And what’s happened to the body image positive tick?
When then Minister for Youth and Sport Kate Ellis launched the National Body Image Advisory Group, she said there had been too much talk, too much blame and “zero action”
“We decided we actually wanted results and took the pragmatic approach”, Ellis said. “Today I am calling on industry professionals to move beyond the ‘business as usual’ approach and take real action to promote positive body image.”
Now Mia Freedman, the woman Ellis appointed chair, has admitted she was “wrong” to think the voluntary code of conduct – the centrepiece of the Group’s endeavours and launched with much fanfare – would work. In a recent blog post titled “I was wrong”, she admits what many of us said at the time: a code with no teeth was doomed to fail. Freedman wrote:
The code was formally introduced by the government in June 2010….And then what happened? Nothing…NOTHING HAS CHANGED. The Body Image Code of Conduct has been given the fashionable middle finger by those it was aimed at.
So much for results. While it is commendable that Freedman has admitted her mea culpa, if the head of any other Government-appointed body had admitted to such a costly error, it would be big news. But Freedman’s admission seemed to have attracted little public attention.
The Report of the National Advisory Group on Body Image, released a year ago, announced new initiatives to address negative body image in young people. The aim was to bring the beauty, fashion and advertising industries to the table, to get them on board in a ‘partnership’ to address the growing problem of body image dissatisfaction.
The Code of Conduct provided a list of “best practice principles to guide professionals in the media, advertising and fashion industries about body image”.
The initiatives were described at the time as a “world first” (even though they weren’t really – and other countries, such as France and Spain, had taken a more radical legislative approach). Now they appear to be a world class failure in addressing increased rates of body shame and disordered eating.
Apart from a handful of token gestures, the industry has done very little. Once again, self-regulation has meant the industry has been able to do whatever it wants and get away with it.
So where does this leave the body image friendly ‘tick of approval?’ It was described in this press release:
In support of the Code, the Australian Government will be establishing a new Body Image Friendly awards scheme.
Awards will be given to industry organisations who can demonstrate meaningful and ongoing integration of the principles in the Code into their ongoing business.
Significantly, organisations who are recognised with these awards will earn the right to carry the ‘Body Image Friendly’ symbol. Winners will be able to utilise this symbol in their marketing and promotion.
“”This symbol builds on the momentum for changes that already exists in the fashion, media and beauty industries. It has great potential to become a point of differentiation for products being sold in the market,” Ms Ellis said.
“The symbol will be a marketing tool which acts as a signal to consumers that a particular product or brand stands for positive action on body image”.
An expert judging panel, headed again by Freedman, was to be set up to determine who would be deemed worthy of the body image friendly symbol.
It’s been a year now. So when does the judging start? Have any companies even applied? Have any shown any commitment at all to standing for “positive action on body image”?
One of the report’s recommendations states: “If, after a sustained period of continued developments… there is a broad failure of industry to adopt good body image practices, the Australian Government should look to review the voluntary nature of the code.”
It’s been a year and pretty much nothing has happened. So is the Government going to revisit the voluntary nature of the code? Or do we have to continue to ignore industry’s middle finger?
See also ‘Body Image Campaign Not Working’