Wednesday, October 08, 2008

She's a beauty queen

So I'm used to feminist complaints about overly retouched, unrealistic photos in fashion magazines. I've even indulged in a bit of this myself (even while I photoshop zits out of my own pictures on Flickr.)

But now apparently there's some controversy (granted, this is from FOX NEWS) about an UNretouched photo of Sarah Palin gracing the cover of Newsweek.

I found this ridiculous sentence while searching: "The cover photo is a very close-up picture, which drew controversy because many people say that a close-up picture of a woman is meant to be unflattering."

To me, among many, many other things, this proves the fact that Republicans chose Palin because she was pretty, not because of any other qualities she brought to the ticket. I've seen hundreds of unflattering photos of Obama and McCain this election cycle, not to mention insulting and racist cartoons. Yet we're supposed to be up in arms because she was NOT photoshopped?

First off, from what I know of photojournalism (and I do TA in the photojournalism department of my university), altering the photo is a breach of ethics. Now, granted, that usually has more to do with adding people into events where they weren't, or making someone look worse (whoops, Fox), or, perhaps, making a black man look blacker?

So apparently I'm supposed to be up in arms because a close-up photo of a very attractive 44-year-old woman with more money than average and better skin than I've got shows what, her pores? That she's got a few fine lines?

This is ridiculous.

I write in defense of beauty rituals and makeup, glitter and sparkle and high heels and femininity. And I don't pick on Sarah Palin for using any of the above. I don't even pick on her for being "Caribou Barbie" or "Bible Spice." She's allowed to be a pretty woman and to make herself even prettier.

But what the hell is wrong with us that a simple unretouched photo is enough to set the right wing howling that it's unfair coverage? What's wrong with showing a 44-year-old woman's skin? Do they honestly think someone's going to decide not to vote for her because they can see her laugh lines?

After debates over Biden's possible Botox, and comments that Palin could wink so she clearly hasn't had it (used to imply elitism on the part of the Democrats), this whole tempest in a teapot seems forced at best. At worst, it's profoundly insulting to the woman's intelligence--and to all of ours.

But then, presidential campaigns in general are an insult to our intelligence. And the more we harp on issues like this, the more they really do seem like a beauty contest.