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?
Image by karlfrankowski used with a Creative Commons license