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The Self-Esteem Act is Dumb

26 comments | December 2nd, 2011

(submitted by lailainthecity)

We're all about diversity of opinions here @ Camp OOC…even the ones we don't agree with.  Imagine!  That said, there's a lot in Laialinthecity's comments we do agree with.  The first paragraph pretty much entirely.  As for the rest, well, for us, not so much.  But you decide for you, and let us and Laila know what you think. Here's what she does:

The "Self-Esteem Act"? Why do we have to keep lowering the bar for everything, and making it law no less? When I see someone svelte walking down the street, I don't ask them if they're wearing Spanx. When I see someone with a smile that lights up the room, I don't ask them if they're caps. When I see someone with waist length full bodied curly hair, I don't ask if it's a lace-front wig. Because the truth about what they look like when they get up in the morning, doesn't belong to me, it belongs to them. There's plenty of artifice in world, it starts with lip gloss when you're a teenager. So what?

Nobody is perfect, that should be common sense, not a legislative session. Yes it sucks not to be as appealing as you think someone else is. But that's life, and growing up means learning to appreciate and embellish your own strengths, and not just demand that others expose their flaws so you feel better about yourself. If we need to start legislating feeling good about ourselves by compelling others to point out their flaws, then we need to get out heads examined.

Besides which doesn't this proposed act miss the whole darn point? "Self-Esteem" should mean how you feel about yourself, because of what you do and who you are. It shouldn't be because you realize somebody else isn't who you believed. How did that change who you are?

Your turn…go.

26 comments

  • EM

    Posted on December 2, 2011

    I signed the self esteem act and have been supporting it because i think it is right. I think what this writer misses is that the act is not about the individual actions of individual people. It is about the trying to correct the aggregated actions of huge businesses which have huge effect.

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  • Kind of Agree

    Posted on December 2, 2011

    I get that there’s a problem. I just do not get why you think legislation is the answer.

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  • Katie

    Posted on December 2, 2011

    Ads lie. They always have. Probably always will. The milk in the cereal ad has pretty much never been edible, just saying. I always knew the girls in the ads didn’t really look like that in person. Everything from the line of “Let me go ‘put on my face'” to the fuzzily perfect skin on my favorite ‘all natural’ CoverGirl, has always told me they aren’t really real.

    I already know they don’t wake up looking anything like that and I still obsess a bit hat I need to loose weight and have better/clearer skin. I’m not satisfied with what I look like, I compare myself to those around me in real life and still manage to find myself lacking sometimes. A Surgeon General’s warning on lipstick isn’t going to change that.

    The trick is not making them point out exactly how good graphic artists are or are not (some of the flubs are pretty great too), it’s showing people that advertising is trying to sell you something.

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  • OOC

    Posted on December 2, 2011

    Thanks, Katie.

    Most importantly, not being satisfies sucks, and we’re sorry you feel like that. Comparison is so human and yet rarely leaves us feeling any happier – in our experience, anyway. What do you think you could do to feel more satisfied?

    As for The Self Esteem Act, only 2 things we want to say…first, we think there’s more than a semantic difference between a “warning label” and our proposal for transparency and a Truth-in-Advertising label. Just like a car ad carrying the notice that it’s a “professional driver on a closed course” it is notice of what has been done…and thus a reminder that you probably can’t do it (in the case of the car ad), and that you probably can’t be it (in the case of a beauty ad). Transparency, truth in advertising…what’s the down side to it, especially in light of what the upside could be?

    Second, 80% of women feel worse about themselves after seeing a beauty ad. 80%. So, maybe, while you’re not being impacted by the homogenization of our cultural beauty ideals (and, btw, that’s effing great. seriously), there’s a lot of women and girls (and increasingly boys and men) who are indisputably and undeniably.

    The Self Esteem Act is not a silver-bullet. It’s not a cure-all nor a panacea. It’s a start. It’s better than nothing, and nothing is what we’ve got tight now. In our opinion, anyway.

