Today Jo Swinson of the Liberal Democrats has launched an attack on advertisers who airbrush their models to sell products to a young and impressionable audience saying, “The focus on women’s appearance has got out of hand – no-one really has perfect skin, perfect hair and a perfect figure, but women and young girls increasingly feel that nothing less than perfect will do.”
The lib dems have as a result called for a ban on all advertising aimed at children where the models have been airbrushed, and in adverts aimed at adults, for the airbrushed images to be clearly labelled as such.
Obviously an advertisement for a skin product that airbrushes their models skin are using underhand methods to sell their products, nothing in a bottle can get you the same results as computerized airbrushing, as seen in Britney Spears images advertising children’s clothing company, Candies, their clothes won’t make you look that good. But banning airbrushing does seem a bit patronizing to the young people seeing these advertisements. Anyone with any sense can see that the models used in these adverts have been edited a great deal and common sense can tell you that no one really looks like that.
The vast majority of images seen in magazines have had some sort of digital editing done to them to make them look better than reality, and any one with any sense should be able to immediately know that what they’re seeing isn’t reality. Personally, if anything were to make me insecure about the way I look it’d be a picture of someone with perfect hair, skin and body who hasn’t been airbrushed. I wouldn’t be able to dismiss her flawless skin, shiny flowing hair or cellulite free body as the work of the Photoshopper cutting inches from her stomach and bum, and her entirely natural body would still be out of my reach. When they’re airbrushed you have that safety net, knowing that it’s fake gives you a weird sort of comfort (people must be so disappointed when they see her in real life, with an extra ten pounds on her arse, cellulitey thighs, and a spot on her chin)
What I do like however is Swinson’s idea that children should be taught “media literacy” in schools, so they can see the difference between what corporations are selling them and what really is attainable. The idea that they should be protected from themselves by simply banning the adverts seems like the easy way out, the result of a half baked and ill considered plan. Teaching children to make an informed judgement about what is attainable is a skill which could actually help them, rather than assuming that the only reaction possible to these images is an overpowering insecurity about the way you look.