The Be Real Body Image Pledge calls on the advertising, fashion, music and media industries to take action on body confidence in the UK.
Today, the body image campaign Be Real, of which YMCA is a founding partner, launches a new Pledge which calls for more diversity within the advertising, fashion, music and media industries. The Pledge responds to research which shows that women and men want advertising to be more reflective of the UK today; and it highlights the very real harm poor body confidence can cause to society, the economy and individuals.
Research finding one: Awareness of the problem has grown, but progress has stalled
More than 10 years ago, Dove (the founding partner of Be Real) commissioned research that revealed 75% of women in the UK wanted advertising to be more representative of their own bodies. Today, the same study has found that this number has not improved – in fact, it’s increased; 80% of women in the UK today are still unhappy with the way advertising portrays female bodies.
Despite a significant increase in awareness of the prevalence of this issue over the past decade (see below) not enough progress has been made to bring about the behavioural and cultural change needed.
Research finding two: Not only a “women’s issue”
In addition, it is becoming increasingly clear that this is not an issue faced by women and girls alone. 53% of boys in the UK aged 8-18 feel pressurised by advertising to look good; 55% see dieting and 56% see eating disorders as a gender neutral issue; and a quarter of men in the UK say they find it hard to identify with men who are shown in adverts.
Research finding three: The consequences of low body confidence
Overall, 60% of adults in the UK feel ashamed of the way they look. The UK has seen the number of cosmetic surgery procedures quadruple over the last decade, and approximately 725,000 people in the UK today are living with an eating disorder. It is even affecting people’s job choices with a third of girls thinking that they won’t be able to get the jobs they want because of what they look like.
Body image insecurity causes low self-esteem and depression, this can result in reduced participation in school and exercise; compromised performance at work; health and relationship problems; high-risk behaviours (such as eating disorders, promiscuity and addictions); and poor social skills.
Pledging to take action
This is an issue that demands attention and, more importantly, action. 90% of men and women in the UK report that they would like to see a broader range of body shapes in advertising and media and Be Real is stepping up and call for action.
The Be Real Body Image Pledge stands up for men and women by calling on all those working across the advertising, fashion, music and media industries to take action to deliver real, substantive, long term changes; to reflect diversity, reflect reality, promote health and wellbeing and promote the Pledge.
Arising from the APPG report ‘Reflections on Body Image’, the Be Real Body Image Pledge provides a set of clear and powerful principles to bring about responsible change. At its core is the need to engage these industries in leading on change themselves – encouraging them to take ownership of the development of more responsible advertising and communication, which reflects the UK as it is today.
The Be Real Campaign are also calling on individuals to get involved with the Pledge by sharing one of the eight core statistics behind the Pledge with #PledgeToBeReal and starting a conversation about positive body image.
Leading the launch of the Pledge, Mary Glindon, Chair of the APPG on Body Image and the Be Real Campaign, said:
“Body image anxiety is an issue with significant ramifications; it can cause depression and lead to eating disorders and self-harm. The media obsessed world we live in today means we are constantly bombarded with an unobtainable idea of “perfection” which undermines our own self-confidence.
“The Be Real Body Image Pledge is a realistic and obtainable set of principles for the advertising, fashion, music and media industries to help them make a difference in promoting real diversity. It is vitally important that industry leaders engage with the Pledge and address this issue head-on as a matter of urgency.”
Speaking for Dove, as the Be Real founding partner, Mark Bleathman, Vice President of Personal Care at Unilever UK Ltd said:
“For 60 years, Dove has stood for Real Beauty – it only uses real women in its advertising and follows a strict policy on airbrushing and photoshop. That’s why we are so passionate about Dove taking a leadership role on the Be Real Body Image Pledge – the time to end body image anxiety is now, and Dove is fully committed to driving change in the UK for the benefit of everyone.”
Speaking for YMCA, Denise Hatton, Chief Executive Officer at YMCA England, said:
“We know from our youth work that there is a growing pressure on young people to look a certain way.
“Every day, young people are bombarded with heavily photoshopped images of what they are told by the fashion, music, media and advertising industries is the ideal body type. However for most people, achieving this ‘ideal’ is almost always unobtainable, unhealthy and damaging. We are seeing this lead to greater anxiety, starting at a younger and younger age.
“Industries have a responsibility to promote a healthy body image and reflect the true diversity of the population with all the different shapes, sizes, skin tones, ages, genders and ethnicities that make up our society today.
“Only then can we truly become a body confident nation where our mental and physical health is put above appearance.”
For more information on the Be Real Campaign, visit the website.