The Sunday Times carried an article today by Marie Woolf on how the Liberal Democrat Body Confidence campaign which was founded by myself and Jo Swinson will be carried forward in government. In the coalition agreement – there is a reference to ‘responsible advertising and the commercialisation and sexualisation of children’. So it fits partly with that – but partly too – with the public health part of the agreement.
There is a growing army of programs, articles, etc because there is a growing awareness of the detriment caused. We always hear about eating disorders – but whilst there is some evidence of a connection in this regard – there are often more reasons than one for that devastating outcome. However, additionally, the constant pressure to look impossibly perfect, be like the skinny celebrities and conform to imposed stereotypes is creating a rising tide of low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and so on.
Gok Wan’s ‘How to Look Good Naked’, Susie Orbach; Erin O’Connor, Debra Bourne and Caryn Franklin’s campaign: All Walks Beyond the Catwalk; Girl Guides with their campaign on anorexia and bulimia – and many more – all recognising the pressure now applied to women, girls and coming up fast – men too – to conform to impossibly perfect images.
In the last session, Jo and I held a seminar on Body Confidence. There are so many groups out there working on this issue – because of the constant and unremitting diet of false images that is fed to us and the harm it is doing. Backed by academics and the Royal College of Psychiatrists – the campaign to make advertisements honest and transparent, teach children media literacy, get fashion schools to teach students to cut a range of sizes, encourage more and different sports for young people – found itself joining up with a whole host of work in the same direction.
That seminar was pivotal. When we saw the work and the need for a joined up push back at the fashion, beauty, food , magazine and advertising industries being fought by individual Davids against these mega Goliaths – we brought it to last Autumn’s LibDem conference as part of our new ‘Real Women’ policy paper – where it passed. It was also in our manifesto at the election.
The Conservatives too, have been very concerned about the pressure particularly on young girls – hence the inclusion of all of this in the coalition agreement.
In the autumn, we are gathering some of the key people who want to take this forward to a round table discussion on next steps. Amongst those will be representatives from: Girl Guides, YMCA, Mumsnet, All Walks Beyond the Catwalk, Susie Orbach and others.
We have no desire to impose regulation or restriction on advertisers or others – so we will be looking to work with the industries involved on a voluntary basis – in the first instance.