Negative Body Image – Where does Responsibility lie?

I came across an article in the Metro UK on Monday 13th May, depicting emaciated pictures of women juxtaposed alongside similarly emaciated sketches of women. These images are part of an anti-anorexia campaign by Brazilian model agency Star Model, designed to shock viewers into a sense of reality. Using real women as models, the images were edited using Photoshop to recreate the sketches, giving them the emaciated look that is often seen in sufferers of severe anorexia.

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The fashion industry has a lot to answer for in terms of creating unrealistic ideals of super-thin (or extra-large breasted) women, although the blame does not solely lie within this industry. Children’s toys, television shows, beauty pageants… an obsession with a particular type of beauty: thin, busty, clear skin, long legs, caucasian.

Much of the issue lies in an area that is, for the most part in the Western World, beyond control. The media industry, and the ease of access to media sources via the internet, has multiplied the availablility of images. Alongside image editing software such as Photoshop, images of unrealistically thin and/or busty women can be created at the click of a mouse.

Adi Barker, a fashion photographer in Israel, has helped to make history by campaigning for a law that prohibits models with a BMI below 18.5, from working in the fashion industry in Israel. Alongside another law that requires advertisements to clearly indicate when they use airbrushing or any other computer alterations to a model, Israel has taken a step forward, leading the way in the fight against anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders by changing the cause of unrealistic images at the source.

It is easy for photographers, publishers, image editors and other people in the media industry to take a step back and state that the issue lies with the individual, not the industry. This is the easy way out. If companies can be held accountable for false advertising, then why not photographers? Why not the fashion industry? Every action has a reaction – it’s simple physics. Here’s hoping that others in the fashion industry follow the example of Adi Barker, and use their influence and power in the industry to try to change negative body images from within the industry that creates the most unrealistic, airbrushed images of women the world over.

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