by Dr Rick Kausman and his daughter Meaghan Kausman
What’s a Dad to do? As a Medical Doctor, I started working in the areas of food, eating behaviour and body image after graduating in 1988, over 25 years ago. Since that time, I have listened to tens of thousands of my patients, over thousands of boxes of tissues, share their distress about their relationship with food, their bodies and how they felt about themselves. I have learnt so much from my patients, listening as well as I could, and doing my best to support them to feel better about themselves and to treat themselves more kindly and compassionately. All against the backdrop of the burgeoning, seductive diet industry, and the ever-present “thin is best” fashion industry.
So when my 20-year-old daughter, Meaghan, came to me some 3 years ago and said she really wanted to study fashion, and that was her passion, what was I to do? Surely I had to find a way of changing her mind? But despite all I had seen professionally, maybe not. I knew she was as well-equipped as she could be to protect herself. Maybe there was much more risk in trying to push her away from what she was so determined to do? So after quite a few deep breaths, my wife and I decided to do all we could to support her decision.
Forward in time to nearly 3 years later, with Meaghan just about to finish her final year of fashion studies. It was a Friday afternoon in mid-August 2014; I had just finished giving a talk to a group of nurses in Australia’s capital city of Canberra, and I received a call from Meaghan. ”Dad, you are not going to believe what has just happened,” she said.
Meaghan told me that she had been doing an underwater photo shoot the day before and had a number of pictures taken by underwater photographer, Pip Summerville. Pip had then posted the photos on her Instagram page. One of the photos had been taken, unbeknownst to both Meaghan and Pip, by the swimwear company whose bathers Meaghan had been wearing in the shoot, and had been photoshopped. Meaghan couldn’t believe that firstly the photo had been taken without permission, and secondly, the photograph of her body had been significantly altered.
Meaghan wanted to take a stand, and wanted to post the original photo below the photoshopped one on her Instagram page. I offered to do the same on my Facebook Page. Within days, the story had gone “viral” and Meaghan was doing interviews with media all around the world. Meaghan was also offered to write a regular blog for the UK Huffington Post.
Funny how things turn out if you follow your heart!
The following is Meaghan’s story, and her post, first published in the Huffington Post UK. (The original interview we did for Channel 9 Australia can be seen at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEcY5oGBDgI&feature=youtu.be – this interview which we did on August 24, seemed to start a wave that washed over a big chunk of the world.)
Wow! What an incredible, exhilarating, eye-opening, jaw-dropping, crazy, spectacular week it has been. Nobody could have imagined that when I shared a photoshop vs. non-photoshop image to my Instagram page last week that the story would be picked up by so many different newspapers and magazines from around the world. I am so humbled by the overwhelming amount of support I have received. Thank you to everyone out there who has reached out to me and offered support or told me his or her story. But most of all I want to say thank you to my Dad, who is an unbelievable, inspiring man who taught me to love the skin I am in.
It’s not everyday that a 23-year-old fashion student from Melbourne, Australia is given such a powerful platform to share her thoughts with millions of people from around the world. And what an important issue to discuss!
When I first saw that the swimwear company had taken mine and Pip’s photo without any permission and drastically altered it, I was a little shocked. The shoot was a collaboration, meaning there was no payment or contract involved. The photo was therefore the property of Pip (photographer) and me. I wasn’t offended or upset that they didn’t like my body in particular, rather I was upset for all the women out there that society has been telling are not good enough if they are not extremely thin.
This led me to the question of “how did we get here?” It wasn’t so long ago that Marilyn Monroe was celebrated for her beautiful curvy body. Fast forward in time and we are here, where beauty is equated to being thin. How have we as a society deemed it socially acceptable to drastically alter a woman’s (or man’s) figure in order to sell a product? This to me just doesn’t seem okay. As a fashion student, I fully understand the benefits of Adobe Photoshop; it allows you to enhance an image, the colours, the contrast and the mood. However, what is not acceptable is portraying an image of a woman or man as something to aspire to, which is completely unattainable and in fact, does not exist. It’s a tough world out there! The media and some members of society unfortunately perpetuate the belief that “thinner is better”. But that’s just not true! Luckily, things are definitely shifting away from the stereotypical woman/man that society deems as “beautiful”. It is absolutely incredible to see how many like-minded people are out there ready to fight for what they believe in.
If there were one message that I would love my readers to take away from all this, would be to understand that not everything you see is real. As my Dad said on the Today Show, one day it would be terrific if photos in magazines had an asterisk at the bottom saying, “this photo has been altered”. But until then, remember that we all come in different shapes and sizes, and no matter what, we are all beautiful in our own unique and individual way. That’s what makes the human population so spectacular. There is no one quite alike.
In this body shape obsessed society, we have forgotten how much more there is to being human. A change is definitely coming, and I am honoured to be a part of the revolution.
*The first interview we did was for Channel 9 Australia and within a few weeks had received over half a million views. The YouTube link was the interview Meaghan, Pip and I did on August 24, 2014, that seemed to start a wave that washed over a big chunk of the world.
Dr Rick Kausman, MD is a medical doctor who is recognised as an Australian pioneer of the person-centred approach to wellbeing. Rick has written two books including the award-winning ‘If Not Dieting, Then What?’, and he is the creator of a number of other resources. Dr Rick is a Director of the Butterfly Foundation, and a Fellow of the Australian College of Psychological Medicine. More information about Dr Rick can be found at his web site, www.ifnotdieting.com