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Norway’s New Retouched Photo Law is a Precedent in the Fight Against Unrealistic Beauty Standards

From a very young age, girls and boys are raised to aspire to achieve unrealistic beauty standards. Certain colours of the skin, absence of spots on the face, pimples, hair, facial hair, thin waist, abs and muscles for males, etc. matter so much. And almost all individuals at one point or another face the insecurity of not being able to meet these unrealistic standards.
The pressure of maintaining a beautiful appearance persists longer and stronger for females, as often they are made to associate their appearances with their self-worth. So many celebrities are known to have gone under the knife to change the way they look and get closer to reaching unrealistic beauty standards. Such events further increase the pressure in the minds of young people who idolise the said celebrities.
The pressure of beauty has been mounting even more with the advent of social media and social media influencers posting their edited images on various channels for marketing different beauty products. Various image editing software with different face filters that helps modification of one’s appearance causes the young audience to feel inadequate about their own looks, which creates a mental pressure on them. This leads to rising in mental health issues including low self-esteem and depression.
According to a 2016 study, exposure to doctored Instagram selfies “directly led to lower body image” among participating adolescent girls. The researchers of the study said that the girls who saw the edited photos rated them as more pretty or attractive than the unedited images and believed they were realistic.
In order to address this and discourage the audience from believing in such unrealistic beauty, Norway recently became the latest country to pass regulations targeting manipulated images. The new path-breaking legislation will require social media influencers and advertisers to attach a disclaimer label to retouched images. Violations will be punishable by fines.
The Norwegian regulations were passed as an amendment to the country’s Marketing Control Act and are intended to “raise awareness among people that the perfect bodies in advertisements do not show people as they appear in real life,” according to the Norwegian Ministry of Children and Families. Label requirements are limited to photo and video advertisements that include images of people whose body size, frame or skin have been altered; changing hair or retouching a bruise, for instance, may not require a label.
The regulations, which the ministry said are scheduled to go into effect in July 2022, will also apply to images shared by social media influencers and other public figures who post edited photos of themselves while advertising products or services.