Oh My! Magazine covers, Body wars, Nudity and Aibrushing have online forum in a tailspin

Oh My! Magazine covers, Body wars, Nudity and Aibrushing have online forum in a tailspin

Maybe you know MamaMia. No? MamaMia is the brainchild of one time Aussie Cosmo editor Mia Freedman. I am going to be honest right now, I love Mias work. Big fan. I remember picking up a copy of cosmo years ago and there was a swimsuit editorial in which the model had clear curves!!!! She would have been a size 12!! This was all Ms. Freedmans work. Mia worked consistently to instill a Body Love policy over at cosmo which was all but ditched when she left (and, consequently, I did too). It spoke to girls like me who were struggling to love themselves. She often ran articles exposing the horrors of photoshopping to make women slimmer – and how far it actually went. Some of my fave confidence boosters NOW are ones I picked up FROM cosmo  way back when.

In all honesty, my dedication to and interrogation of Body Politics and womens representations in media have definitely been influenced by Mia. I guess I owe her my degree huh? =D

So, this post on magazine covers definitely caught my eye when it came up as I was browsing the site. Mia was discussing the difference between the current Australian Womens Weekly Cover, and the Current Womans Day Cover. hint, only one features a naked woman.

When I was an editor, we always made the January issue body-related. It’s no accident. Everyone is coming out the back of Christmas, feeling like we’ve eaten too much, spending time outdoors or at the beach in cossies, shorts and singlets. Making resolutions that are so very often weight related.

Two covers have stood out for me so far. One I love, the other I loathe. Let’s lead with the positive, shall we!

The Women’s Weekly cover of Deborah Hutton, naked at 50, is my early vote for Cover Of The Year. I adore it. Yes, it has been air-brushed but to my eye (and having seen Deb Hutton in a cossie in real life), it’s minimal. There are lines on her face, there is texture to her skin.

She looks beautiful and it was a brave and exciting decision for editor Helen McCabe to take. I’m hearing there have been some irate older and more conservative readers who have cancelled their subscriptions to AWW in a huff of nude-inspired outrage.

But I love the fact that a woman can be portrayed and perceived as attractive and sensual at 50.


It’s progress, I think. And it’s so rare that my heart doesn’t fall into my shoes every time I catch sight of a magazine cover, this is one to celebrate.

Simone 380x511 How do these mag covers make you feel?

Not so much AWW’s stablemate at ACP, Woman’s Day. Here’s their cover – I snapped it at the supermarket where I’m on holidays.

In case you can’t read the words, they go like this:

Liz vs Simone BIKINI WAR ‘My beach body’s better than hers!’

The two women pictured are Liz Hurley and Simone Callahan and it’s difficult to know where to even start with how insulting and ridiculous this cover is, this CONCEPT is.

War? Really? A bikini war? Ugh.

Nothing wrong with this. We find that Deborah Hutton (no, I dont know who she is really) has been slightly airbrushed, and Womans Day is pitting two women -one a celebrity, the other a former wife of cricketer the celeb is now dating- against each other in a Bikini War. Sure. Okay, maybe there is a little bit wrong (Bikini War??? REALLY WOMANS DAY???? CANT YOU COME UP WITH SOMETHING BETTER?). It gets more interesting though. Apparently, the MamaMia comment board has got themselves up in arms (there is no apparently about it. I have spent a good half hour reading the comments). So upset were they, Mia wrote a rather long update-

(The Woman’s Day cover (image taken by Mia Freedman, from MamaMia)

UPDATE: So I’ve been reading your comments all morning while on holidays and I’ve just put down the phone from Women’s Weekly editor Helen McCabe to get the real story on the Deb Hutton cover.

So interesting. All of it – the part where some of you have called me out for being a hypocrite (“how can ‘minimal’ air-brushing be OK?”), the part where others have insisted it’s a black and white issue (“you’re either against airbrushing or OK with it”), the part where some have thrown up their hands in bafflement that I thought Deb Hutton posing for the Australian Women’s Weekly (AWW) was any different to Ricky-Lee posing for Maxim, the part where some have suggested this entire post is about giving ‘a free plug’ to a mate, the part where some Mamamia staff have questioned my judgement in running this post……and on and on for 120 comments or so.

As many have noted and as I stated myself, Deborah is someone I know and like very much. So is the editor of AWW, Helen McCabe – she and I have had many many discussions about magazines, photoshop and the role it all plays in women’s body image but more about that in a moment.
Being on holidays and all, I’m not quite razor-sharp so bear with me a little as I try to unpick what I loved about the AWW cover, what I didn’t and where I stand on the issue of photoshop.

I loved the cover for a few reasons. Firstly, because I think it radiates warmth in the way Deborah does in real life. It captures that. Secondly, because she is 50 years old and she is not on the cover – or naked- because she’s recently lost weight. For once, a magazine cover of a female celebrity is not based on her weight. HOO-BLOODY-RAY.

To me, it’s a refreshing image because women over 40 (heck, women over 25 it sometimes feels like) are often seen as invisible. The last naked celebrity I recall being on a women’s mag cover was Jennifer Hawkins a few years ago when she was about 24.

Would I have loved this image more if it hadn’t been photoshopped? YES YES YES. A thousand times yes. I should perhaps have clarified that a bit more vehmently in my original post but I assumed (clearly incorrectly) that my position on that matter was well known. I am against photoshop which is why when I was photographed for AWW myself, I asked that no photoshop work be done.

And it wasn’t. So yes, I DO walk my talk.

Back to Deb’s cover, when I first saw the mag, I did note the the photoshopping was – to my expert eye – minimal, something I have since confirmed with Helen McCabe when I called her just now. Both Deborah and Helen were adamant that the cover be minimally re-touched and that she ‘look her age’.

