A Woman’s Body is Photoshopped into 18 Countries’ Ideals

·Assistant Editor
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The ideal body type, according to 18 graphic designers around the globe. (Photo: Superdrug Online Doctor)

In the 1600s, William Shakespeare once wrote, “Beauty is bought by judgment of the eye,” explaining that beauty is subjective to the individual. But could beauty nowadays be subjective to each country? UK-based pharmacy Superdrug commissioned marketing agency Fractl to ask graphic designers from 18 different countries to retouch an image of a woman’s body to “fit with their culture’s perceptions of beauty and an ideal female form.” The project was inspired by Esther Honig’s 2014 project, Before & After, in which she asked graphic designers to manipulate the face.

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(Photo: Superdrug Online Doctor)

The designers were given the following instructions: “Photoshop her form. The idea is to Photoshop and retouch this woman to make her more attractive to the citizens of your country. We are looking to explore how perceptions of beauty change across the world. Multiple designers are involved. You can modify clothing, but her form must be visible. No nudity. All other changes, including those to her shape and form, are up to you.” Superdrug also surveyed 35 people — not a big enough sample size to be scientifically sound, but interesting nonetheless — to guess the body weights of the Photoshopped images.

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(Photos: Superdrug Online Doctor/Hugo Felix/Shutterstock)

“While some remained largely similar with the exception of slight slimming, others resemble a new woman altogether,” Superdrug comments. “Drastic changes in hair color, attire, and waist-to-hip ratio were common.” For example, many of the designers from South American countries produced hourglass figures, while European and Asian countries produced extremely slim figures, which Superdrug notes could be considered underweight under BMI regulations.

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(Photo: Superdrug Online Doctor)

It is important to note that all of the graphic designers selected were female, and Superdrug specifically requested female artists because “we wanted a woman’s view of what her culture finds attractive and to understand more about the pressures they face.” Unfortunately, Superdrug does not touch upon sociocultural factors that go into body image pressures, such as international dissemination of ideal beauty standards and the globalization of beauty standards in the internet age. Body image scholar Susan Bordo once wrote about how Nigeria’s Miss World contestants received low marks from the budges at the Miss World competition because they were representative of local standards of beauty. An entrepreneur, inspired by Hollywood actresses, entered a light-skinned and very thin contestant named Agbani Darego into the competition, and she subsequently became the first black African to win Miss World. Since then, Bordo notes that African teenage girls have aspired to the Miss World standard of beauty, because that was what was praised as successfully beautiful. In future projects, Superdrug states that it will explore different angles and perspectives, including studies on male beauty.

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