Politics Show and Westminster Hour

Double media bursts today. The Politics Show at lunchtime are looking at the issue of airbrushed and digitally altered images and the effect they have on our sense of well-being. The Liberal Democrats have led the political field on this one – and we are calling for honesty and transparency on advertising. Altered images need to show clearly that they are just that – altered. The Royal Society of Psychiatrists has joined us in the call – for a label on these images that says whether they have been altered – and not in such tiny type as to be unreadable! The LibDem ‘Real Women’ campaign is now being backed by academics across the world as concern rises about the impact on women, men and particularly the young whose sense of well-being is diminished by the constant bombardment of perfected images which are unobtainable and unrealistic.

Then the Westminster Hour late tonight! What will the topics be? My guess is bullies and polls!

Real Women

I see that a German magazine, Brigitte, is catching up with Liberal Democrat policy. You can read here a Times Online article about the fact that this magazine has now resolved to use real women in its pages.

The Liberal Democrats, myself as Equalities Spokesperson and Jo Swinson, MP as Chair of the Policy Working Group welcome this debate widening. So many women and young people are made to feel bad by the constant drip drip of perfected images (perfected by airbrushing and retouching) that surround us on a daily basis. The LibDem policy arising from the working group and passed at last autumn’s conference would see advertisers have to inform the public whether the ad has been retouched. It’s not about stopping advertisers – it’s about introducing some honesty and transparency.

Harriet Harman airbrushing herself into another LibDem campaign

Well Harriet is having a bit of a morning of ‘me too’. I see that she is now keen to join in the Liberal Democrat campaign against airbrushing being used in advertising to produce fake images. Hurrah again!

Come on girl – keep up! You can read the article  here – but no acknowledgement that this is a Liberal Democrat campaign. We don’t mind her jumping on our very excellent campaign – but it would be nice if she acknowledged where she got the idea from!

I first proposed this as a campaign two years ago. Since when, via the LibDem Women’s Policy Group, it became LibDem policy at Conference last year and is now being ably promoted by my colleague, Jo Swinson, MP. Jo has scored an Adjournment Debate tonight in the House – so I expect Harriet wanted to demonstrate, before this debate, that she totally supports our campaign.

You can find out more about our ‘Real Women’ campaign at: www.realwomen.org

How to look good naked

Screenshot from How To Look Good NakedI have joined forces with Gok Wan and How to Look Good Naked. They contacted me before the summer recess to see if I would help with their campaign to give young people ‘body confidence’. Obviously this fitted in brilliantly with our Liberal Democrat campaign for Real Women.

We Liberal Democrats are campaigning for advertisers to have to label adverts to let readers know if and how much the photography in it has been retouched. With rocketing numbers of ever younger girls with eating disorders – we have said enough is enough. We are also campaigning for the lessons in school to contain issues like body confidence – so it obviously fitted in perfectly with what the campaigning program ‘How to look good naked’ is also doing to make women feel happy in their own skin. They have a young champion, Shona, who has a six minute slot in each program in which she takes her campaign forward particulary targeted on young women and their body image.

When I originally went into my office and one of my staff said that How to Look Good Naked had phoned – I was a bit concerned as to whether I would have to bare all for the campaign. Luckily for both you and me – this wasn’t necessary! According to the program – they approached all three parties but only the Liberal Democrats responded positively.

So – whilst I have explained to the program that campaigning and Parliamentary procedures are long-winded and demand perseverance that doesn’t fit neatly with the demands of TV – we are going to be pursuing the issue through both the program and through Parliamentary means too.

In terms of the program I have advised them to start with a No. 10 petition (as they need to garner support across the poltical spectrum and more importantly have a mandate from the people) and to encourage through the very popular program enough people to write to their own local MP – lobbying them to get involved and support the campaign.

Thank goodness I didn’t have to remove a stitch!

You can (for the moment) still catch the program online. I’m just over 30 minutes in.

My speech in the Real Women policy debate

I see Alex Folkes filmed and uploaded my speech from yesterday’s debate – so you can watch it on YouTube:

You can find out more about the policy ideas at www.realwomen.org.uk and here’s the written version of the speech (not quite as delivered – due to changes to respond to points in debate!):

Well – it’s been a great debate!

We’ve had excellent contributions on all aspects of the policy paper.

But as there is agreement on the vast majority of the paper – I must focus on the two key areas where there is some difference of view – just a bit.

And it wouldn’t be a good Liberal Democrat paper – if it didn’t cause a bit of a ruck.

We’ve had a good debate on the amendments – but I am going to urge you to vote against both.

Name blank job applications – such a simple idea.

And it doesn’t cost anything. And it removes barriers And it widens opportunity

We give children numbers to eliminate bias from examiners marking. This is the same thing.

Our constitution says that none shall be enslaved by prejudice.

This removes prejudice in its fullest sense.

Pre – judice
Pre – judging

It won’t solve everything – but it will make a step change to women and indeed, as we have heard, ethnic minorities as to who gets through to interview – after that – it’s up to you.

Based on our proposals the Department of Work and Pensions has been experimenting with some early survey work and initial results show – and I quote – there is significant discrimination.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development support out proposal on name blank employment.

As to retouching – we Liberal Democrats are more radical, braver and bolder than the warm words and good intentions of this amendment.

The preamble to our constitution says none shall be enslaved by conformity.

But if this amendment succeeds then we are condoning conformity and we are saying to the global giants
– of the food,
– the diet,
– the beauty
– and the fashion industry

we accept your values … unconditionally

It is they who have changed out culture – to the cult of thin, and the perfect and the consumer.

These industries don’t spend the billions of pounds for altruistic reasons.

And to say that we should not tackle retouching because it doesn’t solve all the problems of enhanced presentations – like breast enhancement or lighting – is like saying we shouldn’t tackle anything.

How do you eat an elephant – one step at a time?

We have to begin to push back – right here – right now.

This is a small step but a good step.

And let’s not get this out of proportion – we are talking about labelling.

The movers want cultural change – so do I – we both agree that is the answer – but how does cultural change start?

Well it’s about timing – when something reaches the point at which we have to recognise that something we thought was relatively innocent is causing so much damage we have to act

It happened with drink driving. It happened with compulsory wearing of seatbelts.

The culture changed. But it didn’t happen because of lessons in school. It took a whole package, four elements to effect that culture change: a change in regulation, a massive media campaign, education and timing.

We have the timing – because as we have heard so forcefully – so many young people are now being affected.

We have the campaign and – thanks to this proposal in this women’s policy paper – the issues around retouching are now on the agenda and have been taken up both by adult media, with articles in almost every paper in the land about the effects of retouching – and in teen mags. This is an article in a teen mag informing its young readers about airbrushing – it would never have happened if not for us.

This motion gives us the full package – that will begin to change our culture. And it does it in such a very liberal way. In a free, open and liberal society it is absolutely vital that the operations of the media and corporations are fully transparent and honest – which is currently not the case.

Lastly – the B word! – “banning”.

Conference we are not banning young people from looking at retouched ads. We are banning the global commercial giants from making millions out of targeting our under 16s with fake – fake images.

I wish the movers of the amendments were right – that developing age-appropriate lessons on body-image in schools was enough – but sadly it isn’t.

The most successful ads feed off insecurity – and what a target audience under 16s make – vulnerable to almost every bodily insecurity there is.

Today we have to decide whose side we are on?

Reject the amendments. Support the motion.