Why is it that so many of my friends online have avatars that either partially obscure their face or show them as, say, a toddler, a cartoon character or a kitten? In the blogging world I accept that it might be in order to maintain anonymity but over at one of my other regular haunts of Flickr, the same is true. In fact, just occasionally a fellow Flickr-ite will ‘bravely’ post a self-portrait and invite others to do the same. I used the word ‘bravely’ because that is invariably part of the reaction - that it was a brave move, that it’s lovely to finally ‘meet’ someone but no, sorry, we really don’t have the courage to do the same.
Have you noticed how women, in particular, seem more sensitive about hiding from cameras? Think about it – how many of your male online friends are happy to show their face, as opposed to your female friends? You probably know where I’m going with this don’t you? Yes, yadda yadda yadda…the blame must surely lie at least in part with advertising and media. However, here is the reason why I’m mentioning it again today:
The Curious Case of Twiggy and Olay
You may already know that here in the UK the advertising watchdog banned an advert, at the end of last year, which depicted a very youthful looking Twiggy ‘because younger looking eyes never go out of fashion’ (nor does heavy air-brushing apparently). To be fair to Olay, there were just two complaints specifically about the ad but they were backed up by 700 complaints about the use of air-brushing in general from an anti air-brushing campaign. It was enough for action to be taken. Olay’s reaction by the way was that there was some ‘minor retouching’ around Twiggy’s eyes. Yeah, right.
The reality is that Twiggy seems like a nice lady, dresses well, has a phenomenal figure, but she’s heading on for 61 this September and unless she has made a pact with the devil she cannot possibly look as ‘pristine’ as she does in this ad …can she? Well of course not!
I’m not a huge purchaser of glossy mags but I recently brought home a copy of ‘Woman and Home’. The cover features an air-brushed Jerry Hall – another beautiful lady but at 52 she can’t possibly look quite that good either, can she? (Well, not according to this article in the Mail Online). In fact, it struck me that although this magazine is probably aimed at women of around my age (I’m no Spring Chicken myself) that there was barely a wrinkle in sight … until I came to the new Twiggy / Olay advert and it quite literally stopped me in my tracks.
There amongst all the air-brushed, primped and preened faces was a much more honest rendition of Twiggy. I personally think that it is still air-brushed but at least it’s much closer to what you’d expect from a 60-year-old face. Olay may have been somewhat backed into a corner on this but it is nonetheless a brave move. In the same magazine other skincare products are being promoted in their usual air-brushed way, so Twiggy’s face does rather stand out. Some might say that’s a good thing – I’m paying attention to the product – but it begs the question with me: If she has those wrinkles, how much better is she than any other 60-year-old? In what way will using that particular product help?
It strikes me that honesty doesn’t sell products … but if we don’t promote honesty then we’re right back to the dilemma of giving women impossible images to try to live up to, and when we fail, feeling ashamed to show our own lovely, but maybe ever so slightly less than perfect faces to the world. So what’s the answer? Brutal honesty in ads? Or continue with the air-brushing? And if it’s the latter, how do we decide where to draw the line between selling a product and just plain lying?