The Propaganda of Perfectionism

A distorted ideal.

At the beginning of last spring semester, I found myself fumbling around in the cold, my numb fingers trying to work the manual settings on a Canon. I was part of HackCville’s first digital photography class, Exposure, and I was determined to get some cool shots for my first week.

As that spring semester progressed and the weather warmed, my photography skills began to improve. The images I captured became more advanced, and I realized that I now had the power to share a message with my photos.

Below is a photo essay I wrote for one of my semester projects. The pictures in it help tell a story that words alone wouldn’t quite do justice to. The power for storytelling I’ve found in photography is my biggest takeaway from Exposure, and hopefully it’s evident in the essay below.


It’s whiter teeth, tanner skin, and longer hair. It’s a smooth skinned, fit body decorated in trendy clothes. Television shows, magazines, movies, and advertisements all tell girls the same message: we can and should strive for that definition of perfection.



Its subtlety is what makes it so sinister, along with the fact that somewhere along the way we’ve stopped realizing how wrong it is for women and girls to constantly be told they’re not good enough. Because how can we ever feel like we’re enough when the media tell us over and over, in thousands of different ways, that we could be just a little closer to perfect?

Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 1.05.45 PM THE PROPAGANDA OF PERFECTIONISM.

It’s a two-fold message. One that breaks us down by showing us the ways we’re not good enough and then offers a simple solution: buy products.

Buying the right products is the easiest way to instantly look better, snag a gorgeous man, get that promotion, and be as perfect as possible.




And we need to stop buying in. But how can we blame anyone for falling prey to the easy solutions offered by enticing images? For wanting to look more like that actress in that movie? For paying attention to a game where the rules are blurry, but the outcome is clear: be thinner, prettier, more put together. Smile and be perfect.



We need to open our eyes. We need to start being less critical of the reflection in the mirror and more critical of the messages that tell us to chase impossible-to-obtain standards.

Let’s spread a message that shouts louder than the media’s, a message that beauty is not something we will buy and we are more beautiful for it.
Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 1.01.42 PM


Beautiful is summer freckles and gapped teeth, brown eyes and blue ones, skin as white as milk or as dark as cocoa. Beautiful is curly hair and straight hair, stretch marks and scars. Beautiful is a standard of mis-perfection that embraces beauty in all its wonderful sizes and shades.

But beautiful is not perfect, and it never will be. So let’s stop shedding tears for the flaws we’re told we have, and start smiling over the things that make us truly beautiful.



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