In earlier versions of the cover, the retouching (by the photographer who always has ultimate control of how much or little an image is digitally altered) was too heavy and they requested it be pulled back.

I do not like air-brushing. I do not like it one bit.

Do I wish there was no air-brushing at all? Yes. Do I prefer minimal and declared air-brushing to heavy, undeclared air-brushing? Yes.  Do I have control over whether an image is air-brushed or not? No. Does everyone who contributes to Mamamia agree with my position on airbrushing? No. Do I believe air-brushing will ever be phased out entirely? Sadly, no.

So what are we left with? An industry who stubbornly believe that we – the readers they are trying to entice to buy their product – will not fork over our cash if there’s an un-airbrushed woman on the cover.

I say bollocks to that but I’m not in charge of those decisions anymore. I don’t have to report to a publisher who is shaking his fist (and yes, magazine publishing bosses are ALWAYS male) and demanding to know why my circulation is down – and that is what magazine editors insist will happen if they dare to run a REAL image of a REAL woman, one who hasn’t been created with a computer.

But what if circulation is not down? What if ditching the airbrush INCREASES sales? What if it prompts women like me – and maybe you – to return to the newsagent and pick up a magazine for the first time in years? Looks like we’ll never know because no editor seems to be prepared to take that risk.

Still. I applaud Helen McCabe – not just because she’s my friend, I have many many friends who are mag editors and trust me when I tell you I do not applaud them all – for being the only editor I know who is pushing for less re-touching (“because readers are demanding it”, she tells me) and who is consistently transparent about what digital alteration is done to her covers.

I can think of no other editor who is even pretending to listen to the consumer demand for more transparency. So props for that.

We still argue about it. I still told her today -again –  that I passionately believe her premise is wrong. That there is no need to make the cover image (or any other image) more “glossy and commercial” with photoshop when we’re talking about women who are already very beautiful and lit in extraordinarily flattering ways by talented photographers such as David Gubert who took these shots of Deborah.

So for anyone who was under the misguided impression that I have stopped fighting the fight against photoshop – either publicly or behind the scenes, you are WRONGITY WRONG WRONG.

Back to why I liked the image. I like looking at images of women – clothes, unclothed, whatever. I think the female face and body is beautiful – in all the different forms in which it comes. I like that AWW have showcased the idea of a 50 year old woman being attractive, outside and in. Most of all I like – actually I love – the words that go with these images inside the magazine where Deborah writes about her relationship with her body and her motivation for posing for these pictures.

She writes about how insecure she was about her body in her teens and twenties when she was modelling and constantly being told to lose weight. About how two skin cancer scares and a neck injury gave her new respect for her body and what it can DO rather than how thin it is. About how there is too much emphasis placed on being a certain weight and not on being healthy. About how she is more accepting of her body -with all its ‘imperfections’ at 50 than she has ever been before in her life.

Yes, I do think it’s disappointing of everyone involved in the production of these images that some of those ‘imperfections’ were not deemed worthy of public view. It pisses me off and baffles me that anyone would think that. So yes, I guess I’m conflicted.

I also find it so interesting the way that month after month, heavily airbrushed images and drastically altered faces and bodies on the covers of magazines go unnoticed. But when an editor pushes the boundaries a little and does something a bit different – like putting a 50 year old woman on the cover –  there’s an outcry. I am in violent agreement that editors and magazines must be held to account and that we should vote with our wallets. But I was also encouraged by SOME of the taboos broken with this cover. Now if only they could break a few more.

Really, that was fuel to the fire, and as I said in my OWN comment on the site (which has been edited here for flow)

I think the Deborah Hutton cover is gorgeous. I am not a fan of hers… I dont really know who she is or what she does to be fair. I believe in a womans right to choose what she does with her body – inside and out – without fear of shame and judgement. So she had a little retouching. Im with Mia on this – would i love it if she had had none? of course! probably more so! does it take away from this? no. Does it make me want to buy AWW. Um, no, not really. I dont buy womens magazines. I prefer art ones…No issues of airbrushing in Juxtapoz!

But, what I think is awesome is she isnt featured naked (or close enough too) on the cover because she has lost weight, but rather because she is clearly confident and happy. And who gives a flying frig how old she is. Too much emphasis is put on age and how we should look at a certain age. WHO CARES. Are we really going to allow the media to dictate how we should think and feel regarding such matters? Are we going to sit back and take it? If you are sitting there reading this thinking I look freaking awesome for me, then I applaud that. Thats how we should feel. Not allowing the media to dictate how we should feel. Personally, I am sitting here feeling sorry for myself covered in Hives and bloated like a whale from eating dairy – NOT looking my best. Had I had photos done today, i would have demanded airbrushing (or, rather, waited for the hives to eff off and die).

Look, the media bullies high profile personalities into looking certain ways. Do you really want to allow them to bully you? Vote with your wallets. Dont buy magazines that body shame. Dont buy magazines that run weightloss or anti-aging features if you are so against it. No more NWs or OKs! But really, Why Bully Mia? Why make negative comments about Ms. Hutton? It wont achieve anything, and it certainly isnt making other women who may have body confidence feel amazing about the fact they do. It silences them, and THAT is just as unfair as body shaming. I applaud AWW. I would like to see more women grace covers looking happy and confident – and yes, less airbrushing would be great. But come on, its not like she had a Kardashian amount done.

But hey. I suggest you click the link at the top and head on over and read some of the comments yourself. Eye opening stuff. Oh, Magazine Editors who may be reading this? The consensus is this – people are sick of the hardcore airbrushing! Give it a rest!!


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