Marie Claire? I’m confused.

I’m delighted that Marie Claire has put a naked Jennifer Hawkins on this month’s cover. Not quite as delighted as my husband but happy nonetheless.

In my opinion, any day a magazine publishes an un-retouched photo of a woman it’s a good day.
A small but necessary step forward towards a more realistic depiction of women in the media.

Yes, of course it’s also a cynical stunt designed to sell mags but media companies are not charities so whatever.
If the result is an un-retouched image, I’m all for it.

But Marie Claire? I’m confused.

Not so much by the fact you chose to put Jennifer Hawkins on your cover. Why wouldn’t you? Jennifer Hawkins sells.

As The Telegraph reported yesterday…..

Naked, unretouched photographs of the 26-year-old model will appear on the cover of Marie Claire this month, in a bid by Hawkins and editor Jackie Frank to join the “positive body image” trend in glossy magazines.
But the pictures owe nothing to the federal Government’s proposed “code of conduct” for magazines’ portrayal of women, Ms Frank said. “It’s had no impact,” Ms Frank said of the proposed voluntary code, launched by Youth Minister Kate Ellis last year with a budget of $125,000.

No impact? Really?

“The Government obviously feels this is an issue, so it’s thrown a bone out there. But in terms of real change, it hasn’t achieved anything,” Ms Frank said, adding she believed the Government should address issues such as better public health funding for the treatment of eating disorders and obesity.”
Ms Frank conceded Ms Ellis’s push “has brought the issue out on the table, but the Government actually really needs to look at itself. If it really wants to have an impact they need to get more serious about it”.

And this is the confusing part.

Last time I checked, neither the government nor the opposition were choosing models for magazine fashion stories nor were they authorising the extreme re-touching that turns real women into plastic aliens on editorial pages every single month.

That would be the editor’s job.

Any editor who claims to have no control over the images she ‘has’ to publish is being utterly disingenuous.

I know this because I have been an editor. I have made a million decisions about re-touching images and choosing the models for fashion stories. Many of those decisions I now regret. Others, I am proud of.

But here’s what needs to be made crystal clear: the editor is the gate-keeper of every image that appears in her magazine. She decides what is re-touched. She decides which models are used.

The only exception is when she chooses to publish pictures of international celebrities like, say, Kate Hudson or Elle Macpherson or Nicole Kidman.
Those photos – and the outrageous re-touching they’re subjected to – are controlled by the celebrities themselves and their publicists.

But posed celebrity shots make up less than 5 percent of the images you see in a glossy women’s magazine.

The rest? They are controlled by the editor. The buck stops with her. She is in complete control of how the women in her magazine are portrayed.

So for Marie Claire’s editor Jackie Frank to insist it’s the government’s responsibility to fix the body image crisis? Well that’s just bizarre.

As for the claim that her decision to run an un-retouched image has nothing to do with the massive publicity around the government’s body image initiative and the presentation of our report, well, personally, I find that……surprising.

Pure co-incidence is it that Marie Claire has chosen to run an un-retouched picture on its cover for the first time? Just when Australian women are starting to push back against these ridiculous images being sold to us as ‘glamour and fantasy’?

Cannily, The Australian Women’s Weekly were first cab off the rank with their cover of an un-retouched Sarah Murdoch to co-incide with the release of our report to the government.
Next, Madison magazine followed with several Australian celebrities, including Bianca Dye, photographed (right) naked and un-retouched.

Marie Claire is the third magazine to do the un-retouched thing and I’m glad they have.

The more the merrier.

Jackie Frank claims this move had nothing to do with the proposed code of conduct that explicitly suggests a reduction in magazine re-touching. She insists it was due to a recent survey of 5500 Marie Claire readers which found only 12 per cent of women were happy with their bodies.

Think about that for a moment.

78% of Marie Claire readers are unhappy with their bodies. Could that possibly be because of the images presented to them month after month on the glossy pages of Marie Claire?

Or is it the government’s fault?

So YES, it IS a positive step for beautiful women like Jennifer Hawkins and Sarah Murdoch to appear in magazines un-retouched.
Think about the alternative for a moment. Do you want them retouched as well? Because that’s what’s been happening without you even realising it.

You and I can say no to digital enhancement as much as we like but nobody is going to put us on the cover of glossy magazines so it’s going to have less impact. Someone has to go first. So why not Sarah and Jennifer?

When the government officially responds to our report in the next few months, I hold great hope for magazine editors and other people with the power to determine what images we see to jump on board.

Because if I were an editor and 88% of my readers hated their bodies?

I’d be wanting to do something about that faster than you can say photoshop.

So while I applaud Marie Claire for taking a step towards a more realistic depiction of women by choosing not to re-touch Jennfier Hawkins, I hope Marie Claire and all other women’s magazines will be doing the right thing by their readers and including more un-retouched images in the future, flagging those images that have been digitally altered and adopting a more diverse approach to the models they feature in their fashion stories.


Whether it’s due to a public backlash, a government initiative or merely serendipity, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that we see a cultural change in the way women are being presented in the media.

Here’s to the fashion and magazine industries using their combined power and influence to lead the way and consistently promote a more positive body image for women in 2010.

nailed it

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