The problem with photoshop

I’ve been talking a lot about media recently, so I’m just going to go with that and keep it up.  There is just so much to say on the topic that once I get going it’s hard to stop.  Last week I presented my new group of college students with their Sexuality in the Media projects.  I have a new tool in my belt this semester – a video about photoshopping and its ubiquity in the media industry.  Take a look:

After I showed this to my students this week, they were generally annoyed with the industry.  One student had a particularly interesting comment: “Every girl should watch that video with her mother.”  I don’t disagree with him.  But I would expand his comment to include all boys and girls – particularly those who are focused on how they look.  And I think they should watch it with their mothers and their fathers.  And their grandmothers and their friends.  Then get a couple of magazines and try and figure out which pictures have been photoshopped.  (HINT: The answer is ALL of them!)

A really great companion video to go with this one is a Dove public service video, also about photoshopping:

And as long as we’re looking at Dove videos, let’s watch this one too (it’s visually intense, so take a deep breath before and after watching it):

The media and beauty industries have a huge effect on us as consumers.  We almost don’t even notice it.  A friend of mine is living in Mexico for a year and after a recent trip back to the states, she writes about her culture shock and the presence of consumerism that is so prevalent in our society.  While I deeply appreciate her perspective on the consumeristic aspect of our society and how much we are manipulated into a must-have-culture, I want to expand her conversation to include the impact that advertisements and generally all media have on our conception of our bodies.  We don’t really even notice this either.

After viewing a timeline of pubic hair evolution in pornography from 1971 through 2008, many of my students talk with disgust about the full-bush tendencies from the 70’s.  They seem to be of the initial opinion that women in the 70’s chose to be unstylish.  It often takes them a few minutes to realize that how our pubic hair is coiffed is very much a matter of style, not inherent beauty.

This is something of a long, rambling post, which I apologize for.  There is just so much to say on the topic.  If ya’ll aren’t too tired of reading about it, maybe next week I’ll talk about how I’m introducing this conversation to my middle school class.  They’re loving it!  In the mean time, go watch those videos with all the young people you know.  And all the old people.  It’s relevant to all of us.

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.


  1. I would love to watch these videos with my girls, but the links do not show up. Can you re-link? Thanks.

  2. Oops, sorry about that! The embed code must have gotten stripped somewhere along the way. They’re all up now. 🙂

  3. Amazing post, as usual! Thanks, Karen!

  4. It is very very important for all ages not only to watch these but really dissect what they mean for our culture and ourselves. So many things you can know in your brain but not really let seep into your conscious mind.

  5. Thank you for posting that! I just watched those videos with my 5-year-old daughter. It was a great opening for a conversation about what is “pretty”, and how do people decide what they want to look like.

  6. i’m glad you posted this!
    very inspirational.

    i miss your belly project blog! 🙁

  7. Re: The Dove Videos

    I feel it’s important to note that Dove is owned by Unilever Brands who also own the Axe (US)/Lynx (UK) line of shower/deodorant products for men, whose line of advertising is extremely problematic, featuring highly sexualized, scantily clad women tearing off what little clothes they have to throw themselves at men/teen boys who use Axe/Lynx. The Dove spots don’t strike me so much as PSAs but as the pinnacle of marketing hypocrisy.

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