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The Self-Esteem Act

55 comments | August 25th, 2011

You ever been in one of those situations where you don't know what to do, but the situation is so intolerable you know you have to do something; anything to try and make a difference?

 

Of course, that's what Off Our Chests hopes to do generally, but today and specifically, we're calling for the creation (and ultimate passage) of a bill, The Self-Esteem Act of 2011, that will require all ads and editiorial that have significantly airbrushed or photoshopped the human form to carry "Truth in Advertising" labels on them.

 

Despite the horrifying numbers detailing plummeting self-esteem amongst girls and women and the effect of our beauty culture on same, we're not suggesting that anyone needs to stop airbrushing our wrinkles, pinches, rolls, veins, inches…they just need to tell us they did it. 

 

Maybe that way, more girls and women will realize that the images we're being presented with aren't real, they may not even be ideal, they're imaginary and thus, not a standard or measure of so-called perfection to which anyone need (unless they want to) aspire…nor feel badly (unless they want to) for not meeting.

 

So we say to advertisers and editorial directors across our cultural landscape exactly the same thing we've been urging all of you and each of us to do from day one of Off Our Chests…speak your truth.

 

Truth in Advertising labels.  The Self-Esteem Act.  Please sign up (on the upper right corner of the home page) and let us know you're supportive.  And if you've any ideas at all about how we go from this conversation to legislation, about what we can do to make this a reality – one we think will save happiness and, yes, lives (7 million girls under the age of 25 suffer from eating disorders), please let us know @ TalkToUs@OffOurChests.com.  eva and seth

55 comments

  • Jelissa T.

    Posted on August 22, 2011

    This is so important.

    Report this comment

  • Her Mother

    Posted on August 22, 2011

    My daughter just turned two. It’s almost too obvious to bother mentioning that she’s the most precious and important thing in our world.

    Before she was born, my husband and I would talk about what we needed to do to nurture her to help her grow healthfully and happily. What we forgot to talk about was how we’d protect her from what we didn’t want her to be exposed to until she had a foundation through which she could process it all. Sometimes we think we’re already too late, there are so many things we see and hear just moving though our lives that can be so destructive, and that I think we’ve all become so numb to.

    Report this comment

    • OOC

      Posted on August 22, 2011

      That’s such an important distinction, Her Mother…nurturing versus protecting and where and when the line is drawn.

      Thanks for adding you voice. XO, OOC

      Report this comment

  • Jessica R

    Posted on August 22, 2011

    I had read your story about those makeup ads being taken down in England because of being so changed. It made me think about it for the 1st time, and made me mad for not having thought about it before. I have always felt so ugly after reading magazines with all those ads. It never seemed like they were supposed to be anything but real. I would like to help and have signed up.

    Report this comment

  • Shar

    Posted on August 22, 2011

    ITs about time the pedllars and pushers of the ideal idea of beauty are forced to inform us that the ideal beauty is only a figment of their warped imaginations and photoshops.the true natural beauty one is born with doesn’t need airbrushes or paints…

    Report this comment

  • Jeannie

    Posted on August 22, 2011

    Totally agree. For those that don’t think regulation is possible there is a basis for it in law. There is also self-regulatory advertising standards that have been adopted – most recently around food.

    Example:
    Photoshopping and selling an unrealistic sense of “beauty” seems to fit the definition set out by the EU below. (As usual, the US is behind the times).

    Advertising shall not cause moral or physical detriment to minors, and shall therefore comply with the following criteria for their protection:

    a. it shall not directly exhort minors to buy a product or a service by exploiting their inexperience or credulity;

    b. it shall not directly encourage minors to persuade their parents or others to purchase the goods or services being advertised;

    Report this comment

    • OOC

      Posted on August 22, 2011

      Jeannie…thank you so very much for this. We’ll be using this for sure as we go to those who can turn this from a conversation into something more enduring. X

      Report this comment

  • Heidi

    Posted on August 22, 2011

    Thank you Off Our Chests for doing this!

    Report this comment

  • Anonymous

    Posted on August 22, 2011

    I think we all need to stop blaming the media and start blaming the parents. Raise your kids right and none of this matters.

    Report this comment

    • OOC

      Posted on August 22, 2011

      Thanks, Anonymous…pretty sure we’ve not blamed anyone, but asked that we all take responsibility for our parts. All of us and each of us…

      Report this comment

    • L.M.A. in Renton, WA

      Posted on August 23, 2011

      Even if we raise our children right, there is a steady stream of perfection in every store our kids shop in. Its like saying don’t drink, but they want to try it (hopefully not, but curiosity reigns)so they are constantly bombarded with images and it is hard to shut that off, even with careful and considerate child rearing.

      Report this comment

      • seth@OOC

        Posted on August 23, 2011

        Yes, yes, it is indeed. We can’t shut it off, maybe we shouldn’t even want to try (maybe?), but we can contextualize it and try to give them the tools to make it right for themselves.

