Tag Archives: youth

Banning ads the answer to image obsession?

Recently, L’Oreal has had their UK ads, featuring highly airbrushed images of Julia Roberts, banned from being used in the UK (The Age also had an Australian perpective article, here). While I completely understand what the regulators are trying to counter – an obsession with youthful perfection at the expense of reality, which, many contend, has contributed to poor body image, increasing cosmetic surgery, the list goes on. As someone who grew up facing an endless barrage of these airbrushed images, I understand first hand what they are trying to stop. But is this the way to do it?

Many other companies have and will continue to produce highly airbrushed images for the advertising campaigns, in the UK and all around the rest of the world. Unless you ban airbrushing all together (and how the hell are you going to even begin to try to enforce that?!) ultimately, you’re making subjective decisions about how much is too much airbrushing. And who makes those decisions? The same problems with any kind of censorship – who decides, and how do they decide? And, more fundamentally, does this censorship achieve what those who censor are aiming to achieve?

I would argue that censoring airbrushed ads is counter-productive. Yes, advertisers are in part responding to what people want, and also setting an ideal in people’s minds about what is desirable (that which they advertise becomes desirable because they say so). But I think, in discussing censorship of ads, those arguments become background. Without advertisers telling us so, there are many many other pressures for people to look young, and perfect. And advertising is one part of that.

Unless we can move towards addressing the causes of what we value – youth, perfection, etc., then banning ads is just a bandaid over the huge, ingrained social issue. It is bigger than just advertising and simply blaming advertisers and ignoring the rest of the dynamic of the issue won’t achieve anything. Further, perhaps allowing this ad campaign to run would have left L’Oreal looking stupid. As the regulator says, the ads are obviously airbrushed. Companies can’t sell cosmetics which look to be promising more than they deliver – maybe consumers would have called the company’s bluff in this instance.

Instead of censoring advertisers, lets talk about why they might be motivated to deliver a campaign with a scary-perfect image of Julia Roberts in the first place.


Country Australia, Feminism and Reflections

I’m currently on holiday, an extended easter break, meandering through country Victoria and South Australia. Being originally from a country area in Victoria myself, this is a bit like getting back to my roots, although we’ve gone in a completely different direction from the place I grew up in.

It’s made me think about my up-bringing, and the paradoxical lack-of and abundance-of powerful female role models in country areas. Sure, there is often a lack of flexibility of gender roles in country towns, and often women are left carrying large burdens of full-time work and the bulk of the house work and parenting. I don’t want to romanticise this, and it’s a huge reason why I’m relieved to be living in a city where it’s not unusual for gender roles to be questioned and transcended (although this is still painful in cities as well). But it’s unhelpful and incorrect to generalise Australian country towns as old-fashioned places where feminism doesn’t exist.

Some of the strongest women role models I’ve known have been from country Australia, defying all of the entrenched crap that comes along with a more conservative community that you often find in country areas. Whilst they weren’t ever business leaders, or successful CEO’s, they were amazingly talented at their job, and had often got to the level they were at in defiance/in spite of the boys club that comes with most professions in these areas. I don’t mean that these professions don’t have boys clubs in the cities, or that everyone in country areas is a social conservative, but the general picture is often this way.

At the end of year 12 I remember considering the number of women in business in the town I had grown up in. I know I couldn’t think of a single woman who was in business in the town without a male business partner, and that those in any kind of business were few and far between. This is how I was encouraged to think about female role models at the time. I know now that I was often surrounded by women I respected and found inspiring, for many different reasons, because they were strong and brilliant, and were doing things they loved. Looking around these country towns I’m staying in and travelling though, I am reminded of those women, and wonder how many I am meeting and observing just like them along the way.