Will France’s Proposed Photoshop Regulations Actually Make the State of Women’s Magazines Less Troublesome?

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Boyer. This image has been retouched. Photo: Getty Images

Valérie Boyer is the 47-year-old French Parliament member and mother of three who proposed a law that France label retouched advertising images as such. She worries about the pressure her 16- and 17-year-old daughters might feel to be thin, like models in magazines. From the New York Times:

It is a topic that consumes her. “If someone wants to make life a success, wants to feel good in their skin, wants to be part of society, one has to be thin or skinny, and then it’s not enough — one will have his body transformed with software that alters the image, so we enter a standardized and brainwashed world, and those who aren’t part of it are excluded from society.”


Are they? We know very few people who look like models. And they're not all outcasts whose best friends are Ben & Jerry's and Netflix. Ex-model Inès de La Fressange calls Boyer's proposal "demagogic and stupid," adding that labeling photos as retouched won't stop anorexia, which is a complicated psychological disease.

The proposal isn't perfect. Photographers note that certain camera lenses can create an illusion of reality even before digital retouching comes into play. The editor of French Marie Claire notes that all her readers know nowadays that every photo in women's magazines is retouched. French fashion photographer Dominique Issermann pointed out that in a well-known photo she took of Keira Knightley for a Chanel ad, she didn't enhance her breasts, as many thought, but filled out her thigh because it was too thin. Talk to any retoucher and they'll tell you, they spend a lot of time erasing bones on models — knee caps, rips, what have you — and filling them out where they are distractingly thin.

Though Boyer's proposals can't hurt, and may discourage overzealous retouching, Photoshopped pictures aren't the only problems women's magazines have.


“I buy tons of women’s magazines. I love fashion and I love life,” she said. “But it seems to me that as a matter of professional ethics, you have to warn people that the image of the body has been modified.”

It’s a matter of honesty, she insisted. “Do you think you have to lie in order to dream? We must treat the public as adults, and I think it’s a true feminist battle. I don’t understand why women’s magazines aren’t rallying to it.”

They're not rallying to it because the whole point of them is to make us think we need all the stuff they're trying to sell us in order to feel good about ourselves. Look at the stories. This month, Allure offers "Willpower 101: Easy Tricks for Weight Loss, Exercise, and Work." Cosmo asks, "Is Stress Turning You Into a Raging Bitch?" but will also tell us what colors will "Make a Man's Heart Race." Ironically, In Style will tell you "How to Look Amazing in Photos" (get retouched! Ha). Glamour will tell us how to "Eat, Drink, and Not Gain Weight." Elle will tell us, "How to Look Seriously Younger, Better, Hotter Than Everyone Else" at a reunion. Meanwhile, GQ will tell men about "The Best Stuff of '09 Cars! Clothes! Food!" (FOOD!) Details reads, "If You're Not Already Screwing Around, You Will Be." So women are fat, stressed, bitchy, and wrinkly, and if we want to please our men we better carefully examine his psyche and do and wear exactly the right things to keep him happy. Because don't you know? If he's not cheating on you now, he will be! Telling readers when photos are retouched won't have much effect on all that.

Point, Shoot, Retouch and Label? [NYT]