    Thanks again for being part of the conversation. OOC

    P.S. The art of preparing food and beverages for commercial production is pretty wild. That milk in the bowl you referenced earlier? Probably Elmer’s Glue. Those dewy, drips of thirst-quenching, beverage goodness sitting on the side of a bottle or can? Usually corn syrup. They’re like the special-effects of food.

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  • GdelH

    Posted on December 2, 2011

    “Let’s not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.” The idea probably isn’t perfect. It is good. Let’s go.

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  • Andrea C.

    Posted on December 2, 2011

    There have been warning labels on cigarettes for how long? Drunk driving laws for how long? How many people still smoke and drive UI?

    My point isn’t that laws don’t work, even though many do not work 100% of the time. Instead I am saying that some people believe they can get away with anything, or make a decision that taking a health risk is worth whatever they get out of smoking. In each case though, there is a law or a label to reject. Societal expectations have been codified. We need to codify them here. As a society and not just leaving it to businesses to do on their behalf and not ours.

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  • Penny For Your Thoughts

    Posted on December 2, 2011

    You had me at self esteem. :)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted on December 3, 2011

    This viewpoint is extremely ignorant of the marketing decisions behind advertising aimed at women.

    The majority of ads for products aimed at females (particularly mothers regarding children’s products) are designed to make them feel inadequate, in order to guilt or shame them into buying. Watch a few hours of TV, and count the number of women’s products that are marketed as being corrective, versus the number of men’s products that are marketed as being suitably great. Marketing at women says, “You won’t be a failure if you use this.” Marketing at men says, “You’re great, so this is good enough for you to use.”

    Self-esteem is, without a doubt, a junk psychology buzzword that the 90s grabbed ahold of and ran with well on into today. But “guilt” and “shame” and “self-loathing” are definitely real, and girls are internalizing the unspoken messages they see in the media at younger and younger ages. Even in the dumbest, most insignificant places: compare the round, chubby, bloomers-wearing ragdoll-like figure of the 80’s Strawberry Shortcake, to the sleeker, tighter-clothed tweenage pop idol re-imagining of the same character today.

    Our culture now is saturated in media that, even in children’s programming, shows us over and over that girls of all ages (especially the ages just-slightly-older than the target audiences, the age they’re going to be, soon) must be thin, with perfect hair, skin, teeth, and nails, and perpetually young. The idea that advertisers should take responsibility for being truthful about the alterations they make to the images they use is not screwed up; what IS screwed up is a ten-year-old girl who thinks she needs to be on a low carb diet and ought to start using anti-aging creams now, before her looks start to fade at fifteen.

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  • mkt

    Posted on December 3, 2011

    I thk it’s just about truth in advertising. When you see a TV ad of a car driving wrecklessly the ad always notes (in very small type) ‘professional driver’. I don’t see noting the touch up of models any different especially if they are advertising cosmetics.

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  • Jeanne

    Posted on December 4, 2011

    Many advertisements are lies, and always have been, but the latest technologies are unprecedented lies and deception. The photoshopped images shown are now IMPOSSIBLE, no matter how many spanx, tooth caps and wigs one buys. And you bring up the quest for perfection–I guess you’re only talking physical, of course. Nothing else about a female seems to matter these days. Where did that idea even come from? Oh yes, ads.

    How sad that women are wasting their time, money and talent on spanx, tooth caps, wigs and anything else in pursuit of an impossible perfect image that is being fed to them by those who want to make them feel bad so they can sell their products.

    Young girls and women need to have these impossible images labeled so they KNOW that they are impossible to achieve and that they will be wasting their time and money even trying to look like that.

    Perhaps this will give them more time and money to pursue other strengths like their minds through education and further their talents through training so they can live in the world utilizing real power.

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  • Jeanne

    Posted on December 4, 2011

    It’s a shame that the advertisers lack such morality and can’t police themselves that rules are required to make them stop harming others but that is the reason legislation exists in the first place.

