Today, the Be Real Campaign for body confidence releases its Body Image Pledge. Aimed at the media, music, fashion and advertising industries, it stands up for men and women who for years have said they want to see pictures on TV, in adverts and in magazines that, put simply, look like they do.
The journey behind this began more than 10 years ago when Dove, who alongside YMCA later founded the Be Real Campaign, carried out some research that discovered perhaps unsurprisingly that three quarters of UK women wanted advertising to reflect them. However, despite the intervening years and the increasing awareness around the issues of body shaming and body confidence, advertising regulations have remained consistent, saying simply that adverts need only be "legal, decent, honest and truthful".
So Dove went back, redid its research for a second time and what it found was a wake-up call, for today, as 80% of UK women are unhappy with the way advertising portrays female bodies. Something needed to be done and this is where the Body Image Pledge, on which YMCA has worked extensively, comes in.
The Be Real Body Image Pledge is a relatively short, voluntary document that is undoubtedly a journey for all those industries and business who will commit to signing up. It is, however, we believe, a milestone in battling and eventually overcoming the growing issue of low body confidence among people in the UK.
Within it, the Be Real Campaign asks that the imagery used by those who sign up:
- Reflects diversity
- Reflects reality
- Promotes health and wellbeing
YMCA England is one such organisation that has signed up. We know from our work with young people that low body confidence is a huge issue and that there is a growing pressure from TV and social media to look a certain way.
I've spoken out enough times on the use of ultra-thin models in fashion and the latest damaging social media selfie crazes to know that the unhealthy images shown on TV, in magazines and on the Underground have huge ramifications on those taking in the adverts, many of whom come away believing this is how they should look. YMCA strongly believes that industries have a responsibility to promote a healthy body image and reflect the true diversity of the population.
We're proud to say that a significant number of organisations have joined YMCA in signing up to the Pledge, including Young Minds, Association of Teachers and Learners, Youth Sports Trust, CurvaMag, Dove, N-brown (Jacamo, Simply Be, JD Williams), Anti-Bullying Alliance (NCB), bareMinerals, All Walks Beyond The Catwalk, Girlguiding, Centre for Appearance Research, Superdrug and Beat. However, we won't stop there.
The Be Real Campaign will now be working hard to engage further supporters while also continuing to help schools, parents and guardians improve young people's own body confidence. Today, in 2016, it really is time that we commit to putting health and wellbeing firmly above appearance.
Read more about the Be Real Pledge at and follow the discussion on social media with the hashtag #PledgeToBeReal.
- The Be Real Campaign is a national movement campaigning to change attitudes to body image to help us put health above appearance and be confident in our bodies. It was founded by Dove in partnership with YMCA England in 2014 following the 'Reflections on Body Image' report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Body Image. YMCA England continues to play an active role in this APPG, now chaired by Mary Glindon MP.