Concerned Parents Look To Pass The 'Self-Esteem Act'

When it comes to regulating the digital manipulation of photographs, we've heard from the French Parliament and British lawmakers. Now there's a push for anti-Photoshop laws in the United States.

Off Our Chests, a user-generated women's magazine and apparel brand founded by former CAA exec Seth Matlins and wife Eva Matlins, is trying to secure legislation that will force advertisements and editorials to attach disclaimers to any images of "the human form" that have been airbrushed or photoshopped in a significant way. The "Self-Esteem Act" — first announced in August, on the heels of a British MP's campaign to have L'Oreal ads featuring enhanced images of Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington pulled — aims to raise awareness about the unrealistic physical ideal created by digitally altered images and its potentially damaging effects on young women.

"We can't ignore that our beauty culture is having wildly negative effects on girls and women," says Eva Matlins. Speaking about her own children, she continues:

"Real, serious, and enduring problems occur when we don't recognize that the images and ideals of the human form being presented in the media are setting unrealistic expectations and standards for our country's female population. Our daughter is five and our son is four, and they're going to start seeing these ads and depictions soon. We want them to be contextualized each and every time they see one, just like a pack of cigarettes."

A quick glance at statistics gathered by the Dove Self-Esteem Fund reveals that, for young girls, the effects of ultra-glossed and idealized images in popular media can be just as negative and lingering as cigarette smoke. According to the report, 71% of girls with low self-esteem feel that their appearance "doesn't measure up, including not feeling pretty enough, thin enough or stylish enough or trendy enough," which, coupled with the fact that 80% of adult women polled said images of women on TV and in movies, magazines, and ads make them feel insecure about their own appearance, was impetus enough for the Matlins to get involved.

Seth Matlins explains,

"These numbers show that we've got a societal problem, the consequences of which are having serious effects on individual happiness and well-being, economic productivity, and an astounding number of eating disorder deaths each year. When generations of women compare themselves to images, ideals and standards that are unattainable, when generations of men are taught to believe that's what people should look like, the evidence for action and change is morally incontrovertible."

A question remains as to how specific these "warning labels" would be. Is it enough for advertisers to simply stamp a ‘tampered with' label on each doctored image? Or, just as cigarette labels recite a litany of all the horrible consequences of smoking, would airbrushed pictures now come riddled with arrows pointing to slimmed thighs, shaded breasts, or smoothed wrinkles of the feature model?

The other question, of course, is whether magazines and advertisers will be comfortable revealing just how much tampering goes on. And what about stars complicit in the deception, like Demi Moore, Kim Kardashian, or Madonna? These digitally pruned celebs set a fictional standard for beauty. By warping the human body to cartoonish proportions, popular media is warping how young women and men, already living in constant mortification of their gawky, adolescent bodies, see themselves and one another. Will this country actually make that illegal?

Off Our Chests [Official Site]

Earlier: British Lawmakers Take Stand Against Photoshop
France Proposes "Health Warning" Label On Photoshopped Images