        Thanks for sharing, LMA.

        Report this comment

    • Anonymous

      Posted on August 23, 2011

      what is” raising your kids right’??try to tell a 16 year old her peers dont matter. my daughter has a constant battle to try to make her girls see the truth. Were raised in a good home, have been blessed with good health ,looks and intelegence. But the ever ending outside pressure from the “real world’ is winning. I thank God I was spared this as was my daughter. It is a fight for parents each and every day.

      Report this comment

      • OOC

        Posted on August 23, 2011

        We wouldn’t want to speak for LMA, Anonymous, but “raising your kids right” is probably a lot like your daughter’s making “her girls see the truth.”

        It’s a subjective, and appropriately so, definition of what we think is best for our kids. You may not agree with me, I may not agree with you, but the beautiful thing is – that’s okay.

        What many of us seem to agree on, is that more needs to be done to help them, and to help us parent. Because, whether we agree or not, and in our opinion, the people making those ads and raising those other kids, are also helping to raise ours.

        Thanks for being part of the conversation.

        Report this comment

    • Rob Boyte

      Posted on December 23, 2011

      This is the most sensible comment on this subject. Are you portraying young women as idiots? Even my generation was educated in how marketers manipulate ppl in ads. You can teach this stuff in schools.

      I noticed there were some stats about 42% of girls dieting trying to meet these standards. Aside from those few who go overboard into anorexia/bulimia (which is actually a psych condition despite advertising) the real figures now are that most ppl are overweight to obese. So getting girls to exercise and eat right could be an asset and maybe get that other 58% to diet as well.

      I hope this tempest in a teapot goes nowhere. There are other issues right now with self-esteem that need to be solved, such as my 42-year-old daughter who has been unemployed for two years with no job prospect in sight.

      Report this comment

  • Kelly

    Posted on August 22, 2011

  • laurenne

    Posted on August 22, 2011

    I LOVE this idea a lot a lot a lot. What if they had to put a thumbnail of the ‘before’ picture in every ad?! EVERY AD. I even think all the retouching they do to cars is false advertising.

    Report this comment

  • Anonymous

    Posted on August 23, 2011

    As the mother of an athletic 4″11″ 65lb 10 year old girl who told me she thought her “thighs were fat” & a 16 year old girl (where do I start with her body image issues?) I fully appreciate the importance of this & totally support it!

    Report this comment

    • OOC

      Posted on August 23, 2011

      Thanks so much, Anonymous. Where do you think your girls are getting their messages from? Obviously the media they consume is part of it, but do their peers’ opinions play a big role too? How do you deal with it all as a parent? Not. Easy. Thaks for sharing…

      Report this comment

  • L.M.A. in Renton, WA

    Posted on August 23, 2011

    I have never joined a public forum and decided this one needs to be ‘powered up’ in our awareness and culture, so here I am. I suffer as a consumer with self doubt about my looks and body in a way that has caused me to go to the gym…sure the latter is a good thing but I should be doing it for my health, with a nice side effect of a toner body, but it is to look better…with the dream of looking like those portrayed in the media. Fat chance (no pun intended) because the women of the media/entertainment do not look like that. They are not even ‘good enough’ to be featured without tons of makeup and photoshopping so how come we have to compare ourselves to that? Sadly, we do. Fess up, advertisers, and do the right thing. There are disclaimers on everything else, why not beauty?

    Report this comment

  • Karen

    Posted on August 23, 2011

    Awesome Idea, Hope it comes to pass!!!!

    Report this comment

  • C.K.C. from Austin, Texas

    Posted on August 23, 2011

    I whole-heartedly agree with your mission. I applaud Dove for their past attempts to tackle this issue through their self-esteem workshops for girls. I am not certain if the drive is still behind the Dove campaign, as I haven’t seen anything come out of them for a while now. However, I, for one, would like to issue a challenge to Off Our Chests to approach Oprah, in regard to her “O” magazine cover. As an outspoken champion of self-esteem and self-acceptance for decades, she negates all of her preaching by allowing her magazine cover image to be photoshopped to perfection, including appearing much slimmer than reality. Although not an Oprah fan, I would like to see her step up and practice what she preaches by presenting a cover that is a realistic portrayal. Until our actions match our words, neither we nor our children will truly accept ourselves.

