Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Photoshop and My Son

My 9 year old son asked me what Photoshop was at dinner last week.  I explained that it is a photo altering program that can do thousands of different things to change an image. He seemed satisfied with that answer. Then he asked me why I do not like Photoshop.  I knew this moment was going to happen one day; that his little ears were picking up things I said to friends and family. As the mother to a boy I feel it is my duty to raise a son that respects women of all sizes and understands that all bodies are beautiful.  I want my son to understand the images that he is bombarded with are not real. No one is flawless.  I want my son to question an image that looks perfect and understand women and men are not perfect in "real" life.  

     I explained to him that it is not that I do not like Photoshop. Photoshop can be used to create art or enhance a photograph.  What I do not like is that Photoshop is used to create flawless looking people. No one is flawless in life and looking at perfect people can make someone feel bad about how they look. I do not looking at ads that are lying to me with a Photoshopped model.  I could see the questions forming in his face. 

     I pulled a magazine from the recycling bin and showed him ads of women with perfect faces. I told him to look at my face when I smile, "See the lines that I get around my eyes? Now look at this model selling tooth paste. Where are the lines around her eyes? Smile like she is and feel around your eyes. Feel the wrinkles on your face. Wrinkles around the eyes are natural to everyone when they smile. Yet, this model doesn't have any? Seem odd to you?"  He nodded with wide eyes. I could see the veil beginning to lift off his eyes. Then I showed him the Dove commercial. He sat with his mouth open watching the transformation take place. 

     It is a rare moment in life when my child is quiet. We sat in silence for a few moments while he processed what he saw. Finally he turns to me and says, "I understand now why you do not like Photoshop." What he did next brought tears to my eyes. He got out of his chair and came to give me a hug. It was not just any hug; my little boy hugged me tight and stayed there for a few minutes. Finally he says, "I think you're beautiful and so does Dad. I hope everyone has someone to remind them they are beautiful." 

     My son gives me hope that I can teach him to not just accept the images he sees.  I believe the next generation should be taught that the images they see are lies. My son now understands why my magazines go in the recycling bin without me looking at them. He took it upon himself to toss one in the bin this week on my behalf.   My son sees me with no makeup, messy morning hair, and sweaty after my workouts.  A mother to a son is the most beautiful person he knows and I hope by showing him my realness as a human he will internalize the realness of women (and men).  

     While my son is young I am the role model for women to him. How I treat myself is how he will grow to view women. He is part of my motivation to maintain a healthy body, physically and mentally.  My wish is that I represent strength, intelligence, kindness, compassion, and class to him. My wish for my son is for him to grow up to value women for who they are and not base their beauty on the unrealistic physical lies brought about by Photoshop. 

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