I was really pleased to see yesterday that 2 adverts by L’Oreal had been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority after a complaint from our MP for East Dunbartonshire Jo Swinson. If you want to see the judgements in full, you can do so, here and here.
Jo complained because she felt that the adverts were misleading as the photos of Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington had been digitally manipulated. If that’s the case, then, clearly, the claims made for the comments they were promoting could not possibly be accurate. Put simply, we ordinary folk can’t airbrush our faces when we go out in the morning.
I remember Holly Willoughby once saying in an interview that she rarely let her husband see her without make up because he would say she looked tired. We’re living in a world where women are expected to conform to impossible standards. Men can’t cope with a normal face because they’re used to seeing airbrushed celebrities in magazines. You just have to watch Channel 4’s sex education shows to see that boys are growing up thinking that the enhanced breasts they’ve seen in porn movies are the norm and expecting their future girlfriends to have a similar shape. That is not an easy burden for young women to bear.
I can’t see the cosmetic industry rushing to change their practices as a result of these judgements – we just have to make sure that each and every example is highlighted. That way, hopefully everyone will see that it’s those images that have things wrong with them, not women.
Jo was all over the media yesterday, but my favourite report was this STV one, which, unfortunately, they won’t let me embed here. You wouldn’t have seen a politician use a phrase like “freaked out” in my young day – this has to be progress. And it also shows how almost everybody gets Jo’s point.
Jo herself said of the judgement:
“This ruling demonstrates that the advertising regulator is acknowledging the dishonest and misleading nature of excessive retouching. Pictures of flawless skin and super-slim bodies are all around, but they don’t reflect reality. With one in four people feeling depressed about their body, it’s time to consider how these idealised images are distorting our idea of beauty.
“Shockingly, even the ASA weren’t contractually allowed to see the pre-production photo of Julia Roberts. It shows just how ridiculous things have become when there is such fear over an unairbrushed photo that even the advertising regulator isn’t permitted to see it. Excessive airbrushing and digital manipulation techniques have become the norm, but both Christy Turlington and Julia Roberts are naturally beautiful women who don’t need retouching to look great. This ban sends a powerful message to advertisers – let’s get back to reality.”
Jo’s and Lynne Featherstone’s work for the Campaign for Body Confidence is, I think, one of the most important things we are achieving within the Government. It’s been a good week for Jo. No wonder the Americans want her.