    Report this comment

    • OOC

      Posted on August 23, 2011

      That’s really interesting, C.K.C. And you couldn’t be more right (in our opinion) “until our actions match our words, neither we nor our children will truly accept ourselves”…until them, we’re all lying at least a little bit. Thx, and XO, OOC

      Report this comment

  • Anonymous

    Posted on August 23, 2011

    This is a good concept and I support it. It should be mandatory across our culture to be truthful. Sadly no so much any more. But in addition to this specific topic, we also need to make the “village” work to get parents to treat their little girls like LITTLE girls, particularly in their dress. I didn’t get a manicure until I was 13. Didn’t wear “sexy” clothes until at least 15. I find it disturbing and dangerous when I see 3 and 4 year olds with nail polish, cropped tops that show their bellies and little pumps with heels on. Parents are setting their daughters up to be sexualized so early that they will never find themselves or who they are first. I see it as a form of child abuse. So, yes, making the media responsible for what it does through truth is a good thing but it isn’t the solution. Parents, through the support of society, by making it socially unacceptable, need to slow down and stop making their daughters little pop stars. We need to slow it ALL down for the sake of our kids–cell phone, lap top, ipads, movies themes more appropriate for adults, grown up clothes, music, makeup –all of it off limits to kids until they have played in the sandbox. What happened to the parental response “you’re not old enough for that yet” or “you have to wait until you are older” ?
    It may already be too late. We need truth and responsibility in advertising but more, we need it at home.

    Report this comment

  • Elizabeth Towns

    Posted on August 23, 2011

    I have been promoting this among the young girls in my church and community. I am in. I love it, I support it, I resemble this, and I will actively promote this effort. The Self Esteem Act rocks.

    Report this comment

  • MCS

    Posted on August 23, 2011

    COUNT ME IN ALSO.

    Report this comment

  • Momma

    Posted on August 23, 2011

    When I read comments about how it’s parents’ fault for not teaching their kids how to think critically, I want to teach my children to kick hard. My husband and I teach my children as well and as often as we can. To blame parents for all the things our children think and do, is as inane as blaming the media for all those same things.

    Report this comment

    • Seth @ OOC

      Posted on August 25, 2011

      We could not agree with you more Momma. There’s a crazy blame game going on out there, and as we’ve said (in our opinion) it’s not anybody’s fault, it’s everybody’s fault. Thanks for sharing your voice…we hear you. Xo

      Report this comment

  • Caley Philipps

    Posted on August 23, 2011

    Love this! I’m totally in!

    When I work with clients to build self-esteem, lesson #1 is learning to look at what we DO have instead of focusing on what we don’t. The more we get to know ourselves, our strengths, the way our bodies respond to things, how we handle stress, and how we survive- the stronger, more confident, we feel.

    It occurred to me while reading your post that the same concept is true with physical beauty- when we focus on what we do have, our best traits, and bring attention to them we feel and look beautiful…. It’s not about changing what we have or having something different- it’s about learning to embrace, accentuate, and see the beauty in each of us.

    Report this comment

  • Melinda

    Posted on August 24, 2011

    The way my mind is racing, I think I could write a book on this subject, but I won’t, at least not here, not now. *smile*
    Instead I’ll stick with commentary:
    First off, the point is excellent, I just have trouble with the name Self-Esteem Act and the connection to specifically girls. Self-esteem issues cross all genders — and — inclusion on teaching the boys “girls aren’t supposed to look like that, don’t really look like that and you need to stop wishing they looked like that…” is important too. I’d prefer something like “Real Truth, Real Beauty” which just came off the top of my head.

    Secondly, I was a child born to a naturally beautiful mother, a head-turner and it wasn’t easy. And she engaged in all the things to pamper it — bi-weekly manicures, weekly salon visits, gorgeous clothes, etc.. I hated shopping because all I wanted to do was let my long hair fly and run through the woods. I felt okay but…I wasn’t okay — a wild child was not going to find herself a decent husband (circa 50′s thru early 70′s). I went to charm school, modeled as a child (kicking and screaming about it) and ran off to the woods every chance I could, sometimes even sneaking out at night.

    Somewhere along the way the “beauty factor”, not the “be yourself” factor won out. I really began to buy into the social and media pressure too. I went so far as to get silicone implants in the 70′s because a doctor, in cahoots with his plastic surgeon buddy, told me it would be “good for you.” He said “You’re too young and beautiful to have ptotic breasts.” The me that happily played in the woods would have said “pish posh” to that but the me who had succumbed saved every dime I had to get that surgery, a surgery that resulted in years and years of my being sick from leakage, in 13 surgeries over a 20 year period.

    I could go on but …
    Rather I will say we need to stop BLAMING as it only causes rationalizing excuses and reactionary aggression. Looking for the CAUSES is important so we can rationally and lovingly deal with the EFFECTS.

    Demanding truth in advertising? Absolutely! After I was done with my own modeling stint as a young woman (which I quit as I could not stand the shallowness of that world), I worked as an advertising copyrighter. When my children were little and watching their Saturday morning cartoons the would inevitably run into the kitchen and say “Mama! Mama! I just have to have a …” whatever it was they’d just seen advertised. My reply was “Do you know how much money someone was paid to get you to do just exactly what you just did?” Was I raising little cynics? No, I don’t think so. As their conceptual understanding grew, I told them how there are psychologists hired whose sole job was to oversee the copy and make recommendations on how to get people to buy. My goal was to teach my kids to think for themselves and to research a product or way of life before they fall for it and buy it. And, I quit the advertising world too — the dishonesty turned my stomach.

