It almost feels cliché to point out that advertisements that project the “perfect” body image can be harmful to the viewer – especially to teens. This is something we all know, right?
Except that the effects of these ads are real. Studies have shown that adolescents with a negative body image are at higher risk for anxiety, eating disorders, depression and even suicide; and a key factor driving negative self-image are the unrealistic and unattainable standards of beauty promulgated in media and advertising.
That’s why CVS should be applauded for its recent decision to stop “‘materially’ altering the beauty imagery in its marketing materials that appear in its stores and on its websites and social media channels.” The policy change will apply not just to marketing materials CVS produces itself, but the chain is “also asking brand partners—including Revlon, L’Oréal and Johnson & Johnson—to join the effort,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
The #MeToo movement has been a powerful tool in calling attention to the everyday sexism and sexual objectification that pervades the entertainment industry, and other industries, too. But so far, the movement does not appear to have touched the advertising industry, where young women and girls continue to be sexualized and objectified, Photoshopped and airbrushed so that they are barely recognizable, and then trotted out in retail outlets, magazines, and billboards as the standard of beauty all women must strive to attain.
Eighty percent of women say the images of women in the media makes them feel insecure, and between 2005 and 2014, rates of teen depression went up significantly, and three-fourths of those teens suffering from depression were girls.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, consider that an average girl sees up to 400 photos a day, and ask yourself what words those photos are communicating? “You’re not good enough,” “You’re not thin enough,” “You’re not sexy enough,” “You’re not pretty enough,” “Your skin will never be this clear,” “Your hair will never look this good…” But if you buy this facial cleanser, this mascara, this concealer, this hair product; maybe, just maybe you can get close. That's a lot of unattainable beauty pressure for a girl to take on.
The numbers tell the story: Eighty percent of women say the images of women in the media makes them feel insecure, and between 2005 and 2014, rates of teen depression went up significantly, and three-fourths of those teens suffering from depression were girls.
Girls we’ve spoken with who were as young as age 7 did not realize that these beauty ads were created to harm and manipulate them. CVS is helping alleviate this pressure and good for them.
In the ‘80s, photo retouching was not very common and was costly for advertisers. Beauty ideals were more attainable then. When Photoshop became popular, so did the unattainable standards of beauty. Body image ideals became fictional and terrorized millions of girls and women as did the Photoshop beauty ideal. Glossy, pore-less skin became the standard and no one could have this alien skin or spider-leg eyelashes like the photos unless they were computer generated people.
It is our hope that CVS's heroic move will inspire more corporations to be kind and considerate to our girls. Let’s have more corporations choose people to represent their brands who are genuinely healthy and refrain from using glaring lights to hide true age and imperfections. We all have imperfections. Those imperfections are what makes us unique and beautiful.
We are not plastic automatons or cardboard cut-outs, we are human; and girls deserve to see human beauty celebrated in all of its various shapes, sizes and colors.
CVS will reap the benefit from their noble act because women and girls can vote for them by buying their products.