Will Regulating Photoshopped Ads Save Girls' Self Esteem?

Family Matters on 10.11.11
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Magazine cover girls, runway models, size-0 actresses, and Barbie dolls have long been criticized for their unrealistic portrayal of what beauty is. It's seemingly impossible to attain, and yet, it's viewed as something all women should strive for. However, what you see may not always be what you get. Sometimes, it's all an illusion, and one group wants to put a stop to it.

Jezebel is reporting that a group of parents, led by Seth and Eva Matlins, are fed up with media's portrayal of what beauty is. They're proposing legislation, called the Self Esteem Act, which would force advertisers and other outlets to fess up when they digitally alter a photo. The proposed law "aims to raise awareness about the unrealistic physical ideal created by digitally altered images and its potentially damaging effects on young women." They want to teach children, girls especially, that Hollywood's version of beauty isn't real and they shouldn't feel bad about themselves if they don't measure up.

I get what they're saying, and I'm all for it. I think anything you can do to build up a young girl's self esteem is worth the effort. But I also think that the images portrayed in the media and on TV are just a small part of what will shape a young girl's thoughts about herself. There's a lot more that needs to be taken into consideration.

The reality is there will always be someone prettier, smarter, more athletic, or more popular. Even a superstar like Rihanna, who was just named "The Sexiest Woman Alive" by Esquire Magazine, will only hold that distinction for a year until the magazine decides there's someone sexier to top their 2012 list. But there's a valuable lesson there, too. If a child grows up thinking she is better than everyone else, she will miss out on so much and most likely have a very rude awakening coming her way.

So, just like we teach our children that the magic in Harry Potter isn't real and the monsters in Where the Wild Things Are aren't real, we also need to teach them that perfection isn't real. What's important is that our children know that they will always top our list, and no one will ever knock them off.

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