Humor Magazine

Maybe Pretty Hurts Beyonce, Too

By Katie Hoffman @katienotholmes

Beyoncé made me mad yesterday, and not because for some reason siding with her fervent “Beyhive” of fans or shunning her elevator antics has become seemingly more important than deciding where one’s political sentiments lie. Beyoncé made me mad because she Photoshopped her thighs and put me once again in the uncomfortable position of trying to determine where I stand on the issue of editing the fat out of your images.

I guess I should preface this with the burning question that has the potential to bias this entire thing: yes, my thighs touch. The degree to which they touch is irrelevant, because the mere virtue of the fact that they touch at means that I’m of an unsatisfactory proportion in the eyes of some people on the Internet, marketing professionals, and magazine editors. I could explain that my thigh rub was once much worse, that there was a time when wearing a dress without shorts or tights underneath was unthinkable because of the miserable chafing that would be wrought without the necessary layer of fabric between my two meaty legs. I could explain that I’ve been doing squats for a couple years now and how that will never change the fact that when I eat that extra slice of cheesecake, it magically reappears on my thighs. I could get up on my soapbox and explain that not everyone’s body type facilitates this silly inner thigh gap we suddenly love. I could convince you that part of my thigh’s embrace is now owed to excess skin that hangs around from losing 120 pounds. I could try all of that, and at least once voice in the crowd would say, “You must be not be trying hard enough to achieve this arbitrary beauty standard! Try that hip abductor machine that makes everyone feel uncomfortable at the gym. I’ve also heard the Paleo diet results in an inner-thigh gap 28% of the time.”

I don’t love my thighs—I may never get to that place in my life—but I’ve accepted them for what they are.

I’ll also be the first to admit that I’ve Photoshopped myself before. I’ve erased an engorged pimple before changing my MySpace profile picture. I’ve made my hair look darker, my eyes look greener, and my skin look smoother. Oddly enough for someone who spent most of her life as a fat chick, I never once Photoshopped myself to look thinner. It crossed my mind, but I always decided it seemed oddly masochistic. Everyone in my life had already seen the full extent of my largesse, so what good would it do to trim my waist or erase a few inches off my thighs? I wanted to be thin, but I wanted it to be real. I suspect seeing myself Photoshopped thinner would’ve made me feel even more defeated than I already felt, because then I’d have tangible proof of the normal-sized person I could be, but who didn’t yet exist because I was lazy and eating my feelings was more important than actually feeling them.

I know magazines Photoshop images. They erase wrinkles, change backdrops, eliminate weird kneecaps, distort bodies—everything you can imagine, it can be done. Sometimes these modifications are driven by aesthetic, but perhaps more often they’re driven by a perceived need to adjust an already-gorgeous model or actor to our insane ideals of perfection to sell some product we’ll add to our arsenal of shit-we-don’t-need. On so many levels, this is deceptive and potentially harmful, but I’ve come to accept it as one of those unfortunate evils that—while worth discussing and getting good and mad about—isn’t likely to change anytime soon. It wouldn’t kill me to see a stretchmark or some crow’s feet, but my vision of beauty may have polluted by all those years I spent as a fatty.

Beyoncé posted a (fairly obviously) Photoshopped image recently.


And you know, I think we should all be entitled to present our images in any manner we see fit. Each individual is totally within his or her rights to alter their own images to look any way that they choose using filters or special effects. Somewhere behind the quiet narcissism and “like”-mongering, there is something artistic about experimenting with how you share different versions of yourself captured at a specific moment in your life. Yet, when I see this Photoshopped picture of Beyoncé, I hear “Flawless” playing in my head, a song that proclaims:

We flawless, ladies tell ‘em

I woke up like this

On that same wavelength (and on the same CD), there’s “Pretty Hurts,” which laments:

Pretty hurts, we shine the light on whatever’s worst,

Perfection is a disease of a nation, pretty hurts, pretty hurts

Pretty hurts, we shine the light on whatever’s worst,

We try to fix something but you can’t fix what you can’t see

It’s the soul that needs the surgery

Some might be quick to jump to the conclusion that Bey isn’t practicing what she preaches, but is it really fair to assume her track listing is an accurate catalog of body image? We can all agree that she’s a public figure and that entails a certain expectation that she set a good example, but who’s to say Beyoncé herself isn’t immune to the wounds Pretty can inflict? Yeah, I’m pissed that Beyoncé would allow such an obviously botched photo circle the Internet, but on the other hand, I understand what that feeling is like – the shame, the crushing fear that someone will see something wrong with your body and think of something to say about it that’s worse than the insults you’ve already thought yourself. I can’t imagine Beyoncéfying that emotion, and don’t you dare make this about her being a star who “chose this life” – let’s not spoil a perfectly legitimate conversation about body image by bringing her celebrity into it.

At the crux of this issue is that we’re talking about italics Beyoncé. Gorgeous, stunning, talented, rich Beyoncé. How could someone who’s mastered the hair flip be insecure about her thighs? How rude of her to not think of how the rest of us commoners must feel if she’s seemingly insecure! I had those thoughts myself, but I know that they’re bullshit. That isn’t how body image works. We’d all love to live in a world where thin people (famous people, blonde people, etc.) were all perfectly content with their body, because it would give us something clear to strive for. Okay, all I need to do is lose 50 pounds, and suddenly all my insecurities will vanish, my diet will automatically improve, I’ll be able to run a marathon, and I’ll be happy. It’s not that simple. Body image doesn’t discriminate; Beyoncé can have as many issues with her thighs as the next girl. In a strange way, seeing her Photoshop images reminds us how unforgiving body image can be (with a side of schadenfreude), while simultaneously saddening us that we exist in a culture that makes this kind of stuff seem essential, even for someone as (insert adjective) as Beyoncé.

I guess there’s no moral here, no nugget of wisdom that’ll be any more satisfying than an actual chicken nugget. This won’t encourage anyone not to Photoshop their thighs or abstain from condemning Beyoncé for her alleged bad behavior, but I think it’s worth contemplating that perhaps being so damn hard on everyone is how we got to this point in the first place.

I’m still mad, but I don’t know who to be mad at, anymore.

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