Reality check: France set to rein in retouching mag pics

Mashable recently posted on France’s pending legislation intended to curb the manipulation of photographs in magazines toward unrealistic body images. As French MP Valerie Boyer is quoted in the article:

Many young people, particularly girls, do not know the difference between the virtual and reality, and can develop complexes from a very young age. In some cases this leads to anorexia or bulimia and very serious health problems.

I say, it’s about damn time someone does something about the patently absurd body images in print media, for exactly the reasons cited by Ms. Boyer. The author of the post laments in the first paragraph “(this) ‘would never happen in the US'” and I have to voice the unvoiced question: why? I know this problem doesn’t exist only on the other side of the Atlantic.

I do think the responsible thing would be for the authors of photographic editing software–and this includes Gimp as well as proprietary software like Photoshop–to include a section on ethical use of the software in the documentation. I do intend to imply here that editing of photographs to show unrealistic body imagery is unethical, absent clear disclaimers as to what the end result actually is.

I’m not anti-manipulation in and of itself–Gimp has saved my backside more than enough times to count during my aborted 365 Days project–but the moral and ethical lines need to be drawn somewhere. If those in charge of making the laws refuse to do something, the responsibility falls on us as a society to shame those who insist upon being part of the problem into acting in a more ethical and moral fashion.

The insidious part of all this, of course, is that edited pictures are hard to spot, even for trained eyes. That doesn’t mean we should give up, however.

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