Keep it real challenge: Photoshop’s impact on body image

By Armelle Djoukoue

With the advent of Photoshop in the design industry, it has been easy for the media NOT to keep it real. Photoshop has allowed advertisers to give cover models a little superficial nip and tuck or body sculpting where it doesn’t really exist. These false images can affect the way readers see beauty in an unrealistic way, impacting self-esteem and their own body image.

The more women and girls watch television or look at magazines full of unattainable and idealize images of women created by “photoshopping”, the more anxious and insecure about their appearance they become. The pressure to attain the “perfect body” has women now spending millions of dollars a year on unnecessary plastic surgery and harming their bodies by becoming anorexic or bulimic.

In recent years, researchers have tried to understand the determinants of body image disturbance among young women. High exposure to media has been shown to have a large impact on women’s self-esteem in western societies. Nowadays, with the use of Photoshop, women have been tricked into thinking that flawless beauty does exist. But in reality, this type of perfection is simply unattainable. Even celebrities have imperfections, but that’s not what we often see in the magazines.

Some celebrities, such as Brad Pitt and Kate Winslet, have taken action against digital altering of their bodies. Brad Pitt broke one of Hollywood’s golden rules in a recent issue of W Magazine by revealing all his flaws and wrinkles. He even personally requested to be photographed by Chuck Close, who is famous for his extremely detailed portraits that reveal all skin flaws. Winslet was also one of the first to break ground when she took action against GQ magazine for digitally altering her body in its photographs that made her look unrealistically thin.

Perhaps if more celebrities become more secure with their own body image and demand that their photos be printed without photoshopping, everyone else will follow suit. And more women and girls will realize that there is no such thing as “perfect” beauty.

For the past three days,The Keep it Real Campaign sponsored by Miss Representation has been asking advertisers and the media to do away with Photoshop and print at least one unphotoshopped picture of a model. One photo may not be enough to fix someone’s self esteem, but maybe it will help advertisers understand the damage that they are doing to the physical, emotional, and mental health of many women and girls when they don’t keep it real.

Talk about SAAM

By Melba Sanchez Fernandez


The month of April officially became Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the United States in 2011. It started out as only a week, but in response to the growing popularity of protests against violence such as Take Back the Night in the 1970s and 80s, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) extended it to the whole month. After a poll was completed by the Research Sharing Group, the color teal became the official color and the ribbon the official symbol of SAAM. Throughout the month of April, programs and events are held to inform women and men about issues surrounding and dealing with sexual assault; including some events held here at UMKC. Check out the UMKC Women’s Center Calendar for more information on our upcoming SAAM events!

Also check out some of the videos below which directly deal with Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOSCA) on the importance of SAAM

Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army

SAAM 2012


For more information about the UMKC Women’s Center and our upcoming events please visit our website: or call us at (816) 235-1638


One Sticky Note At A Time

By Carolina Costa


“Love your body and treat it well!” or “Beauty has no color” were some of the messages posted on sticky notes around the UMKC campus during the last week of February. The Women’s Center along with UMKC students and the Counseling Center participated in the Operation Beautiful project to recognize Eating Disorders Awareness Week. 

Sticky notes could be found in rest rooms, classrooms, vending machines and hallways. The positive body image statements were aimed to encourage everyone in the community to accept themselves just the way they are. Operation Beautiful was an effort to counter the negative and abusive messages sent by the media about body image, which promote unhealthy and unrealistic standards of beauty.

In addition to the sticky notes campaign, the Women’s Center encouraged students and staff to take part in the “I love my…” picture project. Members of the UMKC community completed the sentence and were happy to take their pictures to support a positive body image.

Endorsing honest beauty standards and cultivating a high self-esteem are key components to the development of healthy communities and lifestyles and the first step to achieve success in personal growth. Operation Beautiful tackles the root of negative self-talk and poor self-esteem. With a simple message on a mirror we can change the way we look at ourselves and help each other reach our goals.

Although most sticky notes are now gone from hallways and doors, I hope the message Operation Beautiful has brought to UMKC stays among its students and spreads across the Kansas City community. Thank you to everyone who participated! I hope you had a great time changing the world one sticky note at a time!




For more information about the UMKC Women’s Center and our upcoming events please visit our website: or call us at (816) 235-1638

Join us to celebrate 40 years of telling our stories with the UMKC Women’s Center!

