The United Kingdom’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ordered Urban Outfitters to remove a picture of a model as showing an impermissible “inner thigh gap” that encourages what is viewed as an “unhealthy” diet for girls. It is the latest example, in my opinion, of a wholesale regulation of speech — both political and commercial — in England.
The company insists that the model shown in black polka-dot bikini briefs is not underweight. You can be your own judge. However, it should not matter. I have long opposed these regulations of speech and images by the government despite my sympathy with those who object to ultra skinny models.
The agency forces companies to show images that it deems healthy and positive. The ASA released a statement: “We understood that Urban Outfitters’ target market was young people and considered that using a noticeably underweight model was likely to impress upon that audience that the image was representative of the people who might wear Urban Outfitters’ clothing, and as being something to aspire to. We therefore concluded that the ad was irresponsible.”
I understand the view of clinical psychologists and others who oppose the ubiquitous images of skinny models as creating social pressure on young girls to remain underweight and adding to depression over weight as well as eating disorders. However, the proper response is through market pressures and education, not government regulation of speech.
I have repeatedly written on the alarming erosion of free speech in the United Kingdom, particularly as a result of hate speech and anti-discriminatory regulations (here and here and here). This includes a move to criminalize “unsavory” speech as well as anonymous speech by the government. England appears on a slippery slope of speech regulation where more and more speech is deemed problematic or unhealthy. Free speech requires a bright line rule of protection that has been lost in the United Kingdom.
30 thoughts on “British Agency Bans Urban Outfitters Picture Over “Inner Thigh Gap””
Reblogged this on saboteur365.
“You wanna know what lies between in me and my Calvin Klein’s”?
Moreover, let’s look at this pragmatically.
History shows in advertising circles that clothing advertisers are more successful in appealing to the general public when attractive models are used to present their customers’ products. That includes women to be fit and men and women to be fit.
If an advertisement can garner an additional 2% in future sales on a national level that translates into a higher gain. By juxtaposition a 2% loss in sales reflects badly on both the client and the advertiser’s revenue. Because of this every aspect of the ad is scrutinized carefully. Because it is shown that thin women sell more clothes that is what is used. If the market then changes where overweight women sell more clothes both advertisers and clients will provide ads accordingly.
Moreover, it is not the job of the advertiser and their client to provide social commentary or idealism in their advertisements.
Nice point of view Darren. The country is in health crisis, and obesity is a well known risk factor. But today, we are supposed to “embrace” it. ????? My son has learned good eating habits and is very fit and trim. He sees what kids bring to school to eat at lunch and is frequently appalled. “You are supposed to eat X, Y, Z, and not A, B, C.” Yet, so many just eat A, B, C and are horribly overweight, yet we are told to accept this. My son just doesn’t get the double standard. I guess I don’t either. But that seems to be our entire country lately. Very few actions stand up to the slightest rational argument.
Maybe we are becoming the U.K…
This is arbitrary.
If the UK is like the US then 40% of young people are either overweight or obese. There are obvious long term health risks in this. Yet, when overweight youth are portrayed as models the advertisers are hailed as being accommodating and accepting. And the same argument could be made that this encourages youth to be overweight and unhappy with their bodies.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is the self-regulatory organisation (SRO) of the advertising industry in the United Kingdom. The ASA is a non-statutory organisation and so cannot interpret or enforce legislation. However, its code of advertising practice broadly reflects legislation in many instances. The ASA is not funded by the British government, but by a levy on the advertising industry.
Its role is to “regulate the content of advertisements, sales promotions and direct marketing in the UK” by investigating “complaints made about ads, sales promotions or direct marketing”, and deciding whether such advertising complies with its advertising standards codes. These codes stipulate that “before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove all claims, whether direct or implied, that are capable of objective substantiation” and that “no marketing communication should mislead, or be likely to mislead, by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise”.
This country has far more invasive species of regulation. How often does one see a nipple? Now ask yourself how often do murder, mayhem, and exploding heads happen? I’ve watched movies where the free speech limits in the US have Greek statues’ breasts fuzzed out.
There is an argument for self control when it comes to advertising. Americans might consider the 20% of the Pharmaceutical Industry’s budget advertising dangerous chemicals via cartoon characters to be worth looking into. Here we have a non-government agency, a self-regulatory organization concerned with a real problem, anorexia, bulimia, and other problems that have been proven to be linked to advertising and image, since the days of Twiggy.
One can get on a soap box and exaggerate this diabolical threat from another country. One can also recognize this as a fairly soft nudge in the right direction. This is nothing more than a comment on an industry by an in house agency.
Personally I don’t see any reason to go any farther than the ASA did, but applaud their concern. I also don’t see any link here with the undermining of free speech.
There are a lot of commenters on this blog, myself included that would identify with the Self Righteous Brothers.
Google Harry Enfield-Self Righteous Brothers. Sometimes it’s worth taking a comedy break.
Turley, there is no slippery slope here. However, there are plenty of slippery slopes in most countries, including the US.
The ad has been photoshopped. All fashion magazines photoshop their models, be it a hand ( for jewelry) , whole body ( for a bathing suit.), face ( for wrinkles, imperfections).
Gay men are obsessed w/ being thin. You are a pariah w/ hip gays if you’re not skinny. That’s one of the reasons many gay men are big abusers of crystal meth and other stimulants. Well, it’s gay men that dominate the women’s fashion industry. Ask hetero men if they find these anorexic models appealing. We don’t. We like women w/ curves and some meat on their bones. Want to stop this incredibly unhealthy obsession w/ thinness, get more women and hetero men involved w/ women’s fashion. Hopefully the Gay Mafia doesn’t monitor this blog. They will put a fatwah on me.
There are bigger concerns in life. Aren’t there?? Like the Justice said, just don’t buy it if it is a problem.
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