Airbrushing in Ads: Yay or Nay?

The group "Off Our Chests" wants advertisers to come clean about digital retouching.

‘Off Our Chests’ Petitions Advertisers In The Name of Self-Esteem

The Brits may have brought us crumpets with tea, John Lennon and "The Office"—but could their latest import be self-esteem for girls and women?

Earlier this year, the U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned cosmetic ads featuring Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington after Member of Parliament Jo Swinson complained that the “excessive” airbrushing in both spots created unrealistic expectations of what women could look like after using the advertised products.

The agency has also targeted brands like Yves Saint Laurent and Louis Vuitton for similar digitally-altered images that they claim contribute to a society of women who are increasingly plagued with eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and depression, the symptoms of which are now emerging at alarmingly younger ages, they contend.

QUIZ: How's Your Self-Esteem?

Inspired by the British’s proverbial foot-down on superfluous Photoshopping, consumer advocacy group Off Our Chests is aiming to bring the concept state-side, by petitioning Congress for a proposed “Self Esteem Act.” The group started the petition on change.org, where the complete terms can be viewed,  and the public can sign the petition.

There is one major point of difference between the ASA’s actions and what Off Our Chests is urging become law; instead of taking down ads, the latter simply wants a “Truth in Advertising” label mandated that states an image has been altered if the changes made significantly affect shape, size, proportion or color.

“There’s no judgment, no finger-pointing, just truth and transparency,” co-founder of Off Our Chests, Seth Matlins, tells YouBeauty. “We’re not suggesting that advertisers shouldn’t keep on doing what they’ve been doing. Just tell us you did it. And if they’re not comfortable telling us, maybe they shouldn’t do it,” adds Matlins.

Matlins founded Off Our Chests with his wife Eva, after the two became parents to now five year-old daughter EllaRose. (The couple also has a 4 year-old son, Otis.) Struck by the challenge of raising a healthy and happy girl in today’s world of airbrush-saturated images, the duo aimed to create a space where more positive messaging could occur, and where they could engage greater dialogue and maybe even social change.

MORE: Three Ways to Overcome the Media Distortion

The group’s homepage is chock full of engrossing statistics, delivered via an authentic and slightly off-the-cuff voice of reason. “Check this: some 70 percent of 12 year old girls don’t think they’re ‘pretty enough.’ 12 year-olds. Pretty enough? For who, for what? WTF?” questions one of the pages.

QUIZ: Do You Fat Talk ? Find Out for a Better Body Image.

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