistic. I mean the slow swooshing of the girl’s hair which shines, shimmers and looks like a satin sheet, we dismiss as ludicrous. But all too soon we find ourselves sulking around the store and picking up the product we saw working so wonderfully well all the while the product managers are laughing their way to the bank. This post shall explore how fake images can really change our memory and behaviour and this is why those photoshopped images work so well.

The issue relates to the fact that for some reason, when our brain sees an image, it interprets it as fact almost. Images are very strong simply because each of us sees an image as a moment in time, real time, and it becomes very difficult for us to see that image as anything but true. For example, according to a recent post by the BBC, in one study participants were shown pictures from their childhood. The researcher, unknown to the participant, then placed in the pile of photos a photoshopped image of the participant from their childhood in a hot air balloon. The event was entirely made up but 50% of the participants had admitted that they remembered the event. The fact is that the image was so powerful and because the evidence was in front of them, the only logical reason was that the event had in fact taken place. Okay, so one of the things that hit me about this was how participants may have made up the fact that they remembered because the photo because they didn’t want to look foolish in front of the researcher, but some were so adamant that the event had taken place.

However, it has also been argued that more people are likely to believe fake images that add weight to their beliefs. For example, if you decided to become fitter and without doing any research, have a general knowledge that eating healthy foods will play a part, then when an image of an individual drinking some new juice drink will act as an affirmation to what you already know, or believe to be true and so the image cannot but be deemed reputable because it agrees with our beliefs in even a small way.

Another major reason why we buy into fake images is because; well in fact we are really bad at telling the difference between real and fake images. Farid (some important scientist dude) stated how “when presented with doctored images, humans are remarkably inept at telling which ones are fake and which are real”. We are even worse again at analysing lighting and other small elements. Even when we are told the image is faked, enhanced, photoshopped we tend to forget this aspect of it, but remember far more clearly the image itself as we saw it and so when we access that memory again, we recognise the image as real.

seeing

So it seems that it is quite hard for us to recognise an image which is real and one which has been edited in the first place (unless you have a really bad editor I guess) and secondly we often forget that the image is adjusted later on when we recall that memory or it is triggered once again. Great. We are biologically pre-programmed to believe what we see as real, even if its fake.

Bibliography

Eveleth, R. (2012). How fake images change our memory and behaviour. [online] BBC Future. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20121213-fake-pictures-make-real-memories [Accessed 25 Feb. 2015].

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What about the boys?

My last two posts have mainly centered on just how females are poorly represented by the media and how society is influenced by this falsified version. So what about our male counterparts? Why is it that there is far less of a focus on males in advertising? Is advertising with males simply less prominent than it is with females? Are males influenced less by advertising?

air freshner advertiser
Photo Credit: The Atlantic: Available from http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/03/body-image-pressure-increasingly-affects-boys/283897.

One such post on Adweek states how the objectification of men in advertising is nothing new. Icons such as the Old Spice man or the Marlboro man have been around for a very long time (AdWeek, 2015). Yet, more recently there has been an explosion in the often…shall we say…shirtless stud. These individuals are involved with everything from colognes to air fresheners. Yep, air fresheners. In the advertisement just here, really the model has been plonked in for no particular reason. Although many ad experts and social commentators see the whole thing as a harmless turning of the tables following decades of bikini-clad babes in beer commercials, I’m not quite sure its all that simple. Simply because men are now objectified more frequently than ever by the media could be wrongly seen as equality.However, this really isn’t the case. The real argument is how the media has become more of an equal opportunity discriminator. Men’s bodies simply are not good enough now either. This notion has been argued by “The Atlantic” which stated how; “In the face of the ideals they’re bombarded with, its no surprise that adolescent boys, like wave of girls before them, are falling prey to a distorted image of themselves and their physical inadequacies” (The Atlantic, 2014). Thus, it is now safe to say that the impact of such images are also having an impact and the impact of such is real. Recent research has found a significant relationship between men’s exposure to the muscular ideal portrayed by media and negative self-images. One again the effect that media can have on our own self-image and self-worth is really shocking. The correlation between the unrealistic ideal offered by the media and the real life impact it has on us is prominent here too. However, unlike their female counterparts, its not about getting skinny, its about bulking up.

Now more than ever, males are told that they need to be bigger to “fit” with the conformity of the muscular ideal. Research conducted found that up to 25% of normal weight males consider themselves to be underweight (McCreary and Sadava, 2001). Thus, media images have distorted our perceptions of reality and of what is normal.

