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The Self Esteem Act is a Stupid Waste of Time

This is not real beauty. The photographs you see in magazines, on television, on the Internet and on billboards have been Photoshopped and touched up.

The real people in them don’t look like this at all. All of their flaws have been removed to project an illusion of perfection. They are not perfect.

It’s fake. Don’t be fooled. In real life they have acne and cellulite and pudgy places and bad hair days and real problems just like everyone else.”

— excerpted from Ainsley, Wonder Years, By Tracee Sioux

This is real beauty. You have been blessed. What you see in the mirror is real. Other people will notice you. Beauty is an asset that will provide you with opportunities. Be grateful for it, but realize that it’s not your only asset.

You were also blessed with brains, intelligence, a sense of humor, creativity, a thirst for knowledge, kindness, love, compassion and many other unique gifts. These assets will provide you with more opportunities as you pursue your ambitions and passions. 

Confidence is sexy. Brilliance is sexy. Intelligence is sexy. A sense of humor is sexy. Knowing who you are is sexy. Being comfortable in your own skin is sexy. 

—excerpted from Ainsley, Wonder Years by Tracee Sioux


Evidently, I am the only girl advocate on the Internet who thinks the Self Esteem Act, which is supposedly going to make its way to Congress is a stupid waste of time. The Self Esteem Act is a “truth in advertising act,” a bill attempting to force advertisers to put a tiny little sentence admitting they use Photoshop on photographs in advertising — which is also somehow going to “save girls’ self esteem.” Google it. Everyone is simply head-over-heals crazy in love with this idea. It’s supposedly going to make such an impact on how girls feel about themselves and prevent eating disorders and solve all these body issues that the media causes with their evil ways of making women look too thin and too pretty (and girls are too stupid to be aware of Photoshop you know).

Personally, I think it’s going to cost a great deal of effort and have no impact at all. Let me explain why.

  • The government is not responsible for the self esteem of anyone. Period.
  • Media, marketing, advertisers and corporations are not responsible for the self esteem of anyone either. Period.
  • You and only you are responsible for your own personal self esteem. Your mother is not responsible. Your husband is not responsible. Your boyfriend is not responsible. Your best friend is not responsible. Body Image is the relationship you have with your body and your image in the mirror. Self esteem is the relationship you have with who you are. It is your responsibility alone. If it brings you pain, then you bring your own pain. If it brings you joy, then you bring your own joy. Deal with it, either way.
  • Maybe you’ve noticed, but no one in Congress can agree on a single thing. What in the world makes you think they are all going to huddle up and say, “Oh the girls. Yeah, we won’t force corporations to give women equal pay, but let’s force these same corporations to put a tiny disclaimer on their advertising copping to using Photoshop. Why didn’t we think of that Ladies?”
  • There are bigger fish to fry in this country right now. In other words, I personally, and a lot of unemployed Americans might agree with me here, believe there are a lot more important issues that Congress should focus on — unemployment and job creation, tax equality, a world economy on the brink of collapse, hundreds of thousands of mortgages that are underwater or in foreclosure, people drowning in debt. You know, things a tad more significant than whether you’re looking in the mirror and saying, “I hate my thighs,” no matter how many times I’ve advised you to stop doing that.
  • As Tina Fey says in her brilliant book, Bossy Pants, no one under 80 doesn’t know that advertising is Photoshopped. In fact, tweens and teenagers are better at using Photoshop than Photoshop artists employed by magazines. Why do people presume that kids are idiots who don’t understand computers? They come out of the womb Internet Savvy. It is WE who find this shit shocking and have to wrap our brains around it, not them.

There are actually things that DO work that take a lot less effort than trying to get Congress to pass a lame bill that’s never going to make a dent in anyone’s self esteem.

  • MOM — Mothers have, and will always have the biggest influence on their daughters. Don’t believe me? — Try to get your mother’s voice out of your head. I’m 38 and have been unable to accomplish this. If you’re 60 or 80 you have been unable to accomplish this. So, make good use of it. Tell your daughter she’s beautiful. Tell her she’s got a great body.
  • If you’re a mother, make peace with your own body and get a self esteem. Nothing, but nothing is going to replace this. Not a bill. Not a law. Nothing. Grow a Self Esteem.
  • Make it against the rules to talk badly about your own body. My kid gets in trouble if she calls her brother a name. Likewise, she gets in trouble if she calls herself a name. We don’t call names here. Period. We don’t “feed” negative body talk with a bunch of B.S. sympathy either, “oh poor baby why do you feel badly about yourself?” If it’s something we can fix, we fix it. If it’s not, we tell her it’s perfect the way it is, and that it’s simply not okay to bash yourself. Period.
  • Tina Fey, again in Bossy Pants, recommends we embrace Photoshop because it’s here to stay and it’s better than plastic surgery and we should simply add a credit like a photo credit to the work. Photographed by, Tracee Sioux. Photoshopped by, Tracee Sioux. This is free and doesn’t involve Congress and serves exactly the same purpose as the Self Esteem Act.
  • Dove’s viral videos, Campaign for Real Beauty were genius. They were targeted to women. They should target some to girls. Publish them where tweens and teens hang out on the Internet.
  • If all the non-profit organizations that are gaga for this Self Esteem Act pooled their resources they could make Public Service Announcements informing girls about Photoshop and educate them about self esteem. Run them during iCarly and Gossip Girl, thus reaching their actual target audience. This would actually be effective  instead of wasting their time and energy on something futile.
  • Church youth groups, Girl Scouts, Campfire Girls, 4H, and other organizations need to address the issue of healthy body image and will do a better job of it than a tiny sentence on some ads that kids will never read.
  • School Boards should make sure healthy body image and media education is in the health class curriculum. Parents and girl advocate groups should make sure School Boards do this. Cause that’s how the system works.
  • Parents or grandparents can write their daughters a book or just tell them about beauty and sexiness and Photoshop and what it is and isn’t. Novel concept, I know.
The bottom line is — the media, advertising and marketing by major corporations only have as much power as we are willing to hand over to it. We have the power to filter a great deal of it out for ourselves and our kids. We also have the power to keep the Almighty Dollar in our pocket — and that, my friends is the biggest weapon there is against the corporate marketing machine. A Self Esteem Bill isn’t going to replace that.
14 replies
  1. Margaret says:

