Female graphic designers were asked to edit a photo to reflect their culture's ideal female body image—and the results are pretty interesting
Design the perfect woman. That may sound like an impossible assignment, but that's exactly what Perceptions of Perfection, a project launched by content marketing agency Fractl, asked graphic artists around the world to do. In order to see how different cultures view female beauty, they sent a full-body image of a woman posing in her underwear to digital whiz kids and asked them to photoshop her to look ideal according to the standards of their country. The catch? The ones behind the airbrush tool were all women. (Except for four countries where they could only find men, in which case they instructed them to ask their female friends and relatives and use their input only.) (Ladies who need no Photoshop? These Inspiring Women Who Are Redefining Body Standards.)
In previous similar experiments, it's seemed that the original woman is quickly transformed into a bizarre Barbie—but would it be different with a woman's eye on the final design? Not so much, it turns out. China and Italy offered the most surprising transformations, with the woman being slimmed down to cartoonish proportions—an estimated body weight that the researchers noted would likely be anorexic in real life. (Although, in China's defense, it felt a little unfair asking them to take a standard Caucasian woman and morph her into an Asian ideal—of course she was going to end up smaller.) Still, Italy—a country whose native people look similar to the original woman—seemed to just give up on the original body altogether and ended up pasting the woman's head on a fashion model's figure (they even kept the navel ring as evidence of the attack of the body snatchers).
Not everyone wanted the woman to be stick thin, however. Spain still shrunk her down but only slightly, giving her a figure the researchers estimate would have been in the overweight BMI range in real life. Venezuela and Columbia also kept the model's original curves, with the former amping up her ample chest even more. And the U.S. kept her wider hips but gave her a nipped-in waist and serious thigh gap, like a Kim Kardashian and Kate Bosworth mash-up. (Even people who seem to have this body type don't really look like that. Find out Why "Fitspiration" Instagram Posts Aren't Always Inspiring.)
But perhaps the most surprising part of the experiment wasn't so much what the artists did do but rather what they didn't. Even though they were allowed to change any aspect of the woman, including her face, hair, clothing, and coloring, most stayed relatively close to her original look, waist and chest size aside. The Netherlands gave her a pair of kicky black boots and Ukraine changed her bra and panty set to red. Yet overall it seemed to reinforce the Western ideal of lighter skin and eyes, a slim build, and large breasts. Even the shrinkified Chinese woman had D-cups and white skin. And while it could have less to do with cultural ideals and more to do with the technical aspects of digital alterations, scrolling through the images makes quite an impact.
"Widely held perceptions of beauty and perfection can have a deep and lasting cultural impact on both women and men," wrote the authors. "The goal of this project is to better understand potentially unrealistic standards of beauty and to see how such pressures vary around the world."
Mission accomplished...we guess.