Glenaeon Rudolf Steiner School

For the Sake of Our Girls...!

As a welcome to Term 4, and to celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child yesterday October 11th, I’d like to share with you a little story of some local advertising. On Monday I noticed two ads on the bus shelter on Eastern Valley Way which I felt were not helpful for our students who pass by there every day, and I wrote the following email to the advertising company which places the ads.

Dear Matthew,

As I mentioned (in my call), I am concerned about the impact of two ads on the bus shelter on eastern side of Eastern Valley Way….. Our school is located in Glenroy Ave, and every day some 300 of our students come up a laneway and walk past this shelter on their way to crossing Eastern Valley Way.

The advertisements causing concern are a Johnny Walker ad and a Calvin Klein one that uses what can be construed as sexualized imagery of a young person. I appreciate that these ads may have passed the criteria of the Advertising Council, but there are many parents in our school community who would not be happy that their children are in close proximity every day to images they would regard as inappropriate for children. I also understand your commercial obligations for displaying across venues, and that children are exposed to these images in many places. However, my view is that they are in direct sight of our students as they pass by every day, under their noses as it were, which adds to their impact.

Like any school we are committed to the wellbeing of our students, but we particularly have an ethos of minimizing the extremes of both alcohol and sexualized imagery of children. Could I ask if it is possible in the future for this bus shelter not to run any advertising images that carry either of these kinds of ads? If so, it would be very much appreciated by our school community. 


The manager wrote back in a very sympathetic manner as follows:

As discussed last week we have placed the bus shelter into a restricted advertising network which should resolve this issue moving forward…. 

If you feel that any future advertising is of concern please do not hesitate to contact me to discuss. 

I was delighted to receive his email, and appreciated his immediate response to our concern. He was as good as his word, and the new ads went up on Tuesday. What are the new images? There is no alcohol but there is instead an ad for swimwear featuring the glamorous, flawless bodies of two young women in, shall we say, not innocent poses. They are so flawless it’s highly likely they are Photoshopped. They are obviously older than the Calvin Klein child, but the message is clear. 

What do we say?? By perfect coincidence, there was an excellent article on Wednesday in the Sydney Morning Herald by a 17 year old that really says it all. I commend it to you, as I will be doing to our friendly advertising manager!

For the sake of our girls, Australia needs to ban advertisements that sexualise women
Jacqueline Rousselot


"I want girls to stop being treated as walking Barbie dolls."
That's the frank answer a 10-year-old girl gave when asked what one change she wants to see in the world. She's not alone.

Of 1750 Australian girls Plan International Australia surveyed for International Day of the Girl (which is Wednesday), 93 per cent said they felt it would be easier to succeed in life if they were not judged on their appearance.

One in five girls in Australia now suffer from a diagnosed mental health condition and the most common is anxiety.

Is it any wonder, when you consider we are bombarded with messages to be just so: our make-up must be perfect, our skin flawless, waists thin and legs long and hairless, face contorted into the perfect smile – not too much skin on show (slut), nor too much covered up (tomboy, prude).

From toddlers, we're told we're pretty, while boys are told they're clever. Articles in girls' magazines give advice on hairstyles and colours that match our eyes, in stark contrast to media boys consume, which celebrates their spirit of adventure and curiosity.

Nearly every girlfriend I have has a long list of things she wants to change about herself. I don't know any boys with a list like this. Why? Because boys haven't received messages their whole lives that their worth is determined by their appearance.

Unrealistic representation of beauty is a big problem for girls and it's getting worse.

Girls are subconsciously introduced to beauty standards from a very young age that they are told they must aspire to, which can result in both physical and mental health issues.

Women make up the huge majority of models, and the systematic Photoshopping of beautiful models to make them unachievably flawless is incredibly pervasive: from the pages of a magazine to bus stops. It's everywhere.

Increasing accessibility of media means girls are seeing these manipulated (and manipulative) images at such a young age that by the time they are teenagers, it's already the norm. And unfortunately girls are not yet experts at filtering through the lies.

It's disheartening to consider that even the most naturally attractive model cannot match the beauty of her own images once they've been airbrushed. Yet even this level of perfection is flogged as achievable, provided you buy whatever it is she's selling.

To ease the insane pressure placed on girls, governments and media standards bodies must create restrictions on – or even better, ban – Photoshopping of women and overtly sexist advertising.

Europe has cottoned on to it and is making positive changes to protect girls from unrealistic body and beauty standards. In France, images of models must now carry a disclaimer if they have been digitally altered.

There are even changes afoot in the United States. Last week, Getty Images, one of the largest image distributors in the world, ruled that any image submitted to them cannot be retouched to alter body shape.

Earlier this year, the United Kingdom banned sexist advertising. Melbourne City Council commendably ran a campaign to "dob in" a sexist ad, but has stopped short of a ban.

It's time we challenged this style of advertising, where the Photoshopped woman graces every giant billboard, every television screen and Facebook ad, and is lucky if she's got a head and is not reduced to floating legs, buttocks and breasts.

Any ad that sexualises a woman – or a man for that matter – should be removed. They are harmful for everyone because they trap everyone into roles, whether they're boys or girls, men or women.

Girls get the message that all the cool jobs or hobbies are for those brave boys, while the "weaker sex'' should stick to cleaning products and nappies.

How often do you see an ad with a man cuddling a sick toddler? Or a woman barbecuing? Or a man worrying about laundry stains? Or a woman driving a sports car with a sexy man looking at her adoringly from the passenger seat?

Without sexist ads, girls – and women – would be less confined to stereotypical roles, and boys and men would be less inclined to think that traditionally "male" jobs or roles were their birthright.

Plan International Australia's report, The Dream Gap, finds that as girls get older the gulf grows between what they aspire to and what they believe is possible for them. We can't let this go on.

The fact is that in 2017, perhaps now more than ever before, girls get the message on a daily basis that in order to be successful or happy or lovable we must look a certain way.

And because of this a girl could live her whole life feeling as though she is not good enough for, or not deserving of, success or happiness or love because she falls short of the "ideal" that is relentlessly portrayed as achievable.

Limiting digitally altered images and sexualised advertising is just one way we can help girls to feel they are worthy for their talents, for their brains, for their skills and hopes and dreams and would represent a huge step forward on the path to equality for all.


Jacqueline Rousselot, 17, is a Plan International Australia youth ambassador.

Copyright © 2017. Glenaeon Rudolf Steiner School ACN: 000 385 768 CRICOS Provider Code: 02282B
Middle Cove Campus and Administration: 5a Glenroy Avenue, Middle Cove NSW 2068 Australia.
Telephone +61 2 9417 3193   Fax +61 2 9417 5346