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 Savy. 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 Allmighty 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.
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#1 Margaret on 10.19.11 at 6:35 am

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.
Margaret recently posted..Light Box for SAD: Does it work?

#2 Body Image Smackdown — The Girl Revolution on 10.26.11 at 10:02 am

[...] 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, [...]

#3 Kelly on 11.27.11 at 8:00 am

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-

#4 Tracee on 11.27.11 at 1:10 pm

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.

#5 paige on 11.30.11 at 5:57 pm

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.

#6 - Tracee Sioux - Law of Attraction Coach on 12.16.13 at 8:21 pm

[…] 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, […]

#7 GenderSociologist on 04.10.14 at 1:46 pm

I agree with you to a certain extent. As a sociologist I am aware that ones society greatly influences those who live in it. Yes body image is your relationship with your body, but how do you think that is developed? We don’t just know what our body image and self esteem are going to be when we are born, we learn it, and where do we learn it from you ask? Media, parents, peers, other family members, and basically any one you come in contact with. Yes it is your body image, and no it is not because your friend is self conscious that you will be too, but you learn what the body is “supposed” to look like through interactions with others. Media is a huge issue for young girls and women because it does portray unrealistic expectations, and basically tells you that you will not be loved or successful and happy if you do not have an ideal body, a pretty face, and lots of friends, (and not to mention the whole white superiority thing that is a whole other issue). No, magazines and advertisements stating that they used photoshop won’t help, because they are telling you that you should contort yourself to look like that, what will help is not using it at all, and like Aerie, use real women and not models, or models, with out photoshop. However, body image is influenced by it, not dictated, but so STRONGLY influenced by it.

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