World

Viewpoint: Jameela Jamil on why airbrushing should be illegal

Jameela Jamil Image copyright Sela Shiloni

The actress Jameela Jamil, best known for her role in US TV series The Good Place, says airbrushing is a crime against women and should be illegal.

She's one of this year's BBC 100 Women and has also started @i_weigh - a social media initiative designed for people to share what makes them unique and valuable, outside of their appearance.

I would like to put airbrushing in the bin. I want it gone. I want it out of here.

I think it's a disgusting tool that has been weaponised, predominantly against women, and is responsible for so many more problems than we realise because we are blinded by the media, our culture and our society.

I suffered from eating disorders as a teenager and so I know how damaging "perfect" images in magazines can be.

Image copyright Getty Images

Here are the reasons why I want to have it banned:

It's a lie to the consumer

If you buy the products airbrushing is used to advertise, you won't look like the person in the photograph.

It's used to smooth lines, hide blemishes, lighten skin, slim features, lengthen limbs, and brighten eyes and teeth.

It exists to sell a fantasy to the consumer that this "perfection" is indeed possible. If you have yet to achieve this beauty standard, it tells you, you should buy some expensive products immediately, because then you will look like the person in the photo. (But, as I said just a moment ago, you won't.)

How is this ethical or even legal?

Image copyright Sarah Brimley
Image caption BBC reporter Tulip Mazumdar underwent airbrushing for 100 Women in 2013

It's bad for the person being photographed

If you see a digitally "enhanced" picture of yourself, you run the risk of becoming acclimatised to that level of flawlessness and it makes it harder for you to accept your actual image - the one that exists in real life, in the mirror.

You then might want to take measures to match what is achieved on the screen.

Often this is only achievable with expensive, painful and often risky cosmetic procedures or surgery.

Filters and digital editing have almost certainly contributed to the fact so many of the women I know have turned to needles, knives and extreme diets to try to match their online avatar.

When photo editors try to lighten my skin and change my ethnicity, it's bad for the girls who are looking at the picture. But it's also bad for my mental health.

It makes me dislike what I'm seeing in the mirror. It's a message from the editor to me that I am not good enough as I am.

It's so, so bad for the public, especially young women

People don't realise the image they are looking at has been airbrushed (and let's face it, almost nobody owns up to the fact it has).

Admissions to hospitals for severe eating disorders have almost doubled over the last six years, NHS figures showed earlier this year. Two-thirds of teenage girls and young women don't think they're pretty enough. And 93% think they're judged on their appearance more than their ability.

At one point, while presenting the Official Chart Show on BBC Radio 1, I gained 200,000 listeners which was great. But instead of telling that story, that same day the newspapers reported that I'd gained two dress sizes and printed loads of photographs fat-shaming me and ridiculing my body.

Meanwhile the beauty and cosmetic procedure industries are booming, the diet industry is at an all-time high, and social media filters and photo editing apps have emerged.

When you filter a woman's photo you are legitimising the patriarchy's absurd aesthetic standards, that women should be attractive to the straight, male gaze at all costs. When you filter your selfies, you are doing the same thing.

In contrast, we shoot men in high definition on magazine covers. But for them, the inevitable lines of age are a sign of distinction and rugged attractiveness.

Men are allowed to wear baggy clothes to cover their bellies and they aren't subjected to couture modelled by emaciated 16-year-olds on runways.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Jameela with D'Arcy Carden and Kristen Bell, her co-stars on The Good Place

Men get a green light on ageing and gravity. Why can't women get the same allowances?

It is anti-feminist. It is ageist. It is fat-phobic. It looks weird. It looks wrong. It's robbing you of your time, money, comfort, integrity and self worth. Delete the apps and unfollow those who are complicit in this crime against our gender.

We need to see spots. We need to see wrinkles. We need to see cellulite and stretch marks. If not, we will become almost allergic to the sight of them, even though we all have these things on our own bodies. We need to be honest with ourselves and with each other so that we can all be free.

Don't give your money to any institution that sells you the lie of 'perfection'. They are trying to break you, so you will hate yourself and go out and buy something you don't need, in order to fix something that was never broken in the first place.

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