Mandan News

What we see: Observations of a news editor

By Dustin White
Mandan News, editor

While I was still in college, one of my professors showed a video that stuck with me. I no longer remember what the title of the piece was called, nor does it probably matter. After all, I was only paying thousands of dollars to watch a video I probably could have found for free online.

The message of the video though was to demonstrate the negative impacts of advertising. Specifically, it focused on how women are objectified in various magazines.

Recently, this topic has once again taken the spotlight. With Sports Illustrated releasing their “Swimsuit Edition,” which features Barbie on the cover, there has been an uproar. Its not just in the U.S. either, but has spread elsewhere such as India and Russia.

Personally, I find Sports Illustrated’s decision to be quite comical. Its much like a little kid trying to get even with their parents by pretending to enjoy a timeout. “I wanted to have all my toys taken away and go to my room, so ha, I win.”

I see the choice of this magazine to be very similar. Each year they are criticized for objectifying women and portraying them as objects, and then they plaster an actual object on their cover. For an industry that is attacked for photoshopping women to the point that they appear fake and plastic, to place a plastic toy on their cover is quite a daring move.

From a marketing perspective, it kind of makes sense. I can just imagine a team of ad designers sitting around a table, eating boiled goose or whatever it is that designers do, and coming up with this idea.

“Every year we seem to get angry responses in regards to our swimsuit issue. What should be do to correct this?”

One of the newer designers would probably suggest something along the lines of, “maybe we could take their criticism to heart and produce an issue that portray women as they really are, with no photoshop.”

“That’s a foolish idea,” one of the senior designers would retort. “Here’s what we’re going to do: Barbie. Fighting fire with fire.”

Seeing the publicity they have garnered with such a stunt, I’m sure they are happy with the results.
Do those results come at a price though? I believe they do. Regardless of the intended message, what comes through is that it can still be socially acceptable to depict women as mere toys, or plastic objects.

The sad fact of the matter is that while Barbie is a toy, her features are mimicked on real women who undergo the photoshop experience. Instead of real women, what is slapped in these magazines are individuals who have their eyes enlarged, necks and legs stretched, and paint brushed to a point that no actual person could achieve.

Humans have flaws. They are wrinkled; they are blemished. That should be fine. Because when we have an airbrush applied to our features, in order to smooth them out, we loose that which makes us who we are. No longer is that person on the cover us, but an individual who does not actually exist.

Of course, there are those who will see these images as empowering women. That they showcase the strength and beauty that these individuals possess. But I’m not sure as the strength and beauty that we are seeing doesn’t actually exist. Instead, it was fabricated.

Yet, there is some value in these images. If nothing else, they get people talking. Whether they agree with my perspective or not, the discussion is started, and that will cause people to think about the issue as a whole. I think that is a great thing.