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Fighting Against Eating Disorders, This Man is Pushing for Regulation of Photoshop

July 16, 2014
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Fighting Against Eating Disorders, This Man is Pushing for Regulation of Photoshop
Annette Schreyer/Redux
In this battle, it's Seth Matlins vs. the advertising world.

The war on the advertisement and entertainment industries is not a new one. For years now, activists have warned that Photoshopping — a process that alters photos digitally using image-editing software — leads to unrealistic expectations for children who idolize the celebrities that adorn the covers of magazines, album covers and ads.

Tightening waistlines, removing blemishes, enlarging breasts and redefining jawlines are just a few of the touchups many advertisers make before putting out their ad campaigns. However, these Photoshopped ads have led to devastating effects on people — especially teens.

According to Radar Programs (an eating disorder treatment facility), 69 percent of young girls in a study said that magazine models influence their idea of the perfect body shape. Out of those, 47 percent said magazine photos influence them to want to lose weight, but only 29 percent were actually overweight when the study was conducted.

But one man is working to have a bill passed that will call on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to regulate Photoshop in the United States. Seth Matlins, a former advertisement executive, and his wife, Eva, started the Feel More Better movement, which works to make the world easier for girls and women, after he began viewing the world through the eyes of his adopted daughter, Ella Rose.

“In my estimation, it’s as big a public health crisis as anything we have faced as a country,” Matlins told National Journal. “…this is an issue that has affected, and I’d argue, infected generations of Americans—and promises to continue to affect generations more unless we do something.”

The number of young adults and children with eating disorders and low self-esteem is rising, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. Up to 57 percent of teen girls engage in crash dieting, fasting, self-induced vomiting, diet pills or laxatives; boys are affected as well. About one-third of teen boys and more than one half of teen girls also practice unhealthy weight control behaviors — including skipping meals, fasting and vomiting.

And that’s exactly why Matlins is doing what he’s doing. He has teamed up with groups such as the Eating Disorders Coalition to get his legislation introduced by Congresswomen Lois Capps of California and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. Congressman Ted Deutch, also from Florida has joined as a co-sponsor.

In April, Matlins and other advocates of the legislation visited Capitol Hill to hold a briefing on the bill. Then last month, they returned to present Capps and Ross-Lehtinen with a Change.org petition signed by 28,000 people who back the bill. Since then, the petition has received 35,000 supporters.

The FTC commented on the pending legislation, saying that the agency already “has the authority to take action against any ad whose net impression is considered deceptive under the Federal Trade Commission Act.” But activists and sponsors of the bill are urging the FTC to create a systematic approach — rather than a one-off investigation — when it comes to Photoshopped ads.

If the legislation passes, hopefully it won’t just be the number of Photoshopped images decreasing, but the number of body image issues and eating disorders, too.

“The average woman has 13 thoughts of self-hate everyday,” Matlins said. “When I think about my babies — boy and girl — having thoughts of self-hate because of an ad that’s trying to deceive them to sell a widget? That’s not cool. Not cool with me.”

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