Regulations and disclaimers for digital manipulations in advertisements
  • Petitioned U.S. Government

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U.S. Government

Regulations and disclaimers for digital manipulations in advertisements

    1. Jessica Sparks
    2. Petition by

      Jessica Sparks

      San Diego, CA

The Digital manipulation of models bodies in advertisements causes low self-esteem in men and women of all ages, can cause eating disorders and gives consumers false expectations which can be extremely damaging.

The Journal of Health and Social Behavior stated in an article entitled, “Concern with Appearance, Health Beliefs and Eating habits” that “Our society places demands on individuals to be concerned with appearance.” In mascara ads, the eyelashes are all digitally enhanced, in make-up ads the models are so touched up until no flaws are present - not even the pores, and in clothing ads, companies like H&M can switch bodies, lengthen or shorten limbs and even use computer generated bodies with real heads for every picture. Most of these enhancements are done without the models’ knowledge and often without the knowledge of the celebrities that grace the covers of magazines. Kate Winslet spoke out when her legs were digitally altered for the cover of GQ magazine. Winslet said, "I was pretty proud of how my legs actually looked in the real picture.” She says she spoke out because "it just was important to me to let people know that digital retouching happens all the time. It's probably happened to just about every other well-known actress on the face of the planet."
This problem has gained more and more attention over the past few years. The AMA, American Medical Association, in June of last year formally denounced retouching pictures and asked ad agencies to consider setting stricter guidelines for how photos are manipulated before becoming advertisements. AMA board member Barbara McAneny said, “We must stop exposing impressionable children and teenagers to advertisements portraying models with body types only attainable with the help of photo editing software.”
The National Eating Disorders Association estimates that 81% of 10-year-old girls are afraid of being fat. Weight gain around the age of ten is not only perfectly normal, it’s healthy. According to the “Growth of Children in Height and Weight” in The American Journal of Psychology, Girls ages 11-13 gain about 15 pounds of fat-free mass and girls on average gain more fat than boys during puberty. Weight gain is completely natural but the media is so fixated on body perfection that little girls have grown up believing that those perfect bodies on the magazine cover are what they should look like. This idea of body perfection very often results in eating disorders in adolescents. Think of the difference that can be made in those numbers if more people were aware of the digital enhancements in ads. This idea of inadequacy because of unrealistic bodies represented in advertisements also helps promote low self-esteem.
When older women are represented in ads where they are digitally altered to have the flawless skin of a young woman, it encourages older viewers to engage in all sorts of chemical and surgical enhancements. In a NYT article on health written May 26, 2011 stated “We have triggered a weird, collective, late-onset body dysmorphia. What’s worse is that our anxieties about aging have trickled into our children’s generation, so that the mantra about cosmetic procedures even among some 30-year-olds is “intervention early and often.” The total amount of cosmetic procedures in 2011, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons 2011 Plastic Surgery Statistics report, was 13,828,726, which is almost the entire population of Guatemala.
What can be done to solve this problem that everyone sees but most ignore? There needs to be restrictions and disclaimers on advertisements that have been digitally manipulated. But, will the label make enough of a difference? In the Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology, Feb2012, An article reported a social experiment to see if warning labels on magazine ads would make a difference. In a sample of 102 undergraduate women who viewed magazines with either no warning labels, generic warning labels that stated that the image had been digitally altered, or specific warning labels that stated the way in which the image had been digitally altered, participants who viewed images with a warning label reported lower levels of body dissatisfaction, than participants who viewed the same images with no warning label. The findings provide the first evidence that the use of warning labels may help to ameliorate some of the known negative effects of viewing media images that feature the thin ideal. This will work and already Australia has taken a great step forward with their Voluntary Code of Conduct on Body Image in making sure that this problem does not continue.

The Digital Manipulations done to models in advertisements are not only damaging to those who see the advertisements but those who are judged based on those advertisements. We, as a nation, are better than this. We need to all stand up for what it right for the sake of future generations and the physical and mental health of our children. Let’s be real America.

Recent signatures


    1. Reached 25 signatures


    Reasons for signing

    • Anita Kanitz STUTTGART, GERMANY
      • 11 months ago

      Feminists have identified women’s bodies as the locus of patriarchal control and power, for example in the medicalisation of reproduction and reproductive rights, physical and sexual abuse, in the sexualisation of the female body and the ‘beauty’ standards which women strive to achieve. Discuss how this process of objectification of the body may or may not work to weaken the position of women in society.

