Today I took a photo of myself in my undies. That's the easy part, whether you're an amateur camwhore or a zillionare Evil Patriachial Media Overlord.
(Note: I am not a professional Photoshoppeur, and these examples will not be as polished as the EPMOs' plastic women. Also I don't have access to quality lighting/wardrobe/backdrops/cameras/models/etc., so my raw material is rough as hell. But I think these pictures can still serve as a basic example of what a difference software makes.)
This is the original photo with no alteration except resizing and de-face-ification.
Here's the level of modification I'd feel okay posting on the Pervocracy - I tweaked the colors, cropped and blurred the random junk in the background, and made my skin a bit smoother, but it's still basically me. It's a little vain but I wouldn't consider it dishonest.
Okay, so the model isn't green and lumpy anymore, but she's still... you know. Not exactly ideal. At this level we're still using only the original photo, we're not importing Mary-Kate Olsen's ribcage, but we can put a little polish on her. She'll still be a "plus-size" case, but much less objectionable. This is still much less modification than your average magazine ad.
Let's face it, Three looks a little silly, because there's only so much you can do with the original pixels. The distortions get obvious (the underwear styles look funny now), and there's some defects that cannot be easily removed. If this photo was theoretically "editorial" content I'd start to have some guilt at this point, but if it was purely "artistic" or advertising I'd have absolutely no problem grafting in better parts as needed. The perfect woman is not some gestalt, she's the perfect rack plus the perfect ass plus the perfect tummy, and I have no problem using a different woman for each of those if that provides the most perfection.
Okay, so it's an unholy Frankensteinian abomination and still kinda stocky. (Mostly for lack of time.) But it's a sexy Frankensteinian abomination. A FAILF. And the part that creeps me out is that when I was turning myself into this ludicrous "ideal woman" made of four people and the Liquefy tool, I never had to question which direction I should go in to be more "ideal." I didn't have to look up reference photos or consult the breed standards; I knew, instinctually, exactly what about my body "needed" to be changed.
It's as if "woman" is a Platonic solid, every angle mathematically known, and any deviation is not an aesthetic difference, not a natural variation, but an error.
Oh, not in real life. Plenty of guys have met Step One and liked her just fine. But here's the weird part--those guys and their preferences are just as underrepresented in the media as I am. A man who thinks that fat/short/small-boobed/etc. women are sexy is going to be pretty hard up for a beer ad that caters to his preferences. This goes beyond sexism and straight into just weird.