Jo Swinson presents dossier of evidence that media images have negative impact on body image

From a party news release:

Co-founder of the Campaign for Body Confidence and Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson has given the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) details of 172 scientific studies which show that exposure to idealised media images has a negative effect on body image for adults and children.

The portfolio of evidence gives a comprehensive overview of research examining the link between airbrushed media images and people’s dissatisfaction with their own bodies.

The Campaign for Body Confidence is calling on the ASA to amend its codes of conduct for advertisers to require airbrushed images of people to be clearly labelled.

Commenting, Jo Swinson said:

“This portfolio of evidence clearly shows the negative impact that idealised images in the media are having on children and adults alike, who are bombarded with these unrealistic and altered pictures on a daily basis.

“The media has a responsibility to protect audiences from these pressures, which can lead to low self-esteem and eating disorders.

“I hope the ASA will take this evidence into serious consideration and work with the Campaign for Body Confidence to look at how its codes of conduct could be changed.”

Commenting further, Centre of Appearance Research expert Phillippa Diedrichs, said:

“We now have two decades of research that shows that viewing ultra-thin and hyper-muscular models is harmful to people’s body image.

“We also know that showing people more realistic and diverse images of beauty can promote healthy body image and appeal to consumers.

“This is an excellent opportunity for industry, researchers, politicians and the public to work together to celebrate the beauty in all shapes, sizes and appearances.”

The portfolio of academic evidence which Jo has given to the ASA can be viewed online:

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20 Comments

  • “The media has a responsibility to protect audiences from these pressures, which can lead to low self-esteem and eating disorders”

    No, people who allow themselves to be influenced by these images have to stop being so wet.

  • Providing evidence about airbrushing and negative body image is akin the providing evidence that water is wet, it really shouldn’t be needed but I suppose anything that will help on this issue welcome.

  • I’m confused. Jeremy Browne wrote that one of the things that makes him a Liberal, was the fact that he is opposed to this kind of government interference. Maybe it’s not me who’s confused.

  • The ASA is already functioning as state censorship body – most notably by imposing blasphemy and decency laws it’s just made up. Don’t make it any worse.

  • Richard wrote –
    “No, people who allow themselves to be influenced by these images have to stop being so wet.”

    So you consider anyone, including children who falls for these marketing techniques and ad campaigns are ‘wet?
    it isn’t just the airbrushed images alone, it’s that they are combined with some very powerful psychological marketing tools. the days of the simple ad man are gone they’ve been replaced with highly qualified psychologists who spend millions to influence you into buying the latest spot cream or dieting fad
    Perhaps you could consider that the next time you buy your favourite razor or shaving foam

  • I don’t think that airbrushed images should be banned, but that any airbrushed images should have a little line or something at the top or bottom of them saying ‘this image has been computer enhanced’ or something like that.

    I don’t know about the practicalities but that would seem a fairly liberal way of dealing with the issue, and could probably be legislated to a certain extent. Simply forcing the media to inform people when the ‘media’ they use could be misleading.

  • David Worsfold 12th Nov '10 - 2:32pm

    I have always struggled with this campaign for several reasons, many of which are mentioned above. We shouldn’t, as Liberals, be looking to ban things and to be fair to Jo she isn’t asking for this. Labelling is OK but it would end up appearing on most pictures. As soon as you start to take a digital picture off a camera in RAW format and turn it into a JPG or a TIFF file you are making decisions about “enhancement”.
    I have read alot of this evidence in the past and most of the analysis of it is rather shallow. Many people who say they find images of thin/normal people (let’s leave aside the impossible debate about defining normal) make them reflect negatively on their own bodies are actually disatisfied with their bodies anyway, often because they are overweight. Given the obesity crisis is far worse than problems with excessive dieting it is probably better that we present images of thin/normal/fit people so that we can all aspire to improve ourselves.

