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.
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.
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.
For a generation of celebrities who are accustomed to the cosmetic ad standards of impossibly (and so obviously fake) long and full lashes, flawless wrinkle and pore-free skin, and thick cascades of hair that shine on like Christmas lights, the prospect of appearing as a mere mortal may be anxiety-inducing.
But you need not worry, dear celebrity. The group says that altering those common hiccups that plague us all is understandable.
“We don’t think that flyaway hairs or a zit need to trigger the Truth in Advertising labeling. And to be clear, we’re not against digital manipulation,” explains Matlins. “We’re just horrified by the epidemic crisis of self-esteem among girls and women in the U.S., and saddened by the absolute numbers who seek an ideal of physical perfection that’s neither real nor attainable.”
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