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  • WHY CAN'T I LOOK LIKE BARBIE? LAW PLZ

    Posted on December 17, 2011

    Come on, you ladies need to stop playing the victim. Photoshop is something every person under the age of 40 including children are aware of and how it is used in advertising. If they aren’t then it is up to parents and teachers to handle, not the government. We don’t need a law for every little thing that annoys us. Congress should be focusing on more important things like unemployment, tax equality, debt, and THE COLLAPSE OF AMERICA’S ECONOMY.

    Instead we have garbage like this and SOPA being pushed without much thought from anyone who lives in this century or has common sense. I can’t believe people are more concerned about magazines “making” them feel bad about themselves.

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    • OffOurChests

      Posted on December 17, 2011

      Everyone under the age of 40 knows, do they? And what does knowing do for them? If everyone knows, why is it that 80% of women feel worse about themselves after seeing a beauty ad than before? Why is it that 41% of girls in the first to third grades feel better about themselves when they’re dieting? And what of the precipitous decline in the self-esteem in boys and men that ties directly to the equally precipitous rise in men’s magazines focusing on body, fashion, and “health”?

      And, out of curiosity, what % of this “everyone over age 40” do you think needs to be reminded that car ads feature “professional drivers on closed courses” or that they shouldn’t try and replicate the “stunts” they see on JackAss? Or that our Presient was boron outside the U.S.? And, out of curiosity, have you ever “known” something factually and intellectually and yet not felt it or been able to accept or process it emotionally?

      We appreciate your offering your opinion. If you come back, please know, you’re dancing on the fine line between offering an opinion and offering a judgment. The former we’ll always support no matter how wrong we consider it to be (as illustrated by our posting this to begin with). The latter, we won’t tolerate for an instant.

      There’s lots of room for productive and passionate disagreement here. There’s none for judgment.

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      • Eric Vogel

        Posted on March 2, 2012

        Have you taken into consideration that the people who feel bad after seeing a beauty ad, feel bad for several reasons?
        What percent of that end emotion of feeling bad stems from actual retouching?
        Professional make-up?
        Professional lighting and photography?
        Selecting a perfect model who has natural attributes as well as takes care of herself as part of her job?
        Professional hair?
        Professional wardrobe styling?
        Or even the viewers own feelings at the time (did she just go through a break up, was she just stood up on a date, is it simply a bad day)?
        How about the viewers own father? Did he have a healthy view on female beauty?
        Another question I have is what kind of poll was it?
        Were the questions leading?
        Ambiguous?
        My point is, yes, it is great you want to help people feel better about themselves. If this is your true goal, than I applaud you for it. I do get the sense that going after retouching specifically is like pulling the leaves off a weed in the garden and ignoring the root. Would your efforts not be better served focusing elsewhere like say in Disney’s princess industry which last year generated over 5 billion dollars in revenue?
        It must be difficult getting criticism for something that I truly you feel strongly about and who’s result, I truly believe, is to do good. All I would like to know is that you have seriously and unemotionally looked at weather we actually need any new laws (especially ones with such a slippery slope built in) and if your efforts (which, to your credit, seems to hold a lot of potential power) would make a bigger difference applied closer to the root of media’s contribution of poor body image. (Full disclosure, I am a photographer with many different clients, a small fraction beauty and fashion, and I promote minimal retouching of my images, stray hairs, clothing folds, zits, etc, but do use retouching nonetheless)

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        • OffOurChests

          Posted on March 2, 2012

          Thanks so much for writing and sharing your POV.

          Your questions are good ones, and we agree that many of those who feel bad after seeing a beauty ad do so because of many reasons. We’re not blaming the ad, the advertisers, nor the retouching alone. That’s why we’re not saying anyone should stop doing it. Rather, we’re saying if you do it – tell us you did it. That’s all, just transparency and truth-in-advertising.

          There is no single cause and there is no silver bullet that can address the causes and help each one of us feel better than we otherwise might. The Act is but on effort we’re taking and making to try and help the world and the people in it feel a little bit better about themselves. It’s not a panacea, it’s not perfect, but so too are we are certain it’s not much to ask for and that it can make a difference. To make some difference, to make any difference is better than allowing this status quo to be perpetuated, in our opinion.

