A small step for womankind

Dr Emma Rush, a lecturer in ethics and philosophy at Charles Sturt University (CSU) writes
“It would be great to think Australia might follow suit with a similar small but significant step forward in making the lives of women and girls happier and healthier.
“Advertising in Britain is largely self-regulated, as it is in Australia. The onus is on members of the general community to complain if they are unhappy with the content of advertisements.”
British politician Jo Swinson complained that two cosmetics ads were misleading, and when it considered the cases at its July meeting, the British Advertising Standards Authority agreed with the MP.
“We in Australia should now test this precedent with our counterpart body, the Advertising Standards Bureau.
“Item 1.2 of the Australian Association of National Advertisers Code of Ethics, administered by the Bureau, states that: ‘Advertising or Marketing Communications shall not be misleading or deceptive or be likely to mislead or deceive’.
“So send those complaints in.
“But be prepared for some (advertising industry and associated) people, who will claim that the real problem is not advertising – it’s girls and women. Everyone knows that advertising presents highly manufactured, largely unrealistic, images of women. So why do women and girls still feel pressure to live up to such images? They should just ‘get over it’.
“This ignores the role that social norms play in all of our lives. Few women and girls live in isolation from advertising and the rest of us feel it pinch on a regular basis. For some, the pinch is tedious but manageable, for others, and particularly for adolescent girls, it is associated with more serious problems of low self-esteem and depression.
“So, no, industry and those associated with it, you get over it. Imagine how different the world would be if the so-called ‘creative’ industries not only stopped extreme airbrushing but actually used the full diversity of humanity in their images.
“Having to work with the endless variability of real human beings might even promote more genuinely creative advertising campaigns. Imagine it – just for a moment – and imagine the relief it might bring to all of us, and especially to women and girls.”
Dr Rush is a lecturer in ethics and philosophy in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at CSU in Wagga Wagga. Dr Rush was a Research Fellow at the Australia Institute  in Canberra. She was the lead author of two papers on the sexualisation of children, which prompted considerable public debate and ultimately leading to a Senate Inquiry into the issue.


Media Officer    : Fiona Halloran Telephone    : 02 6933 2207