Should Body-Shaming Ads Be Banned?

We’re constantly bombarded with advertisements that portray the perfect body as thin and fit. Would getting rid of them boost our self-esteem, or send us down a slippery slope of censorship?

I’m sick of being bombarded by messages suggesting that my body isn’t good enough! The truth is, no matter how many times teens are told that all body types are beautiful, we will never truly accept that notion as long as we’re surrounded by ads promoting unrealistic body images.

Think about it: In a world where celebrities and models post body-positive messages on social media but are then pictured in magazines looking impossibly tight and toned in a bikini, what are we supposed to believe? The message we’re receiving is: “All body types are beautiful—but be skinny and expose a lot of skin.”

This message can lead to unhealthy eating habits and self-esteem issues. I can speak from experience, because I once felt so bad about my body that I avoided taking part in fun activities, like swimming, where I might be judged on my looks. It wasn’t until I started to value my brains over my body that I was able to find the confidence to be more outgoing, but it wasn’t easy.

If there were a ban on ads that promote unrealistic body images, maybe teens would feel less pressure to meet society’s beauty standards and find it easier to be themselves. It may not be a foolproof way to reduce our insecurities, but it’s a much-needed step in the right direction. With a few careful regulations, beauty would no longer be defined by Photoshopped images; it would instead become an idea everyone can define for themselves.

Then young people could focus on channeling their energy into opportunities that will help them grow, rather than worrying about what they look like

There should definitely be a discussion about the way the advertising industry represents the human body, but a complete ban on ads that feature “unrealistic” body types is extreme and counterproductive. Getting rid of photos of super-skinny and fit bodies suggests that there’s something wrong with them—taking us from “fat-shaming” to “skinny-shaming.”

Bodies come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are naturally thin, and some have more fat or muscle. So it quickly becomes a slippery slope when the government starts judging what qualifies as an unrealistic body. The definition of unrealistic varies from person to person and is therefore very difficult to measure.

Furthermore, censoring these advertisements then leads to questions about whether more extreme regulations could follow down the road. If the government gets to make decisions about something as subjective as which body types are acceptable for the public to view, what else could they take it upon themselves to control in the future?

What we need to remember is that the core purpose of advertising is to attract interest and boost a brand—not to influence our self-esteem or confidence—so promotional messages shouldn’t be taken to heart. Instead, we should use these images as a way to start important conversations about health, self-esteem, and the true definition of beauty.

Seeing pictures of people who don’t look the same as we do is an important step toward building acceptance—starting with body image and hopefully expanding to other differences, including race and sexuality. And in the end, associating any body type with a label (either positive or negative) can be just as unfair and damaging as any single advertisement.


Society’s standards for what’s considered attractive have changed throughout the years. Take a look!

Ancient Greece

Men with muscles and full lips aren’t just considered handsome on the outside—their looks are also believed to be a sign that they are kalos kagathos (the Greek term for good and virtuous).


Victorian women want tiny waists so badly that they wear corsets to cinch in their sides.


To make it in Hollywood, men need lean physiques and broad shoulders.


Thin women are shamed for looking scrawny and encouraged to take weight-gain supplements to achieve the current ideal: small waists with rounded hips and busts.


Just a decade later, petite is in. Models and actresses are short and slim, and male rock stars tend to be skinny with long hair.


Models are tall and toned, with athletic curves and muscles. For men, bodybuilding goes mainstream.


Social media is full of unhealthy #fitspiration, but at the same time, there’s a major movement toward authenticity (think: models with diverse body types, unretouched photos in ads, and #iwokeuplikethis selfies). Hooray!

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Should body-shaming ads be banned?
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