My message to Cosmo and Cleo: 'Enough is enough.'

Where did her legs go?







Boys, sex, relationships, makeup and clothes. Is this really all we’re supposed to care about? Personally, I’m kind of insulted that these are the issues that magazines aimed at young women focus on.

I’m also pretty frustrated at the increasingly popular practice of digitally altering the appearance and shape of people featured in magazines. Don’t the editors realise the negative repercussions of this?

Photoshopping images of models is a common practice in the world of magazines and in many instances I have no problem with it. Where I do have a problem with it is when the true sizes and physical appearance of girls featured are changed without telling the reader and even more so when this happens in magazines targeted at teenage girls. The reason is that teenage girls aspire to be like the girls they see on the pages. Digitally creating these unreal girls is setting readers up for failure.

How do I know this?

It was repeated exposure to ideals like this that shaped my high school years. Some days I was so upset that I didn’t look as beautiful as the women in magazines like Cosmo and Cleo that I didn’t want to leave the house. I cancelled plans for the same reason.

Any girl who didn’t look like the beauties in the magazines was excluded at lunchtime and my body confidence took a massive dive. The power of magazines upon young girls is simply unbelievable. Their reach extends far beyond the pages and straight into the minds and behaviours of readers.

Who am I? Like most of the stereotype driven content in magazines like Cosmopolitan and Cleo, it’s not important, but the media initiative I’ve just launched is.


It’s called the Brainwash Project and it involves two things: the creation of a prototype magazine that reflects exactly what women want in their magazines, and the collection of signatures to stop Cosmopolitan and Cleo Magazines from using digitally altering the appearance of people in their photoshoots and to put warning labels wherever alterations occur.

Once I have 50,000 signatures and a copy of this prototype in my hands, I’ll be presenting them to the editors of the magazines.

The Brainwash Project

I’ve chosen to start the project by targeting Cosmo and Cleo because they were the most popular magazines when I was at high school and they don’t seem to have as good a body image policy as magazines like Dolly and Girlfriend, which both won positive body image awards from the Victorian government this year.

Ideally I would like all women’s magazines to promise to stop photoshopping or digitally altering the women and men they put on the pages. If they can’t agree to the simple idea of presenting us with real bodies and faces to relate to then at the very least, I would like a disclaimer printed on every digitally modified image to point out to girls exactly what is real, and what isn’t.

I’m asking you as women, girls, ladies, ladettes, and anyone who is interested in what goes into women’s magazines to share ideas and opinions about what you want in a magazine. I’ll use this information to collect submissions and create your ultimate magazine.

It will be a magazine that steers clear of body shaming content, doesn’t present unrealistic or computer generated ideals of beauty, reflects all skin colours and sexual preferences with no bias, includes fresh, stimulating content on a variety of topics, and most importantly, that reflects exactly what you have asked for.


This entire project is self-funded – which means that I, a twenty-year-old student at RMIT, am paying for everything. I’ve started a Pozible Campaign to help raise enough money to get lots of copies of Brainwash Magazine printed and distributed to your hot little hands.


The Pozible website has been put together to help fund grassroots projects like this to raise money. The way it works is that everyone who pledges donations will only have to pay if the project reaches its target. This is the reason my target is so low, and why a lot of projects offer rewards and incentives to donate. Anyone who donates to the Brainwash Project gets access to an exclusive online space where you can get involved with the big decisions involved with putting the magazine together, among other just-as-exciting things.

I can’t put into words how important this project is. Even if magazines don’t directly tell readers to get thinner, they imply it by featuring only stick-thin models in their pages and by editing real women thin wherever possible. Girls learn that they should be a size six, they should know how to apply makeup and they should be attracted to and attractive for, boys.

When I was five I didn’t care about my weight. When I was seven I didn’t care about makeup. When I was ten I was completely happy and confident in who I was. When I started reading women’s magazines like Cosmopolitan and Cleo, all that changed.

The Brainwash Project: it’s for you, your sisters, your friends, your daughters growing up, and your daughters-to-be. Consider the possibilities.

Check out our photoshop fails gallery to see how ridiculous Photoshopping can be:

Jessica Barlow is a 20 year old student currently studying Professional Writing and Editing at RMIT in Melbourne. She hopes to leave the world a better place than she found it.
More and more, readers are demanding that magazines show realistic images of women. Why do you think that some magazines are still holding out?