Ducks, PhotoShop, and Truth in Advertising

Let’s talk numbers, shall we?


- 42% of girls in grades 1-3 want to be thinner

- 51% of 9-10 year old girls feel better about themselves when they’re dieting

- 53% of 13 year old girls are unhappy with their bodies; by the time they’re 17, 78% of them will be

- By the time they’re 17, these girls have seen 250,000 TV commercials telling them they should be a decorative object, sex object or a body size they can never achieve.

- 7 million girls and women under 25 suffer from eating disorders (

- 40% of newly identified cases of anorexia are in girls 15-19 years old.  A rise in incidence of anorexia in young women 15-19 in each decade since 1930. Anorexia has the highest rate of mortality of any mental illness. (

- 80% of women feel worse about themselves after seeing a beauty ad. $20B is spent on beauty marketing in the US annually. That’s a lot of money being spent making women feel worse about themselves.

- Nearly 25 million people – male and female – are suffering from anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder (

- 3-12% of teen boys use anabolic steroids in pursuit of a lean, muscular ideal 

magic hour

This image has been altered from the original. We normally don’t look like this, you know.

Sobering, isn’t it? Especially when you stop to consider the fact these statistics have names and favorite colors and BFFs and plans for what they want to be when they grow up. These statistics have mothers and fathers who love them and think they are wonderful and perfect and are proud of the person their child is growing into. And these are the statistics that inspired the creators of the Feel More Better clothing line by Off Our Chests to ask for your help in petitioning Congress to support legislation requiring magazines to carry Truth in Advertising labels.

I’m a statistic. And by default, so is Buttercup. She is, after all,  the daughter of an eating disordered mother. That fact alone puts her at higher risk than that of the general population for developing an eating disorder of her own. I look at her sometimes and hope like hell I’m doing something right.

It can feel like a losing battle, though. Magazines tell us we’re fat and worthless unless and/or until we Lose Four Dress Sizes in Five Minutes and while showing us images of impossibly perfect women made even more impossibly perfect with lighting and angles and Photoshop. Diet plan commercials run regularly during “family friendly” programming. Honey Boo Boo has her own reality show and Barbie isn’t going anyway, no matter what you think of her bullshit proportions.

As much as I’d like to sit every person in the world with the power to hit publish or otherwise broadcast a message meant to show my little girl the path to doubting her confidence and tell them that this shit has to stop now or everyone gets a time out until they’ve learned to treat other people with respect, I know it’s not going to happen.

So I keep the TV limited to Nick Jr. and pre-screen new shows and movies before she sees them. We watch what we say and how we say it and when we say it if she is around because even if we don’t think she is, she is paying attention to what she is hearing and files away what she is seeing. But we can’t block out the world. And frankly, the world kind of sucks.

That doesn’t mean we stop trying, though. And that certainly doesn’t mean that we just sit back and let the media continue to mess with our heads and make out kids self-conscious about rubbing their bellies and smiling after a particularly good meal.

Feel More Better wants the same things and the line’s creators cite their children, a girl and a boy, as their inspiration in asking for your support to “pass federal legislation requiring advertising that’s meaningfully changed the human form through photoshopping or airbrushing to carry “Truth in Advertising” labels. ” No judgement. No moral arguments. Just a simple truth meant to help change the tide.

My favorite line in the Change.Org petition for the Media and Public Health Act? Let’s call a duck a duck and a modified picture a modified picture. All we’re asking is that if you do it – you tell us you did.

It’s an epidemic crisis of self-confidence. Let’s do something about it.

Please take a moment to click here and show your support for the Media and Public Health Act by signing this Change.Org petition. Remember that every statistic has a name. My name is Pauline.

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