      In many cultures and historical periods women have been proud to be large--being fat was a sign of fertility, of prosperity, of the ability to survive. Even in the U.S. today, where fear of fat reigns in most sectors of the culture, some racial and ethnic groups love and enjoy large women. For example, Hawaiians often consider very large women quite beautiful, and studies show that some black women experience more body satisfaction and are less concerned with dieting, fatness, and weight fluctuations than are white women. However, the weight loss, medical, and advertising industries have an enormous impact on women across racial and ethnic boundaries. These industries all insist that white and thin is beautiful and that fatness is always a dangerous problem in need of correction. The popular notion that some communities are less influenced than others has meant that women of color in particular have a hard time being taken seriously when they have eating disorders. A black woman suffering from an eating disorder says:

      After all, don't black people prize wide hips and fleshy bodies? Isn't obesity so prevalent in our communities because it is actually accepted? Don't black women have very positive body images?...Anorexia and its kin supposedly strike only adolescent, middle- and upper-middle-class white girls...Women like me are winging it, seeking out other sisters with the same concerns, wondering if we are alone on this journey.

      Fat women daily encounter hostility and discrimination. If we are fat, health practitioners often attribute our health problems to "obesity," postpone treatment until we lose weight, accuse us of cheating if we don't, make us so ashamed of our size that we don't go for help, and make all kinds of assumptions about our emotional and psychological state ("She must have emotional problems to be so fat").

      Yet, as many of us have long suspected, it is now being acknowledged that it is cardiovascular fitness and not fatness we need to look at if we are concerned about health. Some of our ill health as fat women results from the stress of living with fat-hatred--social ridicule and hostility, isolation, financial pressures resulting from job discrimination, lack of exercise because of harassment, and, perhaps most important, the hazards of repeated dieting. Low-calorie dieting has become a national obsession. Many of us are convinced that making women afraid to be fat is a form of social control. Fear of fat keeps women preoccupied, robs us of our pride and energy, keeps us from taking up space. I don't like myself heavy, I want to feel thin, streamlined and spare, and not like a toad. We can be more relaxed about our weight

      "We need a widespread rebellion of women who are tired of worrying about their weight, who understand that weight is not a matter of health or discipline but a weapon our culture uses against us to keep us in our place and feeling small. We need to quietly say no to ridiculous weight standards, reassuring ourselves that we're good and worthwhile human beings even if we aren't a thin size, and further, to protest those standards more demonstrably, on behalf of others as well. Both decisions require a change in attitude which, while not necessarily impolite, is rather less tolerant of the everyday demeaning comments about body size that women now accept as their due. In other words, we need to begin to throw our weight around."

      A better self-image doesn't pay the rent or cook supper or prevent nuclear war. Feeling better about ourselves doesn't change the world by itself, but it can give us energy to do what we want and to work for change.

      Learning to accept and love our bodies and ourselves is an important and difficult ongoing struggle. But to change the societal values underlying body image, we need to do more than love ourselves. We need to focus our attention on the forces that drive wedges between us as women: racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, and our national obsession with size and shape. To truly create change, to create a world in which all women can make choices about our appearances for ourselves and not others, we must incorporate all women into the heart of how we see ourselves. From this expanded horizon of sisterhood, we may begin to value the lives of women who previously meant nothing to us. We may begin to realize that understanding their lives is essential to understanding our own lives and realizing our full potential as women. If we can begin to eliminate the hatred and ridicule levied against women who don't fit the ``state-of-the-art'' ideal, we can lessen the stress of ``not fitting in.'' We also open the possibility of building a social-change movement that links all women who seek a world where each of us can celebrate and delight in our physical bodies. Working together to change the attitudes and conditions that restrict us, we feel proud and more able to take control of our lives. We need each others' help to change the deeply entrenched attitudes that make us dislike our own bodies and that interfere with our relationships with other women.

    • Alain Frix CARMEL, IN
      • 12 months ago

      I have two daughters and want them to feel comfortable in their body and remain unbiased by the media depiction of manipulated body perfection.

    • Jisela Rodriguez SAN JOSE, CA
      • over 1 year ago

      Stop altering images!! It harms the youth both physically and mentally.


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