Cara Delevingne’s naked body has been given the go-ahead to appear on a billboard just 300 metres from a church, despite a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority that the Tom Ford advert was too close to Christ Church Spitalfields.
In the last few weeks we’ve seen massive social media backlash towards Protein World’s “Are You Beach Ready?” posters featuring a bikini-clad model to promote weight loss supplements.
A petition to remove the posters has attracted over 43,000 signatures and counting. A “Taking Back The Beach” protest photoshoot is being organised to counter the pressure on women to conform to set standards of beauty.
The outpouring of anger towards these ads reflects the frustration many people feel about the sexualisation of women, the pressure to conform to a narrowly set standard of beauty and the gross distortion of image.
It’s hugely concerning that young girls and boys are having their worldview about self-worth, beauty and value shaped by a deluge of sexualised and distorted advertising. And then there is negative impact it has on women’s perception of their own value, worth and beauty.
A study by Dove showed that more than two thirds of women suffer low confidence about their bodies because of digitally altered images. And only 4 per cent of women consider themselves beautiful. Another survey showed that over 80 per cent of women always want to lose weight and 67 per cent of women worry about their appearance more than finances, health, relationships or professional success.
This is heart-breaking.
Low self-esteem, self-loathing and poor body image can cause women to believe they are unworthy and see them strive to change themselves in order to feel confident, successful, happy and ultimately worthy. This inevitably influences relationships friendships, parenting, work and indeed every aspect of life.
In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown seeks to see women let go of who they think they’re supposed to be and embrace who they are. This is no small task in our image obsessed world, fixated on perfection and which dictates standards of beauty, happiness and success.
Brené says the greatest challenge for most of us is believing that we are worthy now. Not if we had luminous, flawless skin straighter and whiter teeth. Not when we’ve lost weight or had a spray tan.
A billboard near a church in London featuring a naked model was subject to a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) by a member of the public who said it was unacceptable the image was so close to a church.
The ASA ruled against the complaint saying it was not sexually explicit. They did say it was sexually suggestive but that a placement restriction was unnecessary because it wasn’t near a school.
We shouldn’t focus on how close this advert is to a church. Because whether it’s near a church, a supermarket, a school, the gym or an office the issue remains.
The issue is what these ads are promoting and the values they portray. And how our advertising standards reflect this. We should focus on addressing the epidemic of poor self-image, which is getting out of hand thanks in no small part to advertising that sexualises and distorts our perception of reality and beauty through digitally altered images.
Imposing yet more red tape to ensure these sorts of ads aren’t near church buildings will do nothing to tackle the issue at hand.
Our society places an unhealthy value on how we look and achieving the so-called perfect body; disregarding the wide scope of beauty found amongst humanity and the heavy hand of airbrushing to most of the images we see.
Whether advertising reflects or determines society’s values, the fact remains that we need a massive shift in our worldview. We need to actively promote a society which values a person’s character over looks, celebrates the wide, diverse and unique spectrum of beauty and empowers women to confidently walk in the truth that they are worthy and valued right now. Exactly as they are.