Several years ago, when addressing the topic of culture and media influence on people of faith, Pope Benedict XVI gave us a great deal of food for thought: “Believers are conditioned by a culture of images that imposes contradictory models and impulses with the effective negation of God.”
Note that he didn’t say atheists or agnostics. He said “believers.” He was reminding us how easy it is, even for those who love God and the Church, to be affected by the media to the point where it leads us away from where we need to be.
We see this in so many of us who deal regularly with a variety of insecurities. For example, no matter how many times we tell ourselves, our daughters and friends that they are beautifully made in the image and likeness of God, our encouraging words still have to compete with the messaging from Madison Avenue and beyond.
A steady stream of studies continues to show a connection between confidence, body image and media messaging. One of these studies even showed that media images greatly impacted the body image of girls as young as 5 years old — yes, you read that correctly. The impact can lead to depression, bullying, even suicide. But so far only a handful of those responsible for flooding our culture of images with phony imitations of beauty have been willing to take their own industries to task.
That’s why it was so refreshing to learn about a new campaign from CVS Pharmacy entitled CVS Beauty Mark. Last month the nationwide company addressed the effort in Times Square (of all places), saying they will be cutting way back on using altered beauty imagery in their drug-store chain.
“We will not digitally alter or change a person’s shape, size, proportion, skin or eye color or enhance or alter lines, wrinkles or other individual characteristics.”
Their campaign statements went on to explain how the company realizes even something that seems so simple such as walking down the drug-store aisle for a lipstick or some moisturizer can really impact the way we feel about ourselves — and not in a good way.
“We want our beauty aisle to be a place where our customers can always come to feel good, while representing and celebrating the authenticity and diversity of the communities we serve,” the campaign said.
CVS explains that it’s committed to making some pretty big changes when it comes to promoting its many products related to beauty and cosmetics, including: introducing the CVS Beauty Mark, a watermark that appears on imagery that is authentic and has not been materially altered; working with brand partners in the cosmetic industry to ensure that any imagery they use that has been altered is visibly labeled as such; and promising that 70 percent of the beauty images in their stores will be Beauty Mark compliant, meaning either they have not been retouched or they are labeled as altered.
Yes, it may seem like only a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things. But as Pope Benedict reminded us, the way we see ourselves greatly affects our decisions. If we don’t see ourselves as beloved children of God, thanks to a constant bombardment of messages, then it’s much more difficult to make godly decisions. And CVS is no small-time operation. They have over 10,000 stores nationwide. Just think of all the families, women and teen girls that go in and out of these retail outlets every day. It’s one drop, but a move that definitely helps erase black marks in our current challenging, misleading and very damaging culture of images.