Truth in Advertising: Let’s Make Media By the People, For the People

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Originally posted at Proud2BMe. Republished with author modifications.

I’ve been mediated for as long as I can remember (most of us have), and whether I’d like to admit it or not, it has had a huge part in molding me into the woman I am today. I have come to understand and accept this but I’d like it to change, at least in terms of how it makes me feel about myself and other women and men.

When I absorb three to five thousand advertisements a day – all of which are telling me I need to be thin, tall, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, and covered in make-up (not to mention perfect) – it makes me feel like something is wrong with me; this is because I am none of those things. Yet, I am encouraged to try to adhere to such an image in order to be happy and to be fulfilled.  This is why I’m so excited about the Media and Public Health Act (MPHA). It is important to me for a lot of reasons: it can dispel unrealistic goals of beauty, raise consciousness, allow media and pop culture to be truly reflective of our society, and it would greatly improve the future of our generations, including our self-esteem.

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Most girls and women, myself included, look to the media and pop culture for instructions as to how to look, act, and feel – it has that much of an impact; it is a means of socialization. We turn to magazines, billboards, and television for guidance (even if it doesn’t seem that way). What we seldom remember is that these images are not real or accurate; they have been altered. Altered so precisely that not even pores are visible- blemishes and wrinkles are simply out of the question. This gives not only women but men as well, the idea that this image is attainable when the reality is that it is not. It makes us believe that if we keep changing, striving for such beauty, we can be fixed, valued and therefore accepted and desired. This gives to the notion that there is something wrong with us. There is nothing wrong with us.

The MPHA, although not looking to get rid of photoshopping altogether, is a huge step towards turning the detrimental effects of the practice around. It has the power to raise awareness about what exactly it is we’re consuming and it’s a perfect example of media literacy- something which we should all be familiar with;. It allows us to not only analyze what we’re absorbing, but it gives us the tools to communicate on what it is we’re demanding as more than an alternative but as what should be part of our dominant culture. If girls and women knew that pop culture imagery was altered, they’d understand that it’s unrealistic. If we began to see real women who actually look like us we’d be more confident and happy with our bodies.

In a country where 50% of 13-year-old kids are unhappy with their bodies, I’d say this is a huge issue, especially because as we age, this percentage rises. And if you think this issue on body image is exclusively for women and girls, you are mistaken: more and more it is affecting men and young boys as well. Cases of muscle dysmorphia (the need to gain weight and “bulk up” because you appear to be too small) are growing among men and boys and can lead to health risks due to do the consumption of steroids and similar products.  No one is exempt from the extremely negative effects of consuming altered, unrealistic images of bodies and lifestyles in the media.

As a young woman and an older sister I truly believe that the media must take responsibility for its actions and perpetuation of such images and ideals in order to move forward, in a positive direction. If the media’s job really is to give us what we want, then it’s time for the figureheads and media creators to listen to us. It’s time to be truthful, otherwise we’re the ones who get hurt in the process. We’re the ones with our health at risk. We’re the ones who are losing. We can still do something about it, for ourselves and future generations: we can demand that the media and advertisements do something as simple as label their work as being altered. We can ask that celebrities change their contracts so that their images won’t be altered.

This country is said to be a democracy, governed by the people, for the people; it’s time we start acting like it.

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