When we hear the term "corporate social responsibility," we often think about environmental standards and the proper treatment of workers. In an ever-changing world, the notion of corporations shaping positive healthy body images for girls should also be included in corporate social responsibility platforms.
Lately there have been many heavily publicized controversies concerning how corporations shape girls’ perceptions of themselves. Most notable of these controversies is a comment that Mike Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie, made in a 2006 interview in which he said that the company was targeting “cool good looking people” and how Abercrombie refused to produce plus-sized clothing. More recently, the Walt Disney Company has faced criticism regarding a makeover that they gave the protagonist Merida from Brave before she became a princess. This makeover solidified the stereotype for young girls of what a princess should look like. The big question that comes out of these two situations is whose responsibility is it to ensure that American teenagers have healthy body images? Does the responsibility fall on the parents or corporations? Or does the responsibility fall somewhere in between?
Currently, corporations are not accepting enough responsibility in regards to positive body images and a majority of the responsibility falls on parents. According to Miss Representation, a documentary that discusses women inequality in the media, teenagers on average spend 31 hours a week watching TV, four hours a week reading magazines, and three hours a week watching movies. Imagine the amount of advertisements that teenagers are exposed to in that time period. The impact that those advertisements and corporations overall can have on young girls is startling. Collectively, corporations have created an image of what the “ideal woman” looks like and it is their responsibility to acknowledge the positive impact that they can have on girls and their body image.
Sure, corporations are created to make profits. However, it is possible to make profits and create positive images. The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty showcased that healthy body images can and should be included in social corporate responsibility platforms. This campaign is far from perfect, the models break the stereotype of what beauty looks like, however the ethnic diversity of the models is questionable and many people were upset after discovering that Dove and Axe (a brand known for sexualizing women in advertisements) are owned by the same parent company, Unilever.
The videos and print media that have come out of this campaign are positive steps in the right direction. In mid-April, the campaign released a video by a forensic sketch artist that compared how a woman saw herself versus how other people saw the same woman. The results were startling and without a doubt women saw themselves in a more negative light than others saw them. These issues with perceptions of our own beauty and ourselves are as a result of years of advertisements, commercials, television shows, and movies defining what beauty is.
The average American does not realize how much of an impact the media and corporations, through their advertisements, can have on individuals, especially young adults as they begin to make decisions for themselves. The truth of the matter is that it is statistically and biologically impossible for everyone to meet the unattainable standards that many corporations have set for the “ideal woman.” Parental involvement and encouragement is unquestionably needed, however it is vital that corporations create positive images of beauty and slowly begin to overturn the unrealistic expectations that millions of people have been exposed to.