In today’s edition of questionable feminist victories, a young, gorgeous, white, skinny woman is revealing her hot bod to protest unattainable, homogenized standards of female. Despite being one of the few women in the world to actually live up to this punishingly unrealistic standard of beauty, Keira Knightley is taking a stand against the common Photoshop practice of manipulating images of women to better resemble sexy cyborgs.
In the wake of her un-Photoshopped topless shoot with Patrick Demarchelier for Interview magazine, the actress voiced her concerns with The Times, explaining “I’ve had my body manipulated so many different times for so many different reasons, whether it’s paparazzi photographers or for film posters. That [shoot] was one of the ones where I said: ‘OK, I’m fine doing the topless shot so long as you don’t make them any bigger or retouch.’ Because it does feel important to say it really doesn’t matter what shape you are.”
I wholeheartedly agree with Knightley’s argument that, “women’s bodies are a battleground and photography is partly to blame.” Unfortunately, it’s hard to win a war over diversity and inclusion when the only women who are being given the mainstream platforms to speak out are the white warriors who have been deemed hot enough to merit a topless photo shoot.
Knightley isn’t the only celebrity arguing for diversity from an extremely privileged and exclusive platform. In fact, Photoshop outrage is effectively trending in the star community. In 2013, Lady Gaga made the ballsy decision to condemn the manipulation of her Glamour magazine cover—at the Glamour Women of the Year Awards. The singer, who once claimed that “I’m not a feminist—I hail men, I love men,” called for young people to “fight back against the forces that make them feel like they’re not beautiful.”
Last march, Lorde did her part by tweeting two concert photos side by side, one un-edited and one retouched, along with an order to “remember flaws are ok.” And back in 2009 Kim Kardashian, the queen of a reality TV show empire, actually spoke out against Photoshop and superficiality in her response to the accidental leak of an un-edited snap from a Complex magazine shoot. Kardashian shocked the blogosphere by exhibiting none of the shame or embarrassment that one would expect from a grown woman caught sporting cellulite, instead proclaiming, “I’m proud of my body and my curves, and this picture coming out is probably helpful for everyone to see that just because I am on the cover of a magazine doesn’t mean I’m perfect.”
Other foot soldiers in this Photoshop army include Coco Rocha, Ashley Benson, Jessica Simpson, Beyoncé, Kate Winslet, and Gisele Bundchen. Their main argument, that airbrushing a woman until she no longer resembles an actual human being is both unhealthy and completely unnecessary, is totally true and relevant. At the same time, it’s hard to stomach celebrity campaigns to celebrate their un-touched, sort of flawed but basically flawless faces as the new feminist frontier. If the manipulation of female bodies to perpetuate an unrealistic ideal is truly a central battleground of feminist politics, it’s about time someone handed the microphone over to the women whose pictures—Photoshopped or un-edited, commercial or editorial, clothed or nude—hardly ever grace the pages of mainstream publications.