Again, advertisers of all kinds have copped onto this notion and are preying on what we have come to accept as normal. Marketers are targeting an ever younger age group so as to rope them in. Figurines of action heroes, for example, have lost all fat but now carry a substantial six pack. Even action children s Halloween costumes have added padding to make them bigger (The Atlantic, 2014).The point is that from an ever younger age, males are getting the message that they will need to resemble such. It is also now more prominent in high schools according to The Atlantic. This article argues how a 2012 study conducted found that muscle enhancing foods like protein rich sports bars and protein shakes are “pervasive” amongst such a young age group.

Thus, it has become clear that the impact of media advertising is now having the same negative impact on males, just as it has done with females, and although almost catching up, the impact is the same. Adverts have an alarming amount of control on forming our “own” self-images and self-worth.

Readings:

AdWeek, (2015). Hunkvertising: The Objectification of Men in Advertising. [online] Available at: http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/hunkvertising-objectification-men-advertising-152925 [Accessed 18 Feb. 2015].

The Atlantic, (2014). Body-Image Pressure Increasingly Affects Boys. [online] Available at: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/03/body-image-pressure-increasingly-affects-boys/283897/ [Accessed 18 Feb. 2015].

McCreary, D. and Sadava, S. (2001). Gender differences in relationships among perceived attractiveness, life satisfaction, and health in adults as a function of body mass index and perceived weight.Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 2(2), pp.108-116.

Combating the stereotype

My last post introduced the whole notion of the impact that media has on our perceptions of normality. It centred on how women, in particular, are enhanced and photoshopped to a large extent in magazines in particular. According to a 2010 study, 81% of girls would rather see real or natural photos of models in magazines. 63% of girls stated how body image displayed by the media is “unrealistic” yet, 60% say that they compare themselves to the fashion models and over half again wished that they were as skinny as the models in the photos. In short, girls see images that – despite recognizing as unrealistic, unattainable, and often not even real – they aspire to meet and then suffer when they can’t help but fail to do so (Nyc.gov, 2015).

This new post will highlight how (thankfully!) how different campaigns, organisations and certain celebrities are speaking out against such issues and are fighting to have women represented in a fair and realistic light.

The Big Apple is one of the first cities to take on and tackle such issues as a whole. Later on in the fall of 2015 it aims to target its campaign to young girls aged 7-12 years in order to help showcase the importance of individualism and normality. It aims to showcase a number of videos and images displays at bus shelters, busses themselves, park benches with the words “I am a girl, I a beautiful the way I am”. The initiative also is providing a curriculum aimed at 10 – 15 year old girls which explains positive changes in girls’ body image, body satisfaction, and body esteem. Although not implemented in all schools, it has been met with great success in after school sessions and in summer schools and the initiative aims to have the program implemented in 200 + schools by the end of the year. If you want more information be sure to click  here

A great initiative which tackles the lies offered by media. However I cannot help but be saddened by the whole initiative. It has now gotten to such a stage that young women are in need of formal education which needs to explain to them that they are fine the way they look, oh and just because you don’t look like one of the models in a magazine, well that’s okay. Oh and in fact its actually acceptable to just be yourself. Yep, to young women on today’s society, such concepts are alien when really they should be the most natural thing in the world.

Another great initiative has been offered by Dove:

This initiative was launched over 10 years ago! Dove acknowledged that women were not displayed in a realistic light and so it made to change that. Dove instead sought out real women to be advertised in their campaigns. These women were from a range of backgrounds and average sized women are being displayed in their advertisements. By doing this, Dove is challenging the stereo types associated with women and promotes a healthy body image.

Celebrities are also speaking out about photoshopping:

Recently Ashley has spoken out:

Photo of Ashley Benson with a recent post on Instagram reading: "Saw this floating around hope its not the poster. Our faces in this were from 4 years ago and we all look riduclous. Way too much photoshop, we all have flaws. No one looks like this, its not attractive
Image credit (Nyc.gov, 2015) available fromhttp://www.nyc.gov/html/girls/html/issues/issues.shtml

The intent is phenomenal. By publicly stating and publicly highlighting the fact that she is merely a representation of herself, not her true self is significant. This is sure to have an impact on the readers of such. The fact that she distinguishes herself from the image is interesting, for all too often, the reader is unaware or simply forgets the fat that the image has been photoshopped.

