Internet portal Yahoo! Japan has implemented changes to its advertising policies. The new regulations, which went into effect on Sept 3, prohibit the use of advertising language that Yahoo! Japan feels will cause a mental/inferiority complex in those who see them related to an aspect of their personal appearance.
“Advertisements containing statements like the ones listed below cause people to have mental complexes,” asserts the Japanese-language press release, giving the examples of:
“Because I have a lot of body hair I wasn’t popular with the opposite sex, but now that I use hair removal products, I have become popular.”
“Because I was heavyset, people avoided walking with me, but since I’ve started using diet products, that’s stopped happening.”
“I was balding, and worrying about what other people thought about that made me lose confidence, but by using hair-restoration products, I’ve regained my confidence.”
To clarify, Yahoo! Japan’s new policy is not a crackdown on fraudulent ads or online scams that promise unrealistic results, are rife with hidden fees, or infringe on customer’s privacy through phishing ploys. The effectiveness of the product/treatment being offered and the transparency of its pricing are irrelevant, as the newly added policy’s sole litmus test is whether or not Yahoo! Japan feels it will create an emotional complex within those who view it. “Statements that frame an aspect of physical appearance as something to have a complex about preserves and promotes discrimination, and is absolutely unforgivable,” the notice states.
It’s clear that Yahoo! Japan’s heart is in the right place, as falsely creating and then exploiting psychological pain in an extremely unkind way to make a buck/yen, and devaluing someone as a person for not living up to a particular set of physical appearance standards is dastardly as well.
At the same time, the amount of body hair and body fat a person has is something they, to a degree, can influence. Some people’s genetics and/or preexisting lifestyles have resulted in them being hairier or heavier than they themselves would like to be, and if that also happens to be more so than they have to be, there are goods and services that can help them at least get a little closer to the appearance they desire for themselves, and in turn help them feel happier and more confident. Modern science even has ways to deal with receding hairlines, as our own staff can attest.
Going back to the examples of newly banned ads, in Japan not just men, but also many women have an open preference for a smooth-skinned partner, so doing at least some hair removal is, in terms of statistical probability, probably going to have a positive effect on your dating prospects. The “not wanting to walk with a person if they’re heavyset” example is a head scratcher, since those two things aren’t usually correlated in Japanese society. As for hair restoration, for generations in Japan the stereotypical image of a washed-up, ineffectual middle-aged man includes a shiny, sparsely covered scalp, which is a source of stress and anguish for many guys with exceeding hairlines.
While the ideal would be for the unfair association to go away, it also seems unfair to imply that it would be wrong for balding guys to want more hair, or to feel more confident if they had it, and so they should simply endure the current connotations of thinning hair until society becomes more enlightened. It’d be similarly unkind to tell people they have to accept whatever their current weight and amount of body hair as their unalterable destiny, and that no desire for change could possibly be positive or healthy.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that Yahoo! Japan isn’t outright banning hair removal, weight loss, or hair restoration ads. Under the new policy, those can still be allowed as long as they’re not, in Yahoo! Japan’s eyes, promoting an inferiority complex. That tightrope might be hard for advertisers to walk, but perhaps an effective strategy would be to trim the “I used to ” part of the story and focus more on “[Now] I ,” so that everyone can choose to pursue the appearance they have decided they want.
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