Above: Kate Winslet photographed by Testino for Lancome and at the premiere for Away We Go! Credit: JustJared/Lancome/Fair use.

Jameela Jamil and Airbrushing

Personally, I think Jameela Jamil is excellent. She espouses Greerian feminism at a time when Greer herself is no longer deemed plausible or persuasive. (Yes, I do note the motif, so rife in patriarchy, of the older tired model being traded in for the new younger fresh one.)

Jamil rails against Photoshop airbrushing in fashion and beauty adverts. ("I think it's a disgusting tool that has been weaponized, predominantly against women.") As is well understood in feminist theory these idealized images can (and must) be interpreted as a form of patriarchal control. The woman is exposed to images which attack and undermine confidence, self-esteem, and offer up unrealistic ideals of human beauty (e.g., hairlessness, flawlessness, etc.); these images are masculinist-created stereotypes that are unachievable in real life and are positively intended to subdue women--they have been very effective through the last hundred years if interpreted from this point-of-view.

For me, the main activism in respect of such idealized-sanitized images is to promote critical awareness in the end-user or viewer. I don't agree with Jamil's proposal of a ban on Photoshopped faces. Photoshop is a tool for visually lying or visual dishonesty. Thought of in that way Photoshop airbrushing is like lying more generally: it is annoying but it cannot really be eradicated completely from daily life. Persons lying are really just a fact of life and so the same is true of Photoshopped faces. People do it, and if they do, then they will likely be branded a liar, and a dishonest person. But this often has no impact on them, and they just continue lying (as they always have). The critical action is taken not in banning the lying, but in ostracising the person concerned. And this is, in my view, the best strategy. Increased critical awareness of patriarchal control systems tends to incrementally stymie them. Calling for an outright ban on photo-airbrushing is naive and unrealistic.

(5 December 2018)