In the United States, the average woman has 13 negative thoughts about her body in a single day (Glamour, 2014). It is also estimated that, daily, 97% of women have at least one negative thought about their body, some women experiencing up to 100 (Glamour, 2014). The way that the female body is portrayed in the media is flawed. Images on magazine covers promote perfection- flaunting an ideal figure and idea of what it means to be a woman that no real woman can ever achieve.
As much as media tells women that they should be tall, tan, and a maximum of 110 pounds, it’s simply not possible for females to conform to these standards. America proclaims to value individual differences and uniqueness, yet when it comes down to it, there’s no room for divergence. Even though these images from the media are fake, the consequences are all too real. Real women are dealing with real issues ranging from negative thoughts to eating disorders.
In countries like Israel, there is legislature in place that prevents excessive Photoshop in magazines and requires excessively altered images to be labeled. This law also places limits on the fashion industry, requiring all models to meet criteria for a healthy BMI. Meanwhile, other countries, such as Great Britain, are fighting to protect women and children and get legislature in place. In the past, the United States has tried to enact such regulation as well, but unfortunately, no federal legislation has even been put into place.
Advertising in the United States is already heavily regulated, so why are these manufactured images of femininity not controlled? . The FTC enforces “truth-in-advertising laws” that require advertisements to be “truthful, not misleading, and, when appropriate, backed by scientific evidence” (Federal Trade Commission, 2014). The FTC has control over advertisements that market all kinds of items, ranging from alcohol to tobacco to dietary supplements. These laws are put into place in order to protect consumers from products that have the potential to harm them in any way. If potentially harmful substances like alcohol are regulated, why aren’t harmful images regulated as well?
In the past, women and men alike have come to protest excessive photoshopping. Actresses like Kate Winslet have been the victim of Photoshop time and time again. Winslet, well known not only for being beautiful, but curvy, has been slimmed down and had her face digitally altered on several occasions. In the most notorious scandal, Winslet’s body was altered so much that she herself couldn’t believe what had occurred. In a cover photo she had done for GQ magazine, she estimated that her legs had been “slimmed down by about a third” and that, despite what editors had believed, she thought the original photo was perfectly fine to begin with- which it was. Women shouldn’t be told that they need to be thin to be sexy. In fact, why should anyone besides the woman herself have a say in how she is represented?
Even though there has been little action in the battle against Photoshop in the very recent past, this week Californian Seth Matlins started a petition that could change everything. The petition simply asks the FTC to “help stop advertising from hurting our kids” (Change.org, 2014). The petition wants to stop these “weapons of mass perfection” from affecting the mental health and body images of both children and adults. The petition reminds people that the goal is not to stop Photoshop all together, but rather preventing ads from “[changing] the shape, size, proportion, color, and enhance or remove the features of the people in them” (Change.org, 2014). The petition is fighting against the misrepresentation of women- a war that has been going on for years. The petition asks the FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez to put legislature into action that prevents the drastic alterations that most magazines use. The petition requires 10,000 signatures and currently has 9,999 and counting.
The demand for this type of legislature is more important now than ever. An estimated 65% of women suffer from eating disorders (Miss Representation, 2014). In addition, 53% of 13 year-old girls are unhappy with their body image, while, at the age of 17, an astounding 78% of girls don’t like their bodies (Miss Representation, 2014). Body image issues in relation to magazines are very real and, if neglected, will only continue to do more harm to the next generation of girls. They will grow up believing that they aren’t good enough and, even more concerning, that they will never be beautiful. If we don’t make the change now, what will it take? How many women will have to suffer or die before this issue will be taken seriously?
Advertising can be extremely deceptive and extremely harmful, especially in cases where target audiences don’t recognize that they are being lied to- audiences like girls under ten who don’t yet think to question that the images they are being shown. Images that are severely altered are causing harm to the way that women and girls see their bodies and, if something doesn’t change, the problem will only get worse. However, with social activism and a demand for regulation, the lies in advertising can be altered themselves to reflect the truth that all women are beautiful.