Girlguiding UK launches petition against airbrushed images

Beth Cassidy
Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Young members of Girlguiding UK have launched a petition today (4 August) urging Prime Minister David Cameron to introduce compulsory labelling of digitally altered images in magazines and adverts.

Girlguiding UK will use the petition to lobby the government to enforce tighter control on the media’s use of airbrushed images. It believes that young girls who see these images are subjected to "unrealistic pressures" which can seriously damage their self-confidence.

The last annual Girlguiding UK Girls Attitude Survey published in July 2009 revealed that out of more than 1,000 girls half of those aged 16 to 21 would consider having cosmetic surgery to change their appearance. The survey also revealed that 42 per cent of girls aged 11 to 16 have tried dieting or cutting down on certain foods to improve how they look.

Natalie Fontaine, a Girlguiding member, warned: "Most of us have no idea how significantly these pictures are altered and young girls are shocked when they realise that the images they have of celebrities and models are not a reality. We think it is really important to highlight how serious this issue has become and demand action to protect all girls and young women."

Girlguiding UK has raised concerns that the use of airbrushed models and celebrities exposes young girls to body shapes that are "unobtainable" and that a more realistic picture of women’s bodies would make a big difference to young girls’ self-esteem.

Lucie Russell, director of campaigns at mental health charity YoungMinds, echoed this. "Girls and young women need to grow up feeling good about their bodies," she said. "Airbrushed images create an environment where girls are constantly comparing themselves to something that isn’t real and can’t be achieved. It only serves to make girls and young women feel bad about who they are, rather than secure and content. Compulsory labelling will help young women to see models’ and celebrities’ bodies as they really are and not the fantasy created by the industry."

The campaign is supported by eating disorder charity Beat and equalities minister Lynne Featherstone, who is due to meet with key figures in the fashion industry in the autumn to discuss what can be done to improve young people’s body confidence. Fellow Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson has today called for the banning of airbrushed images in adverts targeting children and young people under 16.

The petition will be open for three months before being handed over to David Cameron.

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