When we flip through the latest edition of Vogue or Seventeen, we cannot help but notice unrealistic, unhealthy depictions of young women advertising the latest outfit or product from corporations like Victoria’s Secret, Abercrombie & Fitch, Dolce & Gabbana, and Juicy Couture. Subconsciously, we seek to dress and appear like these young women, yet often forget they have been perfected through Photoshop. We strive to have the perfect body, hair, and clothes they all have, but are then reminded of the reality that advertising agencies have been selling us a false image of who we should be.Wrinkle-erased, breast-augmented, stomach-slimmed, and cropped photoshopped images are plaguing our culture. They are selling unrealistic standards of beauty to our nation’s young girls and women–standards that claim young girls and women can only be happy with themselves if they dress this way, have this dress size, wear this particular makeup, and have this exact waistline. They portray the false idea that all young girls and women need to look the same and there is no need to have individuality when it comes to appearance. All of these standards are being pushed as advertising agencies, corporations, and Hollywood seek to hypersexualize our gender and promote a dress-downed view of womanhood that denigrates natural femininity.As advertising agencies and corporations are pushing these unrealistic standards of beauty, Seth Matlins, a former advertising marketer, and three House members are working to pass H.R. 4341, the Truth in Advertising Act of 2014. This legislation, sponsored by Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL-27) and cosponsored by Congresswoman Capps (D-CA-24) and Congressman Deutch (D-FL-21), would require the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to submit a report to Congress detailing a strategy and corresponding regulatory recommendations to reduce the deceptive use of photoshop in advertisements. Since the FTC has a role in protecting consumers whenever businesses engage in deceptive practices, this bill’s main supporters have resorted to this legislative strategy.
Although noble intentions lie behind this legislation, having the government step in and hold these advertising agencies accountable for their deceptive actions is not the best strategy if we want to achieve long-lasting cultural change. If we have Congress and an independent government agency do most of the work for us, we essentially limit ourselves from having the opportunity to directly put advertising agencies on a path to self-regulation that would lead to the promotion of natural beauty in advertising. Since Congress currently enjoys a 15% approval rate from the American people, why would we first turn to it when we can better hold advertising agencies accountable through the power of our own voices and modern-day technology?Grassroots activism is not only the conservative answer to erasing photoshopping in advertising. It is the best way to bring about long-lasting, positive change in our culture. It is better when We the People, not the government, pushback against advertising agencies with our message of decency by demanding them to do the right thing. We can easily achieve this change through petitions and ad campaigns. We can use YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms to raise awareness about the longstanding cultural impact of Photoshop in advertising and convey how natural beauty is a better sell than “perfected” beauty. We can especially be effective if we use these technological tools to call out advertising agencies whenever they promote false images of beauty.The media should stop reiterating the narrative that only liberals and some in Hollywood are the best experts on beauty. Songs like “Try” by Coblie Caillat and “Pretty Hurts” by Beyoncé (and by no means am I praising her) should not be the only ways of casting light on this cultural problem. Conservatives need to be reminded they too have a stake in this cause, and that they, united with other Americans, can help erase photoshopping in advertising through the power of grassroots activism.
This blog post was originally published on: Counter Cultured’s: column “Conservative Attire.”