A New Bill Aims To Regulate Photoshopping in Fashion Ads

Leah Bourne

Extreme photoshopping has been in the news quite a lot lately, most recently withTarget, which came under fire last month for featuring a majorly contorted model in a swimsuit on its website. The photoshop fail made one of the model’s arms much too long and thin, while a part of her crotch was missing.

In a 2009 W magazine cover shoot featuring Demi Moore, a part of her hip went missing from her left leg. In a Ralph Lauren ad in 2010, 50 pounds were shaved off an already svelte model via Photoshop. The list of fails and missteps goes on and on. But it might be about to come to an end. 


Image Via Target

MORE: Old Navy Photoshopped a Thigh Gap on Plus-Size Jeans

A new bill has been introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives called the “Truth in Advertising Act” co-sponsored by Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen from Florida and Democratic Rep. Lois Capps of California.

MORE: See Lady Gaga’s Unretouched Versace Ads

The bill calls for regulations on photoshopping in advertisements and other forms of media. “An increasing amount of academic evidence links exposure to such altered images with emotional, mental, and physical health issues, including eating disorders, especially among children and teenagers,” reads an excerpt of the bill. “There is particular concern about the marketing of such images to children and teenagers.”

Seth Matlins, a marketer who works to promote positive images of women and girls, and a supporter of the bill, told Time magazine he’s concerned about “ads that take Kim Kardashian’s body and make it Miley Cyrus’s…If photoshopped ads told the same bold-faced lies that they do on images there would be regulatory action…Truth in advertising matters because we can no longer sit by and allow this to happen.”

The bill is proposing that the Federal Trade Commission meet with health care officials and various advertisers and marketers to come up with a strategy for how images in the media can be regulated. The bill is only interested in regulating post-production tweaks that “materially change” the characteristics of the models’ faces and bodies, not digitally altered backgrounds.

To be sure, photoshopping that leaves people next to unrecognizable compared to what they actually look like is rampant in advertising, but the question is, will regulating digitally altering images really change much? If the goal is to offer women more realistic images, a bill like this falls short considering there are still plenty of stick-thin fashion models and actresses available to be featured in advertisements, women with bodies that aren’t representative of the bulk of women.

Considering, though, that many studies have found that exposure to beauty and fashion magazines increase the chance that young girls will develop an eating disorders, arguably any step in the right direction is a good one for girls. Just how much of an impact do these ads have on young girls? In one study, young girls in Fiji began to develop eating disorders and body image issues a mere three years after western TV was introduced on the island.

Should the government really be stepping in to regulate photoshopping? Weigh in with your thoughts below!