Pixel Perfect is So Last Season

Students see beyond marketing’s impossible standards for women’s beauty

Pixel Perfect? (Re)Drawing the Lines of Beauty
Kathryn C. Ryan

Those who entered the Women’s Center last Thursday night were met with a wall of advertisements featuring perfectly toned bodies and flawless skin. By the time they left, however, the skeletal figures of the models—flaunting the wares of companies such as Olay and Ralph Lauren—had been written on and called out for their false portrayals of the female figure.

The event, “Pixel Perfect? (Re)Drawing the Lines of Beauty,” was led by R.J. Jenkins, a tutor in Lowell House and Ph.D. candidate in English, with the intention of sparking a dialogue about the doctoring of images in the media.

Chava E. Kenny ’12, a Women’s Center staff member who contacted Jenkins about facilitating the discussion, commented on the significance of such alterations. “If people are holding this as a standard of beauty and not realizing that it’s not real, that it’s distorted, a very unhealthy body image issue for young girls at an impressionable age is created,” Kenny said.

As the group brainstormed solutions for the prevalence of “pixel perfect” bodies in advertisements, the question arose as to what type of message the images actually conveyed.

“These advertisements tend to fit into very specific standards of beauty, not the kind we recognize in everyday life—that’s a kind of beauty that you can’t create, that you can’t capture,” said Reshma A. Lutfeali ’13, who attended the event.

Although there was a common consensus that doctored photos have dangerous latent impacts on body image, there was also an understanding that they are unlikely to go away.

But Jenkins offered one potential solution to the problem. “People need to be taught to recognize an image or text for what it is, rather than consume it passively and not understand what it is trying to accomplish,” he said.

Thus, the written comments on the advertisements. As one student jotted on the leaner, tanner image of a model: “She looked better before!”