Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Warts and All to be Saviour for Brit Teens’ Esteem

Teenage girls live in a world of comparison, insecurities and media – from the glamour of American teen hits Gossip Girl and “reality drama” the Hills to Britain’s very own Chester beauty queens on Hollyoaks. The pressure to look good impacts on every teenage girl’s esteem – but how much of this is really down to advertising airbrushing?

The Liberal Democrats yesterday launched their campaign to ban airbrushing in children’s adverts. With their latest campaign for “Real Women” it feels as if someone has been reading through Marketing Week, noticed Dove’s award winning “Campaign for Real Beauty” and saw column inches waiting to be capitalised on.

For anyone who didn’t see Channel 4 news last night, it was the battle between Annabel Brog, longstanding editor of Sugar Magazine, and Jo Swinson, the Liberal MP at the helm of this campaign.

Brog justified her corner by saying they used lots of “real girls” and that airbrushing was only used for an out-of-place hair here and a pimple there. Having interned on the magazine a few years ago (under Annabel’s leadership) I can only herald the attitude of the editorial team. They were extremely conscious of their role as an outlet for teen issues and keen to grasp the balance of being responsible without being alienating or judgemental.

Swinson suggested airbrushed advertising aimed at under 16’s should be banned - and for adults should be signposted, literally, with a flagged up commentary. Yes, this beauty is too perfect, too polished and, to be frank, too unrealistic.

But this campaign also seems to underestimate people on a grand scale.
Advertising is not the only arena where this happens and her example of Kate Winslet on GQ’s cover hardly works as an example, with under 16’s clearly not in the title’s demographic.

If airbrushing is really doing us harm why not just ban the use of airbrushing in general? Perhaps it is because we like to see attractive people? Who wants a luxury product advertised by average Jo when by its very nature it is aspirational?

What about those too thin? Too muscly? Those who have had cosmetic surgery? Or those who are genetically gifted?

Teenage girls, and boys, have rising complexes about the way they look but I fail to see how the implementation of this one thing would have any causal effect.

She wants to see girls getting more involved in physical activity and the introduction of modules at school to discuss body image, health and well-being, and media literacy. That’s a lot of pressure being put on the girls themselves – to wisen up! To get fit! To forget what they hear and read and to be themselves! To be individuals!

Surely as a teenager trying to find yourself and be comfortable in your own skin is the hardest thing. With their identification with brands they are merely playing with what is out there. Maybe this has been taken too far and the brakes need to be put on a little - but as to how much of a success I can see those classes being, I’ll bite my tongue…

Coverage in the past two day has managed to take us away from Lembitt’s ladylove and handily airbrushed the expenses drama away. Cunning Jo.

That’s “Real Women” for you.

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