Open any magazine or newspaper, and you’re bombarded with images of “perfect” women, advertising everything from cars to alcohol, deodorant to face cream.
Many of these images are not realistic. As technology has advanced, adverts are ever more retouched, airbrushed and detached from reality. Spots and blemishes are removed, complexions made flawless, waists and legs made slimmer by digital liposuction. Yet these are the images that young – and ever younger – girls are aspiring to.
The pressure to conform to such a narrow ideal of beauty can lead to unhappiness and low self-esteem for many women and girls. In some cases, this can contribute to eating disorders. Last year there was a worrying 47% rise in under-18s admitted to hospital for anorexia or bulimia treatment. Cosmetic surgery trends also give cause for concern, with breast enlargements and tummy tucks up 30% last year.
Cindy Crawford famously said: “Even I don’t wake up looking like Cindy Crawford.”
We need to inject more realism into the media’s portrayal of women (and men). We should protect young boys and girls from unnecessary body image pressure, so retouching models should be banned for adverts aimed at children. For the rest, the advert should be honest and upfront about how much digital manipulation has taken place. Real-sized models should be promoted.
Young girls should be encouraged into healthy lifestyles through education, with modules on media literacy and body image alongside health and wellbeing. Current high teenage dropout rates from sport should be addressed by a wider range of exercise options at school, such as dance, yoga and aerobics.
These proposals are part of the Liberal Democrat policy paper Real Women, which also has new ideas to help women in the areas of work, family life, money and safety.
Women have enough on their plates juggling caring responsibilities with work and home life. Let’s at least take “get an impossibly perfect body” off the to-do list.