  • @ David Worsfold

    “I have read alot of this evidence in the past and most of the analysis of it is rather shallow. Many people who say they find images of thin/normal people (let’s leave aside the impossible debate about defining normal) make them reflect negatively on their own bodies are actually disatisfied with their bodies anyway, often because they are overweight. ”

    I wonder if you have any evidence for this extremely stupid assetion?

    I guess annorexic girls are right to be concerned about being overweight?

    Airbrushed images, by their very definition are not of ‘normal people’.

    And, as usual the argument that goes against, for example, labelling images is along the lines of’well you can’t lable all computer altered images’.

    No, but you easily specifiy that images of people, for example, that have been airbrushed specifically for cosmetic beauty reasons and to slim the figures down must include labelling. It really wouldn’t be that hard to write a qualified law like that.

    It actualy makes me feel a little disturbed that you seem to think we should have airbrushed images to make fat people want to get thin.

    And there is nothing in liberalism per se, against banning certain things… depending whether or not they impact on another persons liberty. In this case, I would say airbrushed images shouldn’t be banned but they should be labelled. Any fae media, whether in visual format, written, or in sound should be easily identifiable as not real… and indeed if I was to make something up in writing about someone and presented it as fact I could be sued for libel, and if I was to say something untrue and present it as fact if it impacted on other people I could also be sued.

    “Given the obesity crisis is far worse than problems with excessive dieting ”

    Whilst obesity is certainly more prevalent than excessive dieting, there is little evidence for the assertion above. There is in fact little medical evidence linking ill health to mild obesity, and indeed I would say someone who is mildly obese is in a less concerning position medically than someone who is malnourished or annorexic.

  • Jo, your boss surely won’t be happy hearing about your disapproval of airbrushing……..doesn’t Dave like to indulge in it every now and again? I thought I’d point that out, you’ll probably want to reconsider your “principles” on the matter now.

  • .
    Britain faces huge economic threats. The economy is on the brink. There’s a sovereign debt crisis. The worst financial position for generations. Panic plans are being drawn up. All hands on deck. Britain’s on the cusp. And then – Ms Swinson wanders in with piles of research – fretting; not about jobs, not about defence cuts, not about housing evictions, not even about nuclear weapons, but about …. the airbrushing of photos!

    Is she in her own little world? Doesn’t she believe her colleagues?

    Cameron is right. There are too many MPs.

  • >Ms Swinson wanders in with piles of research – fretting; not about jobs, not about defence cuts, not about housing evictions, not even about nuclear weapons, but about …. the airbrushing of photos!

    I think it’s possible to be concerned about more than one thing at a time.

    Or do you think no other issues other than the ones you’ve listed should be raised by anybody?

    If you think MPs should only focus on important issues – who draws the line as to what is and isn’t important?

  • @Cassie

    None of the things from your very limited list. A good politician is able to persuade, a key part of which is the ability to judge the right time and receptiveness of your fellow MPs. The midst of massive spending reviews across all departments, when MPs and the government are clearly struggling to absorb and deal with the mass of information, is not the right time, especially when the need to deal with the crisis rapidly has been stressed many times.

  • Let’s see Jo present some sort of coherent plan for tackling this ‘problem’. She needs to explain precisely how she would define the offending images, who would judge whether an infraction has occurred, by what criteria, what penalties would be imposed for infraction, how much this whole system is estimated to cost, and who will pay for it.

    Until she does that this campaign remains an exercise in meaningless hand-waving.

  • >None of the things from your very limited list.

    Eh? I didn’t list anything.

  • Mark: no, they’re quite categorically not. You can’t simply wave your hands and say ‘it’s the ASA’s problem’ without properly defining the problem you want them to solve or the mechanisms by which you expect them to be solved. Every single photo that appears in any advert anywhere has been digitally manipulated to some extent, so you’re arguing over extent. If you think that it will be either trivial or cheap to apply judgement across the whole industry then you’re as clueless as Jo Swinson appears to be.

  • .
    @Mark Pack

    Your reply to IainM isn’t strictly true. Jo Swinson is calling on parliament for legislation.

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