Censorship is the name of the game in a recent string of bans enacted by the United Kingdom’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) regarding fashion advertisements. The ads in question have been deemed too sexually or socially inappropriate for their intended audiences, namely young girls and women. After pulling a Marc Jacobs perfume ad featuring 17-year-old actress Dakota Fanning in a sexually compromising position, the ASA has now decided to ban ads by the British clothing company Drop Dead. The Drop Dead ads, seen in the link below, showcase a young model wearing a skimpy bathing suit that leaves little to the imagination…especially her food consumption.
While the implications of an eating disorder are rather obvious, the real question has to do with reality and responsibility in the world of fashion. Whether an ad features suggestive juvenile sexuality, or an anorexic individual, responsibility must be taken for the advertisements’ representations. If perception is indeed reality, than the companies and advertisers who print such blatantly obvious images need to take ownership of the damage that can be inflicted by their unrealistic photos. Having seen dear friends worry about measuring up to a body ideal that is not physically possible for them is frustrating at best. Just the other day a friend sent me a text message about how a website survey told her that she has an “apple” body type. Accompanying this judgment were a list of quick fixes to hide her shape and appear thinner. The message is clear: if you aren’t tall and skinny, you don’t have physical worth in society. Although I do not usually agree with censorship, I do believe that until there are more than abnormally thin women in fashion ads, that there is a responsibility to edit out those representations that are too extreme. Such pictures don’t come down to a matter of freedom of speech or an issue of conservatism, they affect the health and well being of women and personal body image.