This is the first installment of an ongoing series on body positivity and cause marketing. We’ll be covering both the benefits and pitfalls of recent PR campaigns by big brands, from Lane Bryant to Dove, that often appeal to women’s common insecurities.
What does it mean when we connect body image to our pocketbook? Should brands really use their platforms to speak out on media representation? Stay tuned for future articles on the topic.
If you’ve ever felt insecure after watching a Victoria’s Secret ad, you’re not alone.
I’m debating boycotting Victoria’s Secret, I’m so over their models and unrealistic ideas of body image
— Brittany Ratté (@_Qween_Bee) March 18, 2014
And lately, some stores have been pushing back against Victoria’s Secret’s limited representation of women—some more directly than others.
Most recently, Lane Bryant announced their #ImNoAngel campaign, to advertise its Cacique lingerie line. The title of the campaign makes a deliberate nod at Victoria’s Secret’s uniformly thin models (called “angels”)—choosing instead to feature plus-sized models, looking fierce and fabulous.
Many people took to Twitter to celebrate the campaign:
— sugarshaz (@sugarshaz19) May 9, 2015
— Fanny Cortina (@FannyCortina) April 14, 2015
But not all were impressed by the decision:
— Malia Probst (@TheMalia) April 10, 2015
I’m all about calling out advertisers and retailers for thinking there’s only one kind of attractive, and Victoria’s Secret is a great place to start. But this campaign comes off as a little competitive—as though celebrating a full figured woman has to be done at the expense of a thin one. Avoiding that kind of competition is one of the cornerstones of the feminism I practice.
So what’s the chief problem with holding up a different size of women in advertisements, as Lane Bryant has done? It’s not large enough in scope.
“I take issue with the fact that although Lane Bryant has been a plus-size retailer for the better part of a century, they still chose to shoot this campaign with very little body diversity. All of the models have similar, proportional figures, and all of them are around sizes 12 or 14, despite the fact that Lane Bryant’s customer base are primarily women who wear size 20 and above.
I’ve been buying bras at Lane Bryant for years, and I have never once seen a Lane Bryant customer with a body that is represented, even a little bit, in any of Lane Bryant’s advertising campaigns, myself included.”
Lane Bryant (which is moving from the term “Plus Size” to “Her Size”) serves women in American sizes 14-28. But the models in #ImNoAngel are all, according to Richards, around a size 14. When I looked at it that way, Lane Bryant seemed look more like Victoria’s Secret, who caters to sizes 0-12, but only features 2’s and 4’s in their ads.
Even in “Her Size,” thin is in. While you won’t find the Lane Bryant models’ body type in a lot of fashion magazines, the “type” is still there: an hourglass figure with ample breasts and relatively flat stomachs. That’s considered an “ideal” plus-size. These models are not-thin women that still reach acceptable standards—yet another yardstick with which to measure your beauty.
I’m not a fan of Victoria’s Secret and the way they market a very particular body image, but Lane Bryant’s ads seem to need to pit “this sexy” against “that sexy.” I think the women that are featured in both Victoria’s Secret and Lane Bryant’s ads are beautiful—and sure, that’s their job, as models. And I appreciate the discussion this has fostered, because the range of beauty in women’s bodies is so much more vast than either store is showing.
I would love to see the full range of women’s bodies in advertisements—hourglass, love handled, long legged, flat and full bellied, stretch-marked, muscular, curvy, thin, tall, short, medium. You know, women-sized women.
Can you imagine actually being able to know what a bathing suit would look like on your body, because the online store features a photo of a woman who looks like you, stomach and all? I can’t. It seems utterly ridiculous to me.
But why should it? Clothes look good on women of all shapes, heights, and weights. Stores should be showing me what the clothes really look like, on more than just one body type.
Lane Bryant has made some headway in adding another dimension to the narrow definition of beauty we see in advertisements. Now, it’s time for all retailers to take hold of this obvious need, and showcase all women: with all the bumps, bulges, curves, angles, shades, shapes, sizes, hairstyles, and heritages that are available.
And maybe one store can’t showcase all types of women. But all stores have got to try a little harder.
Emily Rabbitt is a freelance and fiction writer in the Washington, D.C. area. She is a Massachusetts native, iced coffee enthusiast, and marathon runner, and tries to be a good citizen of the planet. Follow her on Twitter: @rabbitterun.