The point is that women should be fairly represented by the media and more than ever we are hearing a murmuring of voices speaking out, advocating for a rightful representation of women. But what about men?  more to come on that in the next post so stay tuned (always wanted to write that!)

Sources

Nyc.gov, (2015). NYC Girl’s Project – The Issues. [online] Available at: http://www.nyc.gov/html/girls/html/issues/issues.shtml [Accessed 11 Feb. 2015].

Media and its power on us

All too often we tell ourselves that we are aware of the fact that images of models in magazines and on social media are photoshopped and enhanced. We know that these images do not necessarily represent real life. We recognise that such images are the work of a team of professional hair stylists, make -up artists, enhanced lighting, and the list goes on, but then why has it been statistically proven that these images cause real harm? Today more than ever girls and women, being exposed to such, and particularly from a young age, are more prone to eating disorders, depression and low self -esteem.

Ads and images normalise such expectations of what a female should look like. These images offer far more to the reader than the product they are selling. They play on our emotions, and sense of normality. They tell us that it is not okay not to be anything other than perfect.

These images have become so embedded and embraced as part of normal life that we have devised ways to achieve such looks. Girls are learning from an ever younger age that they need to look a certain way. A perfect example of this was highlighted by NYU Language Medical Centre. Among 5-12 grade girls (that’s equivalent to third class girls and up in the Irish system) said they wanted to lose weight. Over half of these girls said that they wanted to lose weight because of images they saw in magazines (Aboutourkids.org, 2015). Half of these girls also said they disliked their body image. This is troubling and sad, shouldn’t this be the last thing in the world for a kid to worry about? Isn’t it becoming obvious that body image is become an all too important measure of self-worth? Not only will these young kids fail in their attempts to resemble the photo in the magazine, teens and women of all ages will also fail because obtaining such is impossible. Images are photoshopped and enhanced. Women often feel like failures when they don’t even come close to resembling such images and so more and more products are bought to try and achieve the desired outcome.

We live in a society whereby we are constantly bombarded with the same message time and time again. Beauty is an incredibly thin, Caucasian and most importantly young women. Even other races are only considered beautiful if they resemble such features. The model Cameron Russell states in her video how this has become a “legacy” of today’s day and age http://

 Video credit :(Russell, 2015)

Older women in particular are told over and over again that having wrinkles and grey hair is completely unacceptable. Society will not stand for it and you will be shunned if you dared venture outside with such a look. Anti -wrinkle creams, hair colors are but a few of an ever growing industry which prey on such notions of beauty. Below is an image of such. These two celebrities are more or less the same age yet, the woman has to be enhanced and photoshopped so as not to show any wrinkles, indeed she does not have a single flaw. Why is it that Linda cannot even look real but becomes a falsified version of what women really look like? Why is Brad allowed to resemble, at least, some form of himself?

boy vs girl
Photo credit from (BEAUTY REDEFINED, 2012) available                       from: http://www.beautyredefined.net/photoshop-phoniness-hall-of-shame/

Furthermore women are often showcased as things, as objects. Turning a human being into a thing is the most dehumanising thing that you can do, yet everywhere we turn we see this more and more. As a society we have simply learned to accept that is perfectly okay to showcase a female as such. Only certain parts of the body are showcased and the female body is simply seen as a thing or an object. Jean Kilbourne has captured this whole notion and I would urge you to watch the 4 minute video here:

Video credit: (Killing Us Softly, 2010)

It certainly opened my eyes to just how pronounced this issue is!

The harsh reality is that even though we may be all too aware of the falseness of these ads, they are having more of an impact on us than we may realise.

Bibliography

Aboutourkids.org, (2015). How to Raise Girls with Healthy Self-Esteem | AboutOurKids.org. [online] Available at: http://www.aboutourkids.org/articles/how_raise_girls_healthy_selfesteem [Accessed 5 Feb. 2015].

BEAUTY REDEFINED, (2012). Photoshop Phoniness: Hall of Shame. [online] Available at: http://www.beautyredefined.net/photoshop-phoniness-hall-of-shame/ [Accessed 5 Feb. 2015].

Killing Us Softly, (2010). [TV programme] YouTube.

Russell, C. (2015). Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model.. [online] Ted.com. Available at: http://www.ted.com/talks/cameron_russell_looks_aren_t_everything_believe_me_i_m_a_model?language=en#t-369473 [Accessed 5 Feb. 2015].