Disclaimer for Airbrushed Models: An Effective Solution?

By, Allie Semperger
Published November 2013: About-Face

Airbrushed images of women and girls are bad for our overall health: mental, emotional, and sometimes physical. Before and after shots of airbrushed model.

We can reasonably assume that the vast
majority of media images are altered,
even those of famous figures who are
celebrated as examples of these “attainable” beauty standards.

So, why not draw attention to this issue through an actual disclaimer that calls out the use of airbrushing?

The idea for a disclaimer was raised by Global Democracy, a site that uses social media to identify solutions to world problems. Their description of the proposal is as follows:

“We all now know that seeing thousands of ‘perfect’ body types in the mass media is having negative [e]ffects on young girls and more. Airbrushing as a practice should be discouraged when it transforms otherwise permanent features on models. A ‘mandatory disclaimer’ to state that a model has had her physical body manipulated on a computer is a very simple step in the right direction to addressing the harm that we’re causing.”

The proposal was accompanied by a video that’s been making its rounds on the Internet as of late. It shows the evolution of a model, before and after airbrushing. Hair and makeup transformations for the naturally pretty model are only the beginning:

Once her photo is taken, dozens of other manipulations take place through airbrushing technology: her eyes enlarge, her stomach shrinks, legs lengthen — blonde hair is made even blonder, white skin turns whiter. The woman is virtually unrecognizable (pun intended).

While the idea of a disclaimer initially appealed to me, I wonder how effective it would be in practice. Based on the wording in the description above, it would be very easy for companies to avoid the disclaimer requirement when “permanent” is a more fluid concept than ever.

People’s weight can fluctuate, so one of the most problematic airbrushing issues is invalidated. And what about the popularity of plastic surgery? Are facial features even considered permanent anymore?

And even if images featured this disclaimer, consumers wouldn’t know exactly how the images were manipulated, so people still wouldn’t have a true understanding of how much airbrushing occurred.

Keira Knightley before and after Photoshop.

Videos like the “Body Evolution” video above and Before/After images are more striking and effective in showcasing how significant these airbrushing changes really are.

Big picture-speaking, unique ideas like this disclaimer proposal should be encouraged in bringing attention to issues with harmful consequences, like excessive airbrushing.

The challenge will be making sure that our demands are as specific and objective as possible to really hold companies accountable.

Do you think a disclaimer would be helpful in discouraging airbrushing practices and fostering healthier body images for women and girls? If a disclaimer was implemented, what should be included in the warning?

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