          We’re always open to to other and better ideas, so please let us know. And thanks again,

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          • Eric Vogel

            Posted on March 2, 2012

            It is great that you are making an effort and that is more than most would do. Your ability to act on your beliefs is beyond commendable. My feeling is, you seem to have such a strong following, why not take a moment to contemplate how to wield this power better, to make a bigger difference. Maybe your mission will never be perfect, but why not strive to get close? My daughter of 7mos has princess on her diapers. Not because she recognizes them but because it is proven that parents talk about the items in their field of view while changing. Not all parents and not all the time, but enough to make marketing take notice. By talking about these characters the child develops an unintentional brand loyalty to this princess culture that eventually will tell her she needs unrealistic physical attributes in order to get her prince charming to fall in love with her and complete her. This is just one example out of thousands of ways our children are being marketed too. Surly without these early and subliminal messages our children would be more immune to marketing techniques targeting them when they are older (ie retouched fashion ads). I guess the thing that interests me the most about what you are doing is you could actually really make an impact yet for some reason, there is only a concern for the results of marketing and not the beginnings of it. It seems to me, the best case scenario is a politician who needs attention will take up your cause, another law will get passed, and another warning label will be ignored by consumers, thus creating no real change. This is NOT an effort to put you down, from what I have seen, you are in a rare and unique position to do something truly important (your passion and following support this), why not make a real change?

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        • OffOurChests

          Posted on March 2, 2012

          Thanks so much for pushing and pushing back. While not fan of the princess-ization of young girls, to us the data on whether this is truly detrimental is much less clear and much more subjective. To us, as parents, we think this lives largely (not exclusively) in the domain of the home and how we each as parents parent. our 6yo daughter has no interest in Princesses, but our 5 yo son does. Go figure.

          We’d also suggest that it our opinion that the truth-in-advertising labeling we’re seeking as part of the Media and Public Health Act will and can make real change. It’s our belief that if more of us realize that what we’re looking at is no more real than any Avatar, more of us will stop feeling badly because we don’t (and can’t) look like that.

          Thanks, Eric…you are a part of the solution for sure, and as we hope to be.

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    • leah

      Posted on December 21, 2011

      Claiming that other issues are more important in such a dismissive way does nothing to actually engage with questions about the quality of the legislation or its effectiveness. What it does do is play into an old habit of telling women that their problems aren’t important; do I detect misogyny? I think so. The accusation that women are just playing the victim reeks of it. Your personal attacks on women don’t have anything to do with the issue at hand either. You are the master of red herrings.

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  • Carrisa Salyers

    Posted on January 20, 2012

    “Nobody is perfect, that should be common sense, not a legislative session. Yes it sucks not to be as appealing as you think someone else is. But that’s life, and growing up means learning to appreciate and embellish your own strengths, and not just demand that others expose their flaws so you feel better about yourself.”

    Thank you for saying that. People in general compare themselves to everyone else and lose sight on their own strengths. Instead of appreciating others differences and strengths people dwell on the fact that they do not have those strengths.

    Everyone is different and has different strengths for a good reason. Not one strength is better or more valuable than another. All strengths are important and every type of person is important. Without any differences everyone would do the same job and nothing new or better would ever be invented.

    If people can learn to love themselves and increase their own inner strengths this would be a happier and more productive world.

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  • Iris

    Posted on May 3, 2012

    “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” – Eleanor Roosevelt

    While it (mildly) annoys me that models in photographs everywhere are airbrushed to perfection, why do we need to legislate self-esteem? What happened to mothers and fathers across the globe instilling self-esteem in their children (boys and girls alike) in other ways? What ever happened to parents letting their children know that true beauty is what is INSIDE of a person, not what the look like?

    A child’s self-esteem (or the lack thereof) is determined in the home, by the parents, starting at a very young age. It is up to parents to instill and reinforce their child’s self-esteem.