Join the Women’s Center for a screening of Miss Representation

By Carolina Costa

[youtube][/youtube] Miss Representation is a 2011 award winning documentary written and directed by women’s advocate, Jennifer Siebel Newsom. Miss Representation challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls; as well as the collective messages that young women and men overwhelmingly receive pointing that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader. Newsom has also launched, a call-to-action campaign that gives women and girls the tools to realize their full potential.

The Women’s Center is pleased to invite everyone in the UMKC community and Kansas City area to a screening of Miss Representation on Tuesday, February 28th. The event will take place at the UMKC Student Union Theatre and we will kick-off the evening off with a reception at 5:30pm, followed by the screening at 6:00pm. Join us after the film for a facilitated discussion concerning the documentary. Drinks and snacks will be provided and this event is FREE and open to the public! All you have to do is pre-register online at and bring your tickets to the event; space is limited so do not wait to register!

It is also a great opportunity to discuss matters such as media consumption, women’s leadership, sexualization, self-esteem and abuse in an informed and plural environment that will help you develop your thought in many issues. Don’t hesitate to engage in the discussion and share your experiences and impressions of the film. And please, join us for the opportunity to make a difference in your community by taking action in the Miss Representation Campaign.

 For more information about the event contact the Women’s Center at 816.235.1638 or or visit

 A special thanks to all of our sponsors for this event: UMKC Counseling Center, K-Roo Student Media, UMKC Friends of the Library, Veronica’s Voice, Girl Scouts of NE Kansas NW Missouri, UMKC Career Services, The Women’s Foundation of Greater Kansas City, and Win for KC

The Woman Behind Operation Beautiful: Caitlin Boyle

By Armelle Djoukoue

Caitlin Boyle is 26 years old and lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. She worked as a freelance and technical writer for seven years, including a five year stint as a contributing columnist for The Wall Street Journal Classroom Edition. Caitlin started her blog “Healthy Tipping Point” in 2008 where she writes daily about food and fitness. The blog chronicles how she balances her busy lifestyle with healthy eating and exercise.   It was on this blog where Caitlin began Operation Beautiful.

In June 2009, Caitlin was inspired to post a note that simply read “You Are Beautiful!” in a public restroom. She took a picture of her note and posted it on her blog. She immediately received responses from her readers, and her email filled up with photographs of notes posted all over the country. Caitlin continued to leave positive messages on the mirrors of public restrooms, at work, the gym and the grocery store. She scribbled down whatever came to mind — “You are beautiful!” or “You are amazing just the way you are!”  And with this one small act, the Operation Beautiful movement was born.  Three months later, she resigned from her corporate job to write “Operation Beautiful: The Book” which was published in August of 2010. Caitlin Boyle is a woman who is dedicated to ending negative self-talk among girls, woman, and men. Women of different ages, races, lifestyles and geographic locations have been posting encouraging notes of their own.

So join us next Monday, February 27th– Friday, March 2nd as your UMKC Women’s Center engages in Operation Beautiful. It’s time for us to encourage a positive body image in ourselves and for others. Participate in this campaign by posting statements of positive body image around campus. Stop by the Women’s Center (105 Haag Hall, 5100 Rockhill road) or the MindBody Connection (3rd floor of Student Union, 5100 Cherry) to pick up post-it notes.

Visit our Operation Beautiful event page 

For further information or with questions contact the Women’s Center at 816.235.1638 or


Leave Your Lipstick At Home

By Courtney Neaveill

“Gwyneth Paltrow lipstick lesbian”: Google that and you will get over two pages of results – all of which reference a recent interview that Ms. Paltrow gave with Harpaar’s Bizarre. The 39 year old film star mentioned her daughter’s affinity for pink, ruffled clothes and remarked that IF her daughter were a lesbian she would be a ‘lipstick lesbian’ – as opposed to a ‘butch’ lesbian.  So now you may be thinking, ‘what the hell is that?’ Definition incoming! The most popular description on, defines the lipstick lesbian as “a feminine lesbian who is attracted to other feminine lesbians. They generally enjoy fashion, flowers, perfume, sex and the city, lingerie, lipstick of course, and (gasp!) passionate sex with other women.” The authors at Wikipedia expand on their similar definition of a LL by adding “most female same-sex sex scenes in mainstream pornography [portray women] this way.”  I take issues with this designation.  It’s as if people are saying “ok- now that we know what she is, we’ll know more appropriately how to deal with her.” I think of scientists uncovering a new species of animal or better yet, Jack Hannah. “Hey everyone, how’r  ya’ll doin – I’m Jungle Jack Hanna and on today’s episode we’ll be looking for the allusive Lipstick Lesbian.” What about the lesbian who does not fit into the nicely outlined “lipstick” category – is she butch by default? Is there no such thing as a normal, everyday lesbian? I’ll admit when I first heard the term lipstick lesbian I was amused – but does this label serve a purpose or is it damaging to the gay and lesbian community?

