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Victorian Government To Ban Exploitative Advertising

Posted Jun 15 2010 1:34pm
The Victorian State Government (VSG) has been a leader in the development and execution of positive body image iniatives for a number of years, especially for young people.  They were one of the first government's in the world to develop a formal policy regarding government's responsibility to creating a more positive body image culture, and certainly the first in Australia.  The 'Real Life Doesn't Need Retouching' Campaign is just one example of their work which I think is forward thinking and teriffic.

Yesterday, the VSG announced that in keeping with their line of wanting to promote positive body image,  "advertisers would be barred from portraying women in an exploitative or discriminatory way.  Under the plan, discussion of ''positive'' presentation of women in the media would be incorporated into primary and secondary school curriculums in Victoria."   

While I am all for media literacy initiatives, I'm just not sure this is the right way to address the impact that the media has on women and young people's self esteem and body image development.  Whether we like it or not, the advertising industry is a private sector that has very little government input.  Banning advertising that is considered exploitative towards women is, I fear, fraught with difficulties.  How will this be regulated?  If an ad is created by a national company, will it be banned in Victoria, but able to be seen in other Australian states?  How will it be 'policed' on the internet?  Who will actually get to clearly state what is considered exploitative?  What about exploitation of men or ad's that promote fat hatred?

Clearly, the intentions behind the initiative, particularly considering the VSG's positive track record with this issue, are aimed at trying to do something positive in this arena.  I don't think that can be questioned.  I think this issue is much wider and more complex than a government 'banning' though and I also wonder about the forms of advertising that may 'slip through' this banning net.  There are many examples of advertising that is just horrendous, but I question if it would be seen to be exploitative to women.  A clear example of this is the highly offensive Sumo Salad ad's  which involved both men and women, and show a prime display of fat hatred, body hatred and the perpetuation of thin ideals in our society.

What is the answer to improving media literacy and young people's (and adults) engagement with it?  I think it lies not in banning, but in education.  How can we teach people to be educated, aware, resilient and strong in their sense of self when faced with this advertising?  Would I and I'm sure many others prefer this sort of advertising didn't exist?  Absolutely.  But it does.  I'm not sure banning something that has already 'bolted,' will truly work.  The mechanics of it are somewhat mind boggling.

Am I being somewhat pessimistic Beautiful You?  What do you think about the VSG's initiative here?  Do you think it will work?  Love your thoughts.   

Image: Motortoque
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