    What happened to parents letting their children know that what they’re seeing isn’t real, and that it’s okay if they (their children) don’t look “runway-ready”? This is the job of the parents, not the government. By legislating self-esteem, (because that’s what this is) we’ve taken more responsibility away from the parents, who, by the way, are the ones purchasing teeny-bopper magazines for their daughters, not monitoring what their children see on television, etc. And these are the same parents who aren’t having these conversations with their children.

    Parents need to be more involved with their children, IMO. Legislation that requires warning labels for airbrushed photos is not the answer, IMO, because girls (and boys) will always want to look “perfect”. There is pressure from their peers at school. How does this proposed legislation plan to protect the self-esteem of our children from their peers at school? The pressure today’s teens (and teens from every past generation) are under to look perfect isn’t solely from ads they see in magazines or on television. There is pressure to wear the “right” kind of shoes and clothes, or to carry the “right” kind of backpack… and the list goes on and on. Are we going to legislate ads that “pressure” you to purchase the latest and greatest trendy items they’re peddling? Are we going to legislate what other kids are allowed to wear to school (i.e. clothing, shoes, backpacks, etc.), because your child’s self-esteem plummets when Jack and Jill have something your child doesn’t? After all, not everyone can afford to buy such items. So, where does it end? “It” being legislating self-esteem.

    Not only that, but many of these photo-shopped photos are very often (not always) tied to one product or another that “promises” to give you flawless skin, shiny hair, long fingernails, etc. Hence, if there is even a chance those products do what they claim, there is still going to be a desire on the consumer’s part, to purchase said products.

    Does what I’m saying make any sense? I just don’t think labeling photo-shopped photos is going to “make” anyone feel better about themselves. I personally don’t se any young girl/woman breathing a sigh of relief, and saying, “Oh thank goodness! The model in that photos doesn’t really look like that, so I’m okay!” Sorry, it just doesn’t work like that. If a young girl’s self-esteem hinges only on her looks, then she has bigger issues.

    This is JMO and not meant in any way to discount what is being done, here, but I think there is a different way to go about trying to protect and boost the self-esteem of young girls (and yes, boys too!).

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  • OOC

    Posted on May 3, 2012

    Thanks so much, Iris. While we love when people agree with us totally…we also love when people disagree as productively as you have.

    Our intent is not to legislate self-esteem, but to help stem the crisis in it. Would that we thought we could…Our intent is is simply to seek truth-in-advertising, something we think we should have irrespective of its affect on self-esteem.

    The fact is there’s a crisis of self-esteem. The facts are that advertising and popular culture play a role ~ for better and worse. We hold them, and us, and you, and every one accountable for their actions. And, frankly, we can’t figure out what’s so bad about truth-in-advertising and transparency, anyway.

    Finally, whether or not we agree that labels pointing out that the ideal isn’t real will make anyone feel better (we happen to think that, for some, they will, and that there’s nothing bad about media literacy)…we’re pretty positive they won’t make anyone feel worse.

    Again, we’re not seeking to legislate ideals, norms, or even beauty. That’s subjective and in the eye of the beholder as the saying goes. We’re are trying to extend protections against deceptive advertising to an industry that – as we said earlier – affects how girls, women, and yes to your point…boys and men, feel about themselves.

    Truth, transparency…good things in our opinion. The Act isn’t a silver bullet, but rather another brick in the wall. Lots goes into building self-esteem and lots goes into tearing it down. This is but one effort to make a difference.

    Thank you again for being part of the conversation. OOC

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    • Iris

      Posted on May 3, 2012

      I completely agree that there should be truth in advertising. I am all for things like a complete list of ingredients on food/beverage packages, and even on cosmetic/personal hygiene items. I am an avid package reader! I am all for truthful reports on what cosmetic products really do (or don’t do) for one’s skin, hair, nails, etc. I like companies who produce real, actual, untouched before and after photos, when touting the benefits of what their products do, as well as the percentage of women who saw certain results after a certain amount of time of using said products. So, yes, absolutely, transparency and truth in advertising is important.

