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Warning: Image Portrays Unachievable Body Stereotypes

Warning: Image Portrays Unachievable Body Stereotypes

Just last week pictures of a drastically slimmed down “plus-size” model Crystal Renn surfaced much to her surprise and anger.

If it were up to Lynne Featherstone, UK equalities minister, this image – and any air brushed media photo – would come with a health warning alerting viewers that the images are not real.

“I am very keen that children and young women should be informed about airbrushing, so they don’t fall victim to looking at an image and thinking that anyone can have a 12in waist. It is so not possible,” says Featherstone who blames air brushing for “the dreadful pressure that young people, girls and women come under to conform to completely unachievable body stereotypes.”

Featherstone has long championed for a wider array of body types in magazines and advertisements and now even argues that by not doing so these industries are breaking their own codes of conduct.

“Magazines that do retouch pictures run the risk of breaking their own code of conduct, which states they should not publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information,” she says. “Magazines regularly mislead their readers by publishing distorted images that have been secretly airbrushed and altered.”

Featherstone also says that advertising industry code standards maintain that “no advert should place children at risk of mental, physical or moral harm,” but she claims that “adverts do contain airbrushed images of unattainable beauty in magazines aimed at young teenagers” which can be damaging to young girls.

But is a warning label really going to help the self-esteem of young girls and women flipping through magazines or walking by a billboard?

Cigarettes come with a warning label too but that does little to stop smokers.
 
Will a warning label deter women and girls from buying magazines? More importantly, will a warning label deter women and girls from buying into the notion that the images they see before their eyes are actually not real at all – that they are actually often impossible to emulate?

And what does it say when image after image after image requires a health warning? Will there be any images that don’t require a warning? 

Featherstone is planning a series of meetings this fall with the fashion industry to discuss airbrushing and ways to promote a variety of body types in the media as well as help increase women’s and girl’s self-esteem.

However, is a health warning really a good solution to this problem? What do you think?

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Image by karlfrankowski used with a Creative Commons license

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155 comments

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9:28AM PST on Nov 30, 2012

Albert R. not if one is barrel chested. or something.

8:45AM PST on Nov 30, 2012

Too thin!!!

8:41AM PST on Nov 30, 2012

i have scoloisis. how do i get my momment in the sun without sob or inspirational stories and get out there in public with all the kudos?

11:17AM PDT on Sep 18, 2010

Hmm, I'm not sure. Also, think about the models who pose for these pictures, do they really want an obvious message stating that they're skin really isn't that perfect, or that they are fatter than it is displayed? I'm trying to think from both perspectives, and I doubt this would affect much, because in reality, their are some really super-duper skinny girls that we see everyday we go out. It's the truth, everyone has a different body shape. Whether an image is edited or not won't affect much because their are skinny girls in "real life" that will inspire youngsters to lose weight to "look like her".

1:04PM PDT on Aug 8, 2010

I think it is a great idea to make it compulsory for magazines to add a warning message to images that have been retouched. It will at least make some people realize that not everything they see is true. Besides, why should they be allowed to lie to our faces? After all as consumers, we deserve better.
I find it really annoying when real women are expected to look like these unreal images. I also don't understand what the obsession is with youth, or shall I say with having a youthful appearance? When did we start thinking that being mature and experienced was a bad thing? Or that having one or two wrinkles was a sign that your life was over? Who has decided that looking unnaturally thin is attractive?

11:48AM PDT on Aug 8, 2010

I really don't think this will reverse much has already been done, nor do I think it will prevent a majority of what will happen. However, it's a start. And for that I give it kudos.

7:24AM PDT on Aug 8, 2010

To be comfortable in your own body, you must ignore the starved waifs that pass for models these days. Remember, body/appearance obsession is part of their life. Doesn't need to be a part of yours.

11:36AM PDT on Aug 7, 2010

ps- I also think the obsession with face lifts is out of control. I know that it's a bit of a separate issue, but why is aging considered "ugly," especially for women? I'm in my twenties, but I don't understand why youth is so overvalued...apparently, along with computer-graphic stick figures. This is truly a distorted society...*sigh*..In some societies, being older is celebrated, but here, along with being a normal weight, it's like you turn into an "ugly" or "useless" non-person when you get old. *DON'T UNDERSTAND* So superficial and wrong.

11:29AM PDT on Aug 7, 2010

I agree that the women in the photo are freakishly thin. It is so unhealthy for young girls to want to look like this. Life is too short to live in misery for something so trivial, unattainable, and downright sick as this. Slap them wih warnings until they start taking unaltered pictures of normal "organic" people not these genetically "modified" ones. :-) And also, if they have any fake parts on their bodies, I think that should be noted too! I'm so sick of that. Men don't feel that they should get "pec" implants... why should any of us get implants? YUCK.

11:08AM PDT on Aug 7, 2010

The women in this photo are not thin, they are grossly underweight and very unhealthy. What is strange to me is that it is portrayed as attractive!!! Lean and healthy is attractive; this is gross.

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Julie M. Rodriguez Julie M. Rodriguez is an arts, green living, and political writer based in San Mateo, CA. Her work... more
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