Verily: a women’s magazine with a ‘no Photoshop policy’ that focuses on class and modesty
WASHINGTON, D.C., February 25, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – For decades, women's magazines have used sex to sell. Whether it's convincing women they need to wear less clothes to beat out the competition, or making themselves more enticing for the sexual desires of men, these magazines have participated in the degradation of American culture.
Verily Magazine aims to change that. Last week, Verily co-founder Kara Eschbach and PR Manager and Contributing Editor Ashley Crouch discussed how their magazine – with its “no Photoshop policy” – offers a different vision of beauty for women.
For an hour, Crouch and Eschbach examined America's and the world's cultural views of beauty among women – what Crouch calls “a cult of cosmetic perfectionism” – with Michelle Easton, president of the Clare Booth Luce Institute and Angelise Schrader, who runs The Heritage Foundation's intern program. The roundtable discussion, part of the longtime Conservative Women's Network Luncheon, was cosponsored by the Clare Booth Luce Institute and The Heritage Foundation.
Crouch explained that the sexualization of women in culture – even internationally – has gone to the point where eight women elected into the Czech Parliament put themselves in sexualized positions for a 2011 pin-up calendar. "Women's political influence is growing. Why not show we are women who aren't afraid of being sexy?" said one of the women who was running for mayor in Prague.
“Of course we want to look our best, and dress well, but then it's always....'We must be desirable in a particular body type,'” said Eschbach. “The most important aspect of our romantic relationship is how much sex that we're having and how satisfying we are in bed. I think that it's an incredibly diminishing view of the way that we view sexuality and relationships.”
“It's also this narrative of being a homemaker is completely unacceptable,” said Eschbach, who worked on Wall Street before co-founding Verily.
One of the panelists pointed out that two famous women who are generally viewed in an attractive light, Kiera Knightley and Kate Winslet, were Photoshopped to be more attractive. In pictures shown during the roundtable, both women saw their breasts enlarged, and Winslet's thighs were “significantly slimmed down” for the cover of GQ.
“This isn't even what people look like,” said Eschbach.
This plays into the policies at Verily. According to Eschbach, even angles are important. “A big thing for us was never showing women in very sexualized positions. ... Even a girl is walking down the street, and [the photographer] is shooting up at her, the first thing you're encountering is her legs, and then all the way up her body, you're not seeing her as a person.”
The “no Photoshop policy” has made waves in fashion circles. Huffington Post published an article that included Verily's statement: "Whereas other magazines artificially alter images in Photoshop to achieve the so-called ideal body type or leave a maximum of three wrinkles, Verily never alters the body or face structure of the Verily models."
During the roundtable, Crouch talked about how the magazine found four non-models for its November/December issue – the last published issue of the magazine, due to costs; Verily just transitioned to an online-only publication – something Huffington Post specifically highlighted when it told readers that “the four stunning models you see below aren't models at all but rather a publicist, a writer, an advertising assistant and a sales associate, respectively.”
“Women want to feel naturally beautiful,” Eschbach stated. “We want [fashion] to be fun. We enjoy that expression of ourselves. We are seeking a lot more balance [at Verily].”
Serious issues “like the rape culture in Egypt” and “porn and the popular imagery of that and what does that really mean for us in society” are also discussed in the magazine, says Eschbach. The magazine has published at least one analysis of pornography in society by Verily's culture editor, Mary Rose Somarriba. At the time of the pornography publication, Somarriba was a Robert Novak Journalism Fellow examining “the connections between sex trafficking and pornography.”
When asked by LifeSiteNews whether the target of over-sexualized imagery is other women – women competing among women – or men for the sexual aspect of relationships, Eschbach said “a lot of the messaging” in magazines is about attracting men, “but ultimately most people want to feel like 'I look my best in whatever it is that I'm choosing to wear, and it communicates what I want to communicate.'”
Crouch said, “When it comes to women's magazines, the standard of what is beautiful is for a man. So, often, women aren't encouraged to be beautiful ... towards their own looks. ... They're often not encouraged to look beautiful in a holistic way. It's often very hypersexual – often with the innuendo, if not explicit, that their beauty is to attract and keep a man.”
When asked about how Verily looks at celebrities, Eschbach said they “shy away” from “putting people on a pedestal.” She pointed to how Emma Watson “had previously ... promoted modesty,” yet subsequently “did a cover shoot in lingerie” for Glamour.
Gabrielle Jackson, a former professional tennis player and entrepreneur with a background in conservative politics and public policy, said that “many of us have been told 'sex sells,' but we all know 'class sells.'” She asked Crouch and Eschbach about coalitions they have been part of. Crouch said they have been approached by “high school girls organizations” and organizations involved with the UN, among others.
While Verily is not a religious magazine, both Crouch and Eschbach are publicly pro-life and pro-family. Crouch is a former intern at the Luce Policy Institute, and was director of outreach and programs for the Love and Fidelity Network. Eschbach is a practicing Catholic who formerly co-hosted a show on a Catholic radio station.
The event was well-attended, with dozens of young adult women and five men.