Home > American Culture, Feminism, Society > The Self Magazine Controversy

The Self Magazine Controversy

We all are peripherally aware of the fact that a bit of photoshopping is done on magazine covers.  We expect that a fly-away piece of hair in the model’s face might be shopped out or an odd-looking shadow, for instance.  I thought this was about making sure the lighting didn’t make the model/actress/singer look unreal and probably a bit about smoothing out an imperfection that woman is insecure about, like a blemish she had that day.  So when the Kelly Clarkson on the cover of Self controversy came out this week, I was angered on behalf of Kelly.

Essentially, Self shopped off around 20 pounds from Kelly’s frame. Not at her request.  Not with her permission.  In fact, Kelly was appearing in Self to talk about how she’s happy with what she looks like and isn’t letting the “zomg she’s fat and not perfect!” gossip get her down.

Did you catch that?  They photoshopped a singer appearing in the magazine to talk about being comfortable with her weight to look skinnier.

But it gets worse.

Jezebel dug up the Self editors’ response, which did not consist of apoligies, but instead states that this sort of thing is their general method of operation.  When models show up they look so real that they “could be mistaken for a member of the crew or the editorial team.”  The horror.  They then go on to state that they extensively photoshop every cover model, because “It is…meant to inspire women to want to be their best. ”

No, Self, you’re not inspiring women to be their best.  You’re guilt-tripping women to continually attempt to achieve a look that is so impossible you have to photoshop models and celebrities to make them appear that way!  God forbid women look like women.  There are many body types.  What makes a person beautiful isn’t their body type; it’s health and who they are as a person.  Some women have boobs and a big butt.  Others naturally lack curves.  Some women have stick-straight hair; others have frizzy fly-away hair.  But no woman’s body is flawless.

Having flaws, both physically and as a person, is part of being a human being.  Presenting to women, and to the little girls who are bound to see these magazine covers, that this body type that is only possible through photoshop as a tangible possibility is harmful.  You’re telling them that it’s their fault they don’t look like this.  They could look like this if they just work hard enough.  If they follow your crazy fad diets.  If they apply every creme in your magazine to their skin.  If they would just spend an hour in the morning doing their hair and applying makeup, not to mention the two to three hours at night working out.  Clearly striving to keep our bodies healthy isn’t good enough, is it, Self?

This photoshop controversy is worse because Self purports to be about women having healthy bodies, not fashion like Elle or Vogue.  The public expects them to feature healthy women on the covers, not a photoshopped fantasy of what women supposedly should look like.

A online commenter pointed out that this is women hurting other women’s body images.  He’s right.  Women put out this magazine.  Women are putting this image out there, causing other women to obsess and waste their time attempting to achieve the impossible, not to mention putting an impossible ideal into men’s heads.  Shame on you, Ashley Mateo and Lucy Danziger.  You are the worst type of misogynist–a female one.

  1. August 28, 2009 at 11:51 am

    This is absolutely why I can’t STAND “women’s” magazines. The only one I used to read, Jane, went out of business — apparently not enough people were interested in reading articles about women in politics or women actually making a difference in the world, yet Cosmo still manages to maintain a thriving readership with articles like “How to Please Your Man.” On a related note, I used to read Domino, which was a really cute home decor magazine — when it went out of business, Conde Nast decided I might like to receive Glamour instead. ???!!!

    The fact that Self took it upon themselves to photoshop gorgeous Kelly into something that better fit their standard of beauty is abhorrent, and should be disturbing to all women.

    • August 31, 2009 at 2:09 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Erin!

      This whole situation really shows everything that’s wrong with main-stream women’s magazines. I regret that I ever was into reading them, although I know that was largely my mother’s influence. She whole-heartedly buys into the shallowness of the whole thing.

      The whole thing is just bad for society as a whole.

  2. clarely
    November 18, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    Did Ashley Mateo write the article? She and I went to college together, so it was funny to see her name here! I didn’t think she was that important at Self (she only graduated a year-and-a-half ago…)…

    But I agree completely. I was similarly outraged when this happened to Kate Winslet. I’m blanking on the magazine, but she, too spoke out about how it upset her. Both she and Kelly are great examples of women in pop culture who are real women with real bodies, and proud of it. I can’t bear to read modern women’s magazines because of all the disgusting things they reinforce, not only in terms of body image but also behaviors (playing games in relationships, etc.).

    • November 18, 2009 at 9:35 pm

      From what I understand she edited it, but didn’t write it. That’s such a crazy connection! Small world.

      Issues like this are why I don’t read women’s magazines. I do subscribe to and read magazines like Vegetarian Times though. There’s more to my life than trying to live up to a made-up, ridiculous ideal. I’m always glad to hear when other women feel the same way!

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