    Who is responsible for teaching our youth the truth? Parents AND society. I wish the best to this movement (keep putting the pressure on the media!) and all those who put efforts forth in teaching our youth that beauty is on the inside, beauty, in you own way, is who you are. Making wise and strong life decisions does not come from manicured nails and high heels — it comes from a strong character.

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  • Chibi Jeebs

    Posted on August 24, 2011

    I’m SO in – sharing this everywhere I can!

    Report this comment

  • Lorrie

    Posted on August 25, 2011

    Love it! Let’s make this easier for our daughters, a legacy

    Report this comment

  • DoryH.

    Posted on August 26, 2011

    I love what you’re trying to do, but do you really think this has any real chance to become a required action and law?

    Report this comment

    • OOC

      Posted on August 26, 2011

      Hey, DoryH. thank you for writing – and for loving what we’re doing.

      YOur question’s a good and fair one. Do we think there’s a high likelihood of this happening? No, we do not think the odds are in our favor, nor the favor of the girls and women we’re trying to help serve with and through The Self Esteem Act.

      So while we know it’s an uphill battle, we don’t think doing nothing’s an option, and we know doing nothing won’t solve a thing. So we’re going to try and we’ll see what happens ad what we can do. We need all the support we can get, so if you’re inclined to…please do.

      Thanks for asking, XO

      Report this comment

  • Dee Caldwell

    Posted on August 26, 2011

    Please count me in too. I am proud to support this.

    Report this comment

  • J.S.M.

    Posted on October 10, 2011

    I fully support this Act. I’m so glad that someone is finally standing up to this serious self-esteem problem that has become much more than a minor issue among women and girls. I sincerely hope that this Act gets passed, because I believe that would be one giant step towards a more self-confident, healthy world.

    Report this comment

  • James N

    Posted on November 8, 2011

    You need to spend time on your campaign addressing the standards of masculinity and beauty being presented to boys as well. This is not a gender specific issue, nor should it be approached as such. You have another target audience available. Many boys (LGBTQ or not), myself included, feel that photoshopping and airbrushing have just as dramatic an effect on us as on young girls. Think of all of the products/media outlets (Sports Illustrated, GQ, protein shake companies, home gym companies, and even clothing brands that feature male models) that abuse photoshopping to encourage unrealistic expectations for young men as well. Please keep this in mind as you move forward. This is not simply an issue pertaining to women.

    Report this comment

    • Seth@OOC

      Posted on November 8, 2011

      James, you’re of course 100% right. The data shows this is far from limited to girls and women, and that in fact the rate of decline is faster (these days) for boys and men…if only because it’s starting from a smaller place and base.

      Not sure if you know Hugo Schwyzer and his work, but he’s written about this with a far greater clarity and eloquence than we can. You can find him at http://www.hugoschwyzer.net/.

      While our articulation of the Act focuses on girls and women, its benefits are less limited than our words…something we also make clear whenever we speak about it. As a brand and site, however, our focus is on girls and women, but this does not diminish your point at all.

      Thanks for making it.

      Report this comment

  • Dan

    Posted on December 18, 2011

    Hello everyone.

    I`m a photography student and a stock photographer.
    By passing this act, many photographers will spend just more time with make up , playing with light, different kinds of tapes, clothespins, etc.

    Government is not someone who should decide something like that!

    Just watch this,
    http://kelbytv.com/thegrid/2011/12/01/the-grid-episode-34/

    Report this comment

    • OffOurChests

      Posted on December 18, 2011

      Dan, thanks for this. Our take on your POV is really two-fold, and for what it’s worth…

      First, we want to make sure you understand we’re not saying anyone should stop photoshopping – they should just tell us when they have. If this transparency alone is enough to dissuade people form doing it…than maybe they shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. We’d also add, that with very (very) few exceptions, the Truth-in-Advertising labeling will not be a matter of photographer’s decisions but of their clients’.

      Whether or not this should be a governmental responsibility, is probably the most common criticism we get of The Self Esteem Act. We wish we didn’t think it was necessary for government to intervene. While no one’s asked us, here @OOC HQ, we want a government that’s as small as possible but as big as necessary. Similarly, we want government to participate in our lives as little as possible but as much as necessary – and when necessary. We think this is one of those times, and is exactly what the FTC is for. Let us know why you disagree. Thanks again, OOC

      Report this comment

    • Lilianne

      Posted on May 9, 2012

      It doesn’t matter. Would you rather have girls killing themselves for a look than waste a little time on a model?

      Report this comment

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