Unless you haven’t heard, the White House hosted the first United States of Women summit meeting recently. Many notable women spoke about body image in teens and youth, including Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey; but men spoke, too, including the new mayor of London Sadiq Khan. Khan announced a new policy coming up that will ban ads on public transport that promote unrealistic body standards for women. This begs the question, though: will this ban really positively impact body image in teens? The New York Times wrote an article covering the possible answers to this question.
Media definitely affects body image in teens
Let’s get this one out of the way. Multiple studies have shown that unrealistic bodies airbrushed to perfection being slapped on every surface, tv show, and magazine has a negative impact on body image in teens–it can even inspire eating disorders. While we all want a solution to this issue, many critics believe this ban will only help reinforce the current stereotypes.
Banning a type of body isn’t the way to go
Yes, models are usually very thin–but many people have that body type naturally. So, with this ban, is London looking to make a body type “bad”? While the mayor has good intentions, banning “skinny models” probably isn’t the way to go. That’s telling a whole group of people their body is wrong. The issues of body image in teens usually develop from a feeling that their body isn’t “good enough” or “perfect” like the ones they see all over the place.
Not getting rid of the judgement
Girls with body image issues often believe they’re being judged for their body. This ban isn’t getting rid of that aspect. The ads will go to an approval board and they will decide who’s body is okay to advertise, how is that any better? Someone is still deciding what “healthy” looks like and what “beautiful” looks like, so it’s strengthening the idea that someone else judges your body.
Stop promoting the “right” body type
Limiting the types of bodies exposed to teens isn’t going to solve the problem of negative body image in teens. It will only show them that there’s a specific body type that’s “right.” The solution is to show all body types. Skinny, chubby, curvy, short, tall, average–all of them. This gets rid of the idea that one body type is “right” and the rest are inferior.
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