Fashion industry faces airbrushing clampdown• Government to push for health warning on airbrushed images
• Equalities minister leads call for curvier women in photoshoots
Christina Hendricks, star of the Mad Men series, has been hailed by the equalities minister, Lynne Featherstone, as the ideal role model for girls. Photograph: Frank Ockenfels/AMC/Lionsgate/BBC
The coalition government is to put the fashion industry under pressure to stop promoting unrealistic body images and clamp down on airbrushed photographs in magazines and adverts.
Lynne Featherstone, the equalities minister, who has long campaigned against size-zero photoshoots, will convene a series of discussions this autumn with the fashion industry, including magazine editors and advertising executives, to discuss how to promote body confidence among young people.
The first will focus on airbrushing, which Featherstone argues is contributing to “the dreadful pressure that young people, girls and women come under to conform to completely unachievable body stereotypes”.
She will push for a Kitemark or health warning on airbrushed photographs, warning viewers that they are not real. “I am very keen that children and young women should be informed about airbrushing, so they don’t fall victim to looking at an image and thinking that anyone can have a 12in waist. It is so not possible,” she told the Sunday Times.
The minister wants to see more women of different shapes and sizes used in magazine photoshoots, including curvaceous role models such as Christina Hendricks, who plays vivacious office manager Joan Holloway in Mad Men, the US TV series about the 1960s advertising industry.
“Christina Hendricks is absolutely fabulous. We need more of those role models,” she said. Instead, young girls and women were continually confronted with false images of incredibly thin women, which could create lifelong psychological damage. It was an issue that should worry “any of us who have children”.
“All women have felt that pressure of having to conform to an unrealistic stereotype, which plagues them their whole life. It is not just the immediate harm; it is something that lasts a lifetime. Young girls are under intense pressure the whole time,” she said, adding: “I was a young girl many moons ago.”
Featherstone stressed the pressure to conform is also felt by men: “The pressure is on for everyone to look perfect.”
She is trying to convince magazine editors and advertisers to stop using digitally altered photographs and underweight models. “Advertisers and magazine editors have a right to publish what they choose, but women and girls also have the right to be comfortable in their own bodies. At the moment, they are being denied that,” she said.
Magazines that do retouch pictures run the risk of breaking their own code of conduct, which states they should not publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, she added. “Magazines regularly mislead their readers by publishing distorted images that have been secretly airbrushed and altered.”
She also called the actions of the advertising industry into question. “Likewise, the advertising standards code says no advert should place children at risk of mental, physical or moral harm, but adverts do contain airbrushed images of unattainable beauty in magazines aimed at young teenagers.”
Featherstone’s comments come a week after “plus-size” model Crystal Renn complained that she had been retouched to look several sizes smaller for an ad campaign. Last year the Olay cosmetics firm was criticised by the advertising watchdog for retouching a photograph of Twiggy, removing wrinkles around her eyes in an ad for an under-eye cream.