76% of teenage girls choose an image that is thinner than themselves as their ideal
68% of 15 year old girls are on a diet

The Federal Youth Minister, Kate Ellis has launched a new government initiative aimed at addressing the issues that surround using scrawny models on the catwalk and in magazines.

This new Voluntary Industry Code of Conduct on Body Image was developed by the National Advisory Group on Body Image and provides a list of best practice principles to guide professionals in the media, advertising and fashion industries about body image.

It is hoped that these measures will take the pressure off young people to emulate the emaciated models that they see in the media and in turn help reduce the number of eating disorders among our youth.

By investing $500,000 in an education program with the eating disorder group The Butterfly Foundation, the government hopes to reach teenagers and help them develop a positive body image by educating them in media literacy and self esteem.

Eating Disorder expert and Generation Next speaker Melinda Hutchings that advises comments such as “you look great in that”, “you’re looking so much better”, “you haven’t put on that much weight” make the person feel as though they have put on weight. Similarly, if you know someone who is struggling with anorexia, don’t ‘reassure’ them that they are thin. You cannot win by placing value – positive or negative – on someone’s weight.

The new Body Image Friendly award’s  logo has a tick is similar to the Heart Foundation’s tick of healthy foods. It will be presented to those in the media, advertising and fashion industry who are responsible enough to stop the glamorisation of very thin women and start presenting young people with positive role models in the form of models who look healthy and better reflect the size (12) of the average woman on the street.

The new code of conduct has suggested that the media and fashion industry adhere to the certain guidelines, and although they are not compulsory, Ms Kate Ellis believes many in the fashion industry will embrace this new initiative.

“I am calling on industry professionals to move beyond the ‘business as usual’ approach and take real action to promote positive body image,” Ms Ellis said.

“I am asking industry to embrace this Code and to work in partnership with Government and the community to integrate the goals of the Code into their business practices”.

The code of conduct guidelines include:

  • Not running advertisements for rapid weight loss, cosmetic surgery, excessive exercise or other commercials that may promote a negative body image
  • Only using models aged 16 or older to model adult clothes, both on catwalks and in print
  • Refraining from using models with a low body mass index (BMI) and who are very thin or male models who are excessively muscular
  • Disclosing when images have been retouched and refraining from enhancing photographs in a way that changes a person’s body shape, for example, lengthening their legs or trimming their waist, or removing freckles, lines and other distinguishing marks
  • Stocking clothing in a wide variety of sizes in shops to reflect the demand from customers, and
  • Using a broad range of body shapes, sizes and ethnicities in editorial and advertising.

Ms Ellis said “body image is an issue that we must take seriously because it is affecting the health and happiness of substantial sections of our community,” She added. “It will empower consumers to tell the fashion, beauty, media and modelling industries what they want and provide greater choice.”

As a show of support for the code of conduct, several leading women’s and girl’s publications have pledged their support including The Australian Women’s Weekly and Girlfriend.

“In the spirit of the code of conduct, The Weekly undertakes to identify photographs of women that have been digitally altered,” said the Australian Women’s Weekly editor Helen McCabe.

“I am proud to be taking a leading role in what is going to be a gradual process for the industry” she said.

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.

Source: Kate Ellis, Federal Minister for Youth