    I totally agree with you, Tracee. Because I’ve been communicating with my daughter about media and what you see isn’t what you get when it comes to advertising and women’s images in print and on TV, it is *she* who quickly points out who looks real and who looks photoshopped in magazines and catalogs that come into the house. She often finds the faked images to be a bit repulsive (yay!)

    Start early, and talk often. We have the power to guide our girls into confident women, but as you rightly point out, we have to have that confidence ourselves…

    Loved this post.

  2. Kelly says:

    Liberal- feminist Hollywood- has been pushing women like commodities- time to hold their feet to the fire and push them to stop with BS advertising- everytime one of these “liberal” “feminists” like Jane Fonda gets a facelift I want to throw up!!
    Where are the REAL liberals and REAL feminists in Hollywood- that is where the action is coming from- THEY must change- these bills are just the beginning- phony beauty passing for real body image is out of control-

  3. Tracee says:

    Don’t look to Hollywood for real.

    No one has to change you make YOU feel good. Once you get that . . . then you’re free of all the bullshit.

  4. paige says:

    wish there was some way to make the impact media has on children more forcefully recognized, love these solutions. especially about the classes, because teachers were the ones that opened my eyes up to the effect it can have on us. communication with children is what is needed, not little mentions of photoshop on a picture.

  5. MARY says:

    I don’t know if I agree or disagree with you because even you don’t know if you agree or disagree with yourself but I do know that you’re delusional and need to sort your shit out.
    ARE mothers responsible or are they not??

  6. Mary, Cats, Susan and Jane says:

    Sorry about that previous comment, my cats walked over my keyboard, but I assume that’s what happened to you too? QUESTION MARK.
    I don’t know if I agree or disagree with you because even you don’t know if you agree or disagree with yourself but I do know that you’re delusional and need to sort your stuff out. FULL STOP.
    1) ARE mothers responsible or are YOU responsible? QUESTION MARK.
    2) Why is a photo credit any more effective than the label? It’s not like people are going to take extra time to read that either. FULL STOP.
    3) How does media NOT affect self esteem, it literally feeds off feelings of inadequacy. If women thought they were flawless they wouldn’t buy all that makeup now would they? QUESTION MARK.
    4) Not much to say on this last point but I’ll leave you with this question: How comfortable would you feel if your dad told your daughter she was sexy? Because that seems to be one of your solutions. FULL STOP.

    Please note that the capitalization at the end of every other line is me mocking your repetitive use of Period to pretend your words make sense and that you’re sure of yourself.
    But anyway, something good did come out of your digital diarrhea – my English class is using this blog for our GCSE argumentative essays and given how easily your points can be unraveled we should be getting top grades so in a way we have only to thank you. But I will not be thanking you because you need to stop making people feel worse than they already do with your ever so helpful “GROW A SELF ESTEEM” line.

    XOXO Gossip Grill

  7. Ezelle says:

    I am not entirely sure what you are attempting to make an argument out of here – at one point you say that only /you/ are responsible for self-esteem then you go on to say that your mother has the most effect on your mind and body image. Once more, you say that you should learn what is good and what is not and then you say that your parents and grandparents should tell you how to look? Not only would this make people incredibly uncomfortable but it would also prevent the evolution fashion and beauty.
    You also say that photoshop warnings are unnecessary and subsequently give an explanation – may i please inform you that stating your opinion on the government is not an explanation. You seem to be adamant that the warnings are redundant yet you fail to comprehend that one in ten students have an eating disorder before they reach high school. Why? Because of photoshop and young girls being told that they are looking at a real person, that the image in front of them is physically achievable and that they should look like that: if they don’t, they aren’t good enough. This is not healthy, mentally and physically.
    Might I also pick you up on another line: “Grow a self-esteem”. It physically pains me to see how one person can be so blatantly ignorant of the major issue with self-esteem in young girls. Due to the increasing sexualisation and dehumanisation of women in the media, girls are now more prone to Depression, cripplingly low self-esteem and eating disorders. Self-esteem is not something that can be grown. Self-esteem is something that is becoming increasingly harder to maintain, attributable to the media. Not you, not yourself. Contrary to your dense and obtuse statement regarding responsibility for self-esteem, multiple parties have an impact on your self-esteem and body image.
    Please stop polluting the internet with your stupidity and ignorance.

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  1. […] media’s responsibility for girls and women’s body image these days. With the proposed Self Esteem Act, which demands responsibility of both government and media, and well-meaning, do-gooding, activist, […]

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