      And, I agree that self-esteem is an issue with young women today, but as I said, if their self-esteem hinges completely on their looks, there is, IMO, a deeper issue within that young woman. I also agree that popular culture and advertising does have an impact on our children, but I also think parents need to be pushed to be more involved in their children’s lives, and to have conversations with their children about what is truly important in life. Parents need to let their children know that when they grow up, and enter the real world, looks aren’t as important as brains, education, skill, a great personality and a positive attitude. There are a lot of “unattractive” (by today’s superficial standards) but successful people, in this world.

      IMO, there are too many parents who are entirely too willing and happy to let others rear their children, and, as a mom, I find that very sad. In my experience children with self-esteem issues, for whatever reason, come from homes where there isn’t a lot of positive reinforcement for the positive attributes the children do have. There is no encouragement from the parents to continue to do well in school, or to do well at the child’s sport of choice, etc. There is no encouragement to do better, if a child is struggling in any given area of life. It must start in the home, with the parents. Parents must be held accountable.

      We now have ratings for television programs/shows, because apparently parents don’t have the time, or the desire, to sit down and watch a television program to determine if their child can or should watch it. Now, as long as it has a certain rating, they (the parents) can make a split second decision as to whether or not the program is appropriate. Parents today have let others decide for them, what is and is not appropriate for their children, and it has to stop.

      IMO things like this aren’t necessarily “bad” but it does remove the onus from the parents, in a lot of ways. Whether we want to admit it or not, so many parents these days have taken a hands off approach to raising their children, and breathe a sigh of relief when the gov’t intervenes to “protect” our children. I don’t want or need the gov’t to do my job for me, nor should any parent want or need that. It is my job to raise my children. I decide what my children watch on TV, I decide what magazines they read, etc. based on age appropriateness, as well as our personal beliefs and convictions. And I have conversations with my children about the shallow, superficial world we live in. If more parents were like this, perhaps there would be less young women (and young men) with self-esteem issues. And by the way, I am not saying that I am a perfect parent. I do get it wrong from time to time, 😉 but my point is that being actively involved in a child’s life makes all the difference.

      While you may not be attempting to legislate “ideals, norms or even beauty”, this proposed legislation is, in a way, promoting the idea that passing a law is going to somehow make people feel better about themselves, and as a result, stem the self-esteem crisis. I guess I fail to see how that will be possible, seeing as that there are so many other outside influences that impact one’s self-esteem; which is why I brought up the peer pressure kids face in school, (i.e. the pressure to wear all the “right” things.). Advertisements and peer pressure is just the tip of the iceberg.

      I applaud you for wanting to protect and boost the self-esteem of young women in America, but I suppose we’ll have to agree to disagree on how that can be best accomplished. Perhaps your organization will seriously consider a program of sorts that combines more parental involvement and activities or workshops that teach our young women that there is more to life than what one looks like, and encourages them to focus on other good attributes they have. A law cannot replace hands on, positive reinforcement and involvement with a child. Young girls today need to be taught to love themselves for who they are, not for what they look like. Legislation cannot teach them that. I am of the opinion that in order for the self-esteem of young girls to improve, it’s going to take more than a piece of paper (legislation) that merely enforces a standard a company must adhere to.

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  • OOC

    Posted on May 3, 2012

    On this, for sure, we totally agree with you, Iris. Parents (schools, neighbors, friends) play a huge role. Huge. But, as parents we also know we don’t parent alone. We can’t keep our kids in the protective bubble of our intentions and values…even if we wanted to.

    To underestimate the effect of cultural influences is, in our opinion, an underestimation of one of the most powerful participants in the parenting equation ~ whether we like it or don’t.

    Our view is that we’re all in this together…you, me, us, her, them, the media makers, advertisers, school teachers, taxi cab drivers. We are all to blame, and we’re all responsible and accountable; of course, some more than others.

    Yes indeed it will take more than a piece of paper for the self-esteem of young girls to improve…sometimes, however, all it takes is a piece of paper (a magazine ad, say) to tear it down.

    Anyway, thank you, thank you, thank you.

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