The people over at not only find lipstick classification necessary but they also commit an entire section of their website in support of feminine lesbians. The claim is that they are unidentifiable by appearance and therefore need a support community where they can find tips on how to navigate the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT), dating and social scene. “Since we “don’t look like Lesbians”, other Lesbians don’t recognize us, which means we are often excluded from the united front. (Also, we don’t get asked out.)” This makes sense. In 1998, the Village Voice published an article in which they addressed the lipstick lesbian phenomenon.  According to the article, after series like the L Word, Sex and the City and Grey’s Anatomy portrayed lesbians in a more feminine light, lesbians no longer felt obligated to wear Doc Martens and rainbow colored jewelry but instead ventured to strut around in designer clothes and high heels.  Executive producer and director of L Word, Ilene Chaiken, feels that lesbians are liberated by the increasing social acceptance of the feminine lesbian.

“I think that we all need representation, we need aspirational figures, and it’s a positive thing for girls growing up to look at a TV show and say: ‘Oh, so that’s a lesbian, and she can be successful and wear glamorous clothes. Feeling that I might be gay doesn’t relegate me to some dark corner of society.’ “

Sociologist and professor, Jane Ward, calls this “’an echo effect’: The media prefers images of beautiful women, so lesbians put energy into being pretty, and then the media reports that image as the new ideal. “It’s the same way that heterosexual femininity is packaged and sold to female consumers.” Lesbians are therefore more palatable to the media-crazed, consumer public.

So which is it – have lesbians been forced by the general public into acting and dressing more feminine or have they been liberated by lipstick and high heels? I think it is a matter of both social pressure and personal expression. Either way, it is not a very flattering reflection of U.S. American social culture when public figures like Gwyneth Paltrow keyhole people into such inescapable categories. Actress Portia de Rossi once quipped “Everyone is their own kind of lesbian. To think there’s a certain way to dress or present yourself in the world is just one more stereotype we have to fit into.”  We should not be persuaded to make the distinction between two potentially harmful clichés; the ‘lipstick’ and the ‘butch’ lesbian.  Why is it anyway that lipstick lesbians receive the special feminine treatment? One of the most beautiful expressions of femininity is the deep love and affection that one woman can have for her female friend, partner or lover; with or without lipstick.

It Must Be Magic

By Carolina Costa[youtube][/youtube]

In a world dominated by the media, individuals are in constant contact with the unregulated messages and images sent out by publicity agencies, television channels and large corporation. It is estimated that children and young adults watch more than 10 hours of media a day (which doubles their time spent at school in a week).

Young men and women are bombarded with retouched and altered images of beauty, presenting an unreal and impossible prototype to measure themselves against. From magazines, television shows, movies or blackboards young adults are shown flawless faces and bodies that could not be obtained if their life depended on it. We are all doomed to fail regardless of how much we seek to alter ourselves, and yet the number of cosmetic surgery procedures performed on youth 18 or younger has more than tripled from 1997-2007.

But what does this unreal idea of beauty contribute to our society? Nothing but low self-esteem for our youth and wealthier pockets for those selling the wonderful products that will allow men and women to somehow stand up to the unreachable model corporations have created. So until we can apply magical products like the one shown in the video, we might be better off trying to change the beauty model to a realistic one rather than spend our time and money attempting to reach an impossible ideal.


Learning To Be At Peace With My Vagina

Image from

By Kristina Gardner

I’m a self-proclaimed feminist, I believe in equal rights, equal pay, and equal treatment for women. I believe in stopping the violence against women; and that’s why I work in the Women’s Center. But this semester has been an eye opener for me. I’ve learned that working in the Women’s Center and advocating for Women’s Rights and Violence Prevention, is more than just protesting, signing petitions, and putting on events. It’s about loving yourself for what and who you are….

And that meant coming to terms with my vagina…

But first I had to come to terms with just saying the word “vagina”. I stood in front of a mirror for 20 minutes at a time just saying the word, using it in sentences, and teaching myself that it is not a bad word, as I was brought up to believe it was. Not letting myself say some of the funny terms my parents and teachers used for it. That was the first step.

