Photo via https://www.facebook.com/target
(Picture comments blocked out for privacy reasons.)
I saw this ad on Facebook the other day. It seemed unoriginal and innocent enough; the thin, happy woman embodies the ideal look for Target as it attempts to sell products to all ages (especially families). Upon closer inspection though, the editing errors become painfully obvious. The woman is missing a bicep in her right arm, and her left is a series of jagged edges. While this “Photoshop fail” may be a cause for humor, I look at it instead as a cause for concern. How many of the ads we see every day have been edited without such obvious giveaways? According to Jean Killbourne in Killing Us Softly 4, the answer is all of them. Without our attention or permission, the media and advertising world have made their expectation of the ideal woman (feminine, thin, and heavily made up) become that of society. The purpose of this is clear. As Sharlene Hesse-Biber wrote in “Selling the Body Beautiful,” “If women are busy trying to control their bodies through dieting, excessive exercise, and self-improvement, they are distracted from other important aspects of selfhood that might challenge the status quo” (63). With this in mind, it is crucial that we look at advertising with a cautious eye, realizing that what we see is the product of technology and cannot (and should not) be obtained through physical efforts.
Hesse-Biber, Sharlene. “Selling the Body Beautiful: Food, Dieting, and Recovery.” The Cult of Thinness, Second ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 64. Print.
Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women, dir. Kilbourne Jean, Sut Jhally, and David Rabinovitz (Northampton, MA: Media Education Foundation, 2010), DVD.