The Benefit of Ralph Lauren's Blunder

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Ralph Lauren has seen better days. This week his company has been blasted with criticism for allegedly firing a size 4 model for being "overweight" and photoshopping her into a grotesquely, impossible thin woman. Articles in the media suggest that Ralph Lauren did not intend for these photos to be used. Regardless of how it happened, the photos have raise a lot of controversy.

The model indicates that she hasn't gained a significant amount of weight during her contract at Ralph Lauren. It's likely that this could be true. But, we have to consider that this model began working with the company when she was only fifteen years old. She is now twenty-three. Perhaps the company wasn't objecting as much to her weight as to the fact that she has matured into a woman. Whose body doesn't changed over seven years, particularly from child to adult? Is this brand essentially saying that they only want teens to be the face of his clothing line? Or, teens made up to be grownups, but not actually adult women. Do you picture "teen" when you think of the Ralph Lauren brand? Was the photoshopping a way of making the model into a child again? Either way, the majority of the public is saying, "That's not okay." It's nice to know that there is an overwhelming agreement on this.

The good news about this event is that it gives us all the opportunity to discuss the media, airbrushing and what it does to society. Photoshopping happens each and every day. Almost every publication does it to varying degrees. For a fantastic illustration of this see the Dove, Evolution video, which takes an ordinary woman and creates a completely different one right before your eyes courtesy of makeup, styling and most importantly, a computer. But, most photoshopping is so slight that you can't really tell. We look at a picture without really realizing that airbrushing has taken place.

In contrast, Ralph Lauren's illustration of photoshopping was crystal clear, obvious and verging on ridiculous. So, it gives parents, teachers and women a fantastic opportunity to see with their own eyes the behind-the-scenes work.

My advice is to use this opportunity to discuss airbrushing with young men and women. Ask young adults what they think of Ralph Lauren's photo. Compare it to other magazine ads. Ask how they think the photos could be altered. Hopefully, the next time young people, women in particular, pick up a magazine, they will be more aware of the fact that airbrushing exists. Thank you Ralph Lauren (as well as other magazines) for making it painfully obvious.

Even if the photo was not intended to be released, the public reaction showed how a picture like this will be received if it does make it to the consumer. Unfortunately, the bad press has distracted from Ralph Lauren's stylish clothing and other good works.

Ralph Lauren, we are counting on you to do better next time. We know you won't let pictures like this slip by again. As you can see, we have a close eye on those who airbrush women away.

By Susan Albers, the author of Eating Mindfully and 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food