Norway’s equality minister is pushing for advertisers to begin disclosing when their billboards have been retouched. The goal is to create “warning labels” that will help consumers, and particularly young people, distinguished between digitally altered images and unaltered ones.
Making the connection between unrealistic images of women’s bodies in advertising and poor body image in young women, equality minister Audun Lysbakken called for a dialogue between the advertising industry and the government to create new standards around this issue.
Lysbakken said hundreds of thousands of young girls endured eating disorders while living with a distorted self-image obtained partly by hopeless comparisons with “cleaned-up” beauty ads. Women’s rights groups in North America and in Europe have long allied with psychologists and sociologists against the phenomenon.
Norway is not the only country to consider such a measure. In 2009, the UK’s Liberal Democrats called for a ban on photoshopping or retouching pictures or advertising material aimed at consumers under 16, and for a law requiring advertisers to disclose when they have used airbrushing or photoshop. Earlier this year, a L’Oreal ad and a Maybelline ad were banned in the UK for being excessively retouched.
In 2009, French MP Valerie Boyer called for a wideranging law that would require a “bold printed notice” informing consumers when images been digitally altered. It would apply not just to billboards and makeup ads, but to photos used in political campaigns and on packaging. The cost for violating the law would be up to fifty percent of the cost of the publicity campaign, a hefty fine.
“These photos can lead people to believe in a reality that does not actually exist, and have a detrimental effect on adolescents. “Many young people, particularly girls, do not know the difference between the virtual and reality, and can develop complexes from a very young age,” she said.
Boyer also made an appeal to consumer protection, likening digital enhancement to false advertising.
I”m of the opinion that media literacy is a crucial tool for understanding how our world works, akin to a basic understanding of statistics or of science. These are the terms in which our world is created for us and explained to us, and we need to be able to make sense of those terms. When it comes to young women and body image, I feel particularly strongly that media literacy can help steel consumers against the negative effects of the daily barrage of unattainable physical perfection. However, media literacy isn’t enough – young women, studies show, aspire to look like photoshopped models even when they know that photoshop has been used. So perhaps warning labels are a good idea, but they’re only part of a bigger solution.
So what do you think, readers? Would you want a Photoshop warning label on American advertising?