Australia Makes Body Image History

Image from Dove's "Real Beauty" campaign

In the past week, Australia announced the first body-image initiative in the world. According to a recent article, the initiative is a voluntary code that media and modeling agencies, as well as others, can choose to adhere to.  This code includes guidelines that promote healthy body image, such as limiting the amount of altering that is done to photos, as well as not hiring ultra-thin models. By doing this the companies and agencies will be recognized as being “body image friendly.”

This initiative is just one step toward the changes that need to take place to improve how women feel about their bodies. Taking on media, according to the article, was the first part of the Butterfly Foundation’s outline in a comprehensive plan to take on poor body image. The Butterfly Foundation is an Australian eating disorder awareness and prevention group who partnered with the government on the initiative. They had also outlined the need for changes in school programs and also suggested getting communities and parents involved in implementing changing how they talk about appearance in order to promote a better body image. The Voluntary Code Initiative is one of a kind for its outlook on addressing body image: “Negative body image and associated issues of low self-esteem, poor self-confidence and eating disorders are serious health and societal issues that need to be addressed in a comprehensive way across our society.”

I think this Australian initiative is a great idea. I wish the U.S. and other countries would support something like this that could make a difference on a large scale. The initiative is voluntary which leaves room for non-compliance but just imagine what would be possible if other governments got behind something like this? Maybe we wouldn’t Photoshop already tiny models or perhaps we would require greater diversity in people used in advertising as well as greater varieties in clothing sizes.

It looks like Australia is taking a great step forward in combating media’s negative influence on women’s and men’s body image, while the U.S. or at least one of the U.S.’s leaders in the fight against body image problems is taking a step back. Recently, the New York Magazine published Dove’s casting call for models for the new add campaign, which says that they only want “real women.” It seems, however, that their definition of “real” is lacking:

YOU WILL BE PHOTOGRAPHED FOR THE CAMPAIGN IN A TOWEL!
BEAUTIFUL ARMS AND LEGS AND FACE WILL BE SHOWN!
MUST HAVE FLAWLESS SKIN, NO TATTOOS OR SCARS!
Well groomed and clean…Nice Bodies..NATURALLY, FIT Not too Curvy, Not too Athletic

Great Sparkling Personalities. Beautiful Smiles! A DOVE GIRL!!!
STYLISH AND COOL!
Beautiful HAIR & SKIN is a MUST!!!

This is a sad and frustrating development, seeing as how Dove had been a huge advocate for diversifying models as well as promoting healthy body image through their campaigns and by sponsoring camps around the country. While, this ad does not completely wipe out all the good work they have done in the past, I can’t help but feel disappointed that even companies who are supposedly committed to changing the way we think about beauty, are falling short. It seems like we have something to learn from Australia’s example.

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