Although it is not reasonable to police this sort of advertising in magazines–which are rightly protected by the First Amendment and which no one is forced to buy–public billboard or images in public places featuring extremely underweight women should be regulated the same way advertisements on billboards or images in public places for tobacco and alcohol products are by the government.
According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), 20 million women in the United States experience some form of an eating disorder.
These findings support the cause for statutes and bills to be proposed for regulating the content in advertising that is viewable in public places.
However, regulations do not apply to magazines because they are owned by private corporations and people can control what magazines they read. A person can’t control the advertising they see when they are driving on public roads or walking around in public.
That is why laws like The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act limit where and how tobacco companies can advertise. The Act specifically focuses on limiting youth exposure to tobacco ads and similar consideration should be extended into other areas of public advertising.
Another reason young women are negatively impacted by this type of advertising is because the average/ideal fashion model is a major misrepresentation of the average American woman.
According to Models.com, a fashion industry news resource website, the average Editorial/Fashion Model should weigh anywhere from 90-120 pounds and should stand between 68 and 72 inches.
However, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says the average American woman stands 63.8 inches, weighs 166.2 pounds and has a waist circumference of 37.5 inches. Fashion models aren’t a model representation of women; if anything they’re an anomaly.
These advertisements also place large amounts of pressure on young girls and women to be “thin.”. A NEDA study shows 4 out of 5 women are dissatisfied with their appearance. Another NEDA survey of girls aged 11-17 years gave them three “magic” wishes. The number one wish among the girls was to lose weight and to keep it off.
So how can we fix this problem? By creating the same laws and regulations for advertisers using half clothed and excessively thin models, as already are in place for tobacco advertisements.
The VOICE conducted a survey of 30 female and 30 male students at Mercer. The survey displays the effects of these images on the young adult population.
The students were shown 2 sets of images. The first set contained four different photos of women in bathing suits, two of which were very thin and the other two were more normal proportions. The second set of images showed the same types of women, but in groups.
The study found that 73 percent of Mercer females surveyed thought the thinner women had the most ideal body, whereas 50 percent of Mercer males surveyed thought that the thinner women were more attractive.
But when asked about which body image they would be more likely to see when they were out in public, 97 percent of females and 67 percent of males said the more normal proportioned women.
Marcia Dixson, first year Theatre Major said “I agree that there should be regulation for companies using excessively thin models because you never know what boy or girl would take away from that image and how it could potentially make them want to change their body image in a negative way.”
“It would help young girls who have eating disorders.” said first year Information Technology Major, Melvin Izaguire. “It would take away some of the pressure of having to be so thin.”
Kausalya Mannura, first year Biology Major said “It wouldn’t really matter because I don’t really feel affected by these images. I believe it’s about the mindset of the person and not the influence of the image.”
But opinions such as Mannura’s are the minority in this case. An opinion to provoke change needs to represent the majority, not the minority. Although not every single woman feels affected by very thin women in ads, the ones who do should be protected from constant exposure to them.
Since the advertising is proven to negatively affect female body image and the industry chooses not to self-regulate, it is clear they do not care about this issue. The solution is that government needs to step in and care for its people.
Some people, especially those who advocate for smaller government would argue that regulating advertisements does not lie within the scope of governmental responsibility. The government has a duty to create laws that protect its people, and legislation that stops harmful images from the eyes of kids does exactly that.
Even if the law helped just one woman, it will have served its purpose.