Don't believe everything you see


National Omnibus for the Canadian Women’s Foundation shows 90 per cent of Canadians believe exposure to unrealistic images of women in advertisingis a problem for girls growing up in Canada

Toronto (ON) – February 11, 2013 – With Valentine’s Day approaching, thousands of girls in Canada are being bombarded with ads featuring perfect-bodied women in sexy poses. According to a recent survey commissioned by the Canadian Women’s Foundation, 90 per cent of Canadians agree that exposure to unrealistic sexy imagery of women in advertising is a problem for girls growing up in Canada (62 per cent think it is a major problem and 28 per cent see it as a minor problem). In addition, 88 per cent of Canadians feel that exposure to unrealistic sexy imagery of women in TV and movies also contributes to problems for girls.

Many people have come to accept the advertising phrase that “sex sells” and have grown accustomed to flawless models draped in, over and around products in an attempt to increase sales. As girls enter adolescence their confidence can decline sharply and they can become highly influenced through media images and peer pressure. Bombarding young girls with images of underweight and digitally manipulated women alongside tabloids publishing unflattering photos of these same models and celebrities with aggressive captions provokes negative body image.

“When girls have constant exposure to unrealistic images of sexualized women, they become critical about their bodies and may start to believe their main value comes from their appearance, rather than their intelligence or other strengths,” said Beth Malcolm, Director, Girls’ Fund at the Canadian Women’s Foundation. “This can lead to problems such as eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression.”

To help girls stay safe, build self-esteem, challenge stereotypes and successfully navigate adolescence, the Canadian Women’s Foundation funds dynamic programs across Canada that engage girls’ mind, body and spirit. The Foundation also supports violence prevention programs that educate girls and boys about healthy relationships and how to recognize warning signs of a potentially abusive relationship.  

“At the Canadian Women’s Foundation, we want every girl to believe in herself and realize she matters.  To achieve this we fund strong programs that give girls the opportunity to not only learn new skills, but also to practice these skills and develop critical thinking and media literacy,” said Malcolm.

The study also shows that 37 per cent of Canadians know a girl who doesn’t think she is pretty enough and wants to diet or get plastic surgery as a result.

Parents can help their daughters to build self-esteem and not feel pressured by what is shown in advertising and on movies and TV by:

  • Talking to their daughters about images, stereotypes and influence of media. Pointing out the negative messages and how peer pressure can make people change their attitudes and values.
  • Talking to their daughters without boundaries and listening without judgment.Making her feel that it is OK to ask you questions or talk to you about anything.
  • Looking into community programs.In some communities, girls can participate in a Canadian Women’s Foundation funded program that help girls move into confidence by learning ways to stay safe in relationships, improve their mental health, challenge stereotypes and successfully navigate adolescence.  In other communities there may be girls programs that provide a safe space for girls to discuss issues and build their confidence. Reach out to your local community centre or school to find out about programs in your community.

Methodology: Online survey among 1,504 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists, conducted on November 22 and November 23, 2012.  The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 2.5%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada.

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