From the “too long for a tweet” department:
I just finished Adam Wray‘s powerful Fashion REDEFined original article “With Great Power: Seth Matlins on how Advertising can Shift Culture for the Better.”
It’s about Seth Matlins‘ efforts to change how advertisements featuring too-skinny and Photoshopped models body shame girls and women (men too, by the way).
Here’s a useful except from Matlins:
This practice, these ads, cause and contribute to an array of mental health issues, emotional health issues, and physical health issues that include stress, anxiety, depression, self-harm, self-hate. At the most extreme end they contribute to eating disorders, which in turn contribute to the death of more people than any other known mental illness, at least domestically. What we know from the data is that as kids grow up, the more of these ads they see, the less they like themselves.
What we know is 53% of 13-year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies. By the time they’re 17, 53% becomes 78%, so roughly a 50% increase. When they’re adults, 91% of women will not like themselves, will not like something about their bodies. Women on average have 13 thoughts of self-hate every single day. We know that these ads, and ads like these, have a causal and contributory effect because of pleas from the American Medical Association, the National Institute of Health, the Eating Disorder Coalition, and tens of thousands of doctors, mental and physical, educators, psychologists, health care providers, to say nothing of the governments of France, Israel, and Australia, who have urged advertisers to act on the links between what we consider deceptive and false ad practices and negative health consequences. And yet to date, by and large, and certainly at scale, nobody has.
I wish that the numbers in the second paragraph were stunning or surprising, but they aren’t. What they are, however, is infuriating.
My one critique of the article — and the reason for this short post — is that blame for this sort of body shaming doesn’t only lie with advertisers and marketers.
The entertainment industry also propagates unrealistic body images for females and males alike, and let’s not forget all the magazines and websites featuring photoshopped bodies on covers and internal pages.
It’s not just the ads.
As the father of a 15 year old girl and an 11 year old boy (a teen and a tween), I’m hyper-conscious of these images, but aside from trying (often vainly) to restrict their media access there’s only so much my wife and I can do.
So I celebrate Matlins’ efforts.
You don’t have to be a parent to find this article compelling, but if you ARE a parent, particularly to a teen girl, then this is required reading, folks. It’ll be on the final.
Along these lines, high up on my “to read this summer” list is Nancy Jo Sales’ American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers, although I’ll confess that I’m a bit afraid to read it, as I think I’ll feel the way I felt after seeing Schindler’s List for the first time.