There’s a huge disconnect to what most women see in their mirrors and what they see on their screens. Models featured on spreads of magazines, runways, and commercials are paragons of slenderness, height, and beauty, but they also represent an incredibly tiny portion of the population. But this minority is the standard that most women are held to, and it creates self-esteem issue in many young girls and women.
However, new brand campaigns and movements are popping up everywhere to challenge this status quo. They share the same idea – all of our bodies are different and unique, but all of them deserve to be loved and appreciated.
Lane Bryant’s #ImNoAngel
The average size of a woman in the US is size 14, but in the fashion world, models above a size 4 are often labeled “plus size.” Many claim that these images in fashion ads under represent women of all sizes. Lane Bryant directly addressed Victoria’s Secret’s frequently criticized campaign ad featuring skinny and fit models (the “Perfect Body”) with one of their own. #ImNoAngel features women of various body types and sizes wearing their newest brand of lingerie, Cacique.
CEO Linda Heasley stated, “The Lane Bryant #IMNOANGEL initiative celebrates women of all shapes and sizes by redefining society’s traditional notion of sexy with a powerful core message: ALL women are sexy.” There has been backlash from some who claim that embracing “plus size” models is tantamount to encouraging obesity. This simply isn’t true. What this campaign does is encourage equal representation. Most women are not size 0’s and 2’s. It has nothing to do with eating choices or health; it’s a simple matter of biology. Failing to represent “larger” women is telling them that they don’t make the cut.
Others are challenging the clear separation in retail due to the label of “plus size” clothing. The campaign site asserts, “It’s a great step forward that models in the current “plus sized” category are now being used by major fashion labels, but it’s a step backwards to have them constantly referred to as “plus sized.” When the major labels first started using these models, perhaps the “plus sized” term played a positive role in alerting the public to this important change.
But it’s now time for complete acceptance; it’s time to drop the label. They’re all “models”, no matter what shape or size.” This is supported by many women who talk about the alienation they feel when there is a separated section for them to shop in the store or online – the experience of an “othering” of their bodies.
Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign has captured the hearts of millions of women with their messages about self-confidence and conceptions of beauty. Their videos include the “Real Beauty Sketches” and “Choose Beautiful” which bring to light the need to shed the negativity we have towards our bodies. Their newest #SpeakBeautiful campaign is targeted towards the way we talk about our bodies and beauty on social media.
There are over five million negative tweets a year by women self-criticizing their bodies for being imperfect, having too much cellulite, or not living up to “standards.” The #SpeakBeautiful campaign is a partnership with Twitter that seeks to encourage women to change the way we talk about beauty on social media. By focusing on positive aspects and engaging in self-love, our words can have a powerful difference in influencing our perceptions.
Critics of healthy and diverse body image campaigns argue that they are merely asserting the importance of physical features rather than the substance behind it. But the fact of the matter is that no matter what, almost everyone is cognizant of what they look like. It’s a huge part of our lives, it’s the body we live in, it affects our confidence and our measures of self, it’s a part of our identity. It’s unrealistic to ignore this factor.
What we can do is change how these physical features are viewed into healthier, inclusive, and more empowering ways. This is not necessarily emphasizing superficiality or placing greater importance on only looks; it’s a broader component of encouraging self-love.
Cover image courtesy of The Huffington Post.