It really started to make me wonder why for eighteen years of my life, why have I never was allowed to say, or was never comfortable to say the word “vagina”. I mean, clearly, my parents and friends had a big part in it. I was raised to be modest and to act like a “lady” it just wasn’t something “ladies” said. They were never okay to say the word or talk about it, so neither did I, and I was perfectly alright with that.

Around this same time in my “blog rolling”, I stumbled across this documentary all about “the perfect vagina” and what women are doing to themselves (including get surgery to reduce the lips of their vaginas, and making themselves virgins again) to achieve “the perfect vagina”. The whole documentary is about learning to love what you have, and learn that everyone’s vagina is different.

Now, we had the Vagina Monologue Auditions, here at the UMKC Women’s Center, and the actual performance is in February.  I had never seen this play before, so I watched some of the clips from performances around the world, and found myself agreeing with these stories, knowing those things really happen to people. Seeing stories about people coming to terms with their own vaginas and periods, etc.; I found myself inspired – and quite frankly, a little upset – that I had delayed this self-acceptance, for so long.

So, if you aren’t comfortable with your vagina (or even just saying the word vagina), I challenge you to do the same, because your vagina is yours. You should love it, respect it, and be proud that you are a woman!


Barbie’s Not-So-Positive Influence

Photo by Matthew Rolston

By Emily Mathis

One of the most read blogs on our site is from a while ago and is about Barbie’s positive influence. While, I agree that Barbie has some positive effects, I wonder if they outweigh the negative effects she has on body image? Recently I came across this picture and article about the amount of plastic surgery this woman would need to look like Barbie.

I found the picture thought provoking. What messages and images are we sending to little girls and boys, for that matter, about what a female’s body should look like? Are there women out there striving for this unattainable ideal?

I am left feeling confused. Should we discourage playing with one of America’s favorite toys? Or should we hope that messages of body acceptance are loud enough to get through?

I think of all the hours I spent playing with Barbie when I was young. Then I think about all the struggles I have had with body image throughout my teens and now into my twenties.  Is there a correlation?

According to the article, which mainly focuses on how Barbie affects plastic surgery numbers, there is a correlation between our culture’s distorted view of beauty and the ideal body and plastic surgery rates. With 5% of plastic surgeries being done under the age of 20 and over 13 million body parts being altered last year it seems that something or someone is having a major effect on women’s lives.

Barbie has been around since 1959. That’s over 50 years of girls and boys who grew up with Barbie. If you look at all the different Barbies, they all are thin and perfect. This can set a very unrealistic ideal for what a woman should look like. And it doesn’t just affect girls. Young boys who see their sisters or playmates playing with the doll may grow up to think that is what a woman should look like.

Female body image is a precarious thing. Besides Barbie there are the Disney princesses, who are also very beautiful by society’s standards and thin as well. Fairytales and Barbie are strong influences in young girls’ lives. I can’t count how many times I played with my Sleeping Beauty Barbie doll or how many times I watched Cinderella. Luckily, I never considered plastic surgery but what about the girls and young women out there with access to plastic surgery who think that looking like one of their childhood playmates is the key to getting everything they wanted?

I am not blaming Barbie or the princesses for all of this but I think they play a role in rising rates of plastic surgery and eating disorders. I think that there needs to be a serious look at what images and messages are being put out there. It seems like Barbie gets a lot of play while messages of self-love and body acceptance don’t.

With eating disorders posing a constant threat and general dissatisfaction with their bodies, can young girls and women really afford to have Barbie as any kind of a role model?

Love Your Body Day

Image from

By Emily Mathis

80% of women are dissatisfied with their bodies.  Why is it that so many women are “dissatisfied”? Many people point to the media and all the images we are fed as part of the problem. Between movies, TV, commercials, and magazines women are constantly being bombarded with what the media would like us to think is the “ideal” beauty. And we feed into it every time we say we don’t like ourselves because we don’t look like that model or that actress. We need to change the dialogue surrounding our bodies. Instead of hate and dissatisfaction we need to love ourselves no matter what images we see out there.

That’s why NOW (National Organization of Women) started the Love Your Body Day Campaign. The campaign centers on the idea that every woman needs to love and celebrate what makes her unique.

This year the UMKC Women’s Center has a display case in front of 105 Haag Hall comparing some offensive ads and positive ads, as well as information about Love Your Body Day. In addition, there is also a Love Your Body Day Book Display in Miller Nichols Library on the 2nd floor. Be sure to check out both of these displays.

October 19th is Love Your Body Day. So on that day, and every other day, you should treat yourself with kindness and respect and remember that you are worth it.