Filed under: beliefs, body image, journalism, Weight Issues, writing | Tags: advertisement, beauty, body acceptance, body image, body shaming, weight, women's issues
Jezebel featured an article almost a year ago which bluntly sums up the below ad in two sentences. “The message: your wife, though she’s clearly gone to some effort to look sexy and seduce you, is too fat. Solution: adultery.” Since then, the ad for the website Ashley Madison has been periodically resurfacing on blogs and Facebook pages, stirring outrage. Most recently, Volup2., an online magazine geared toward female body acceptance, posted it to their Facebook page.
What I find most appalling about this ad is my initial reaction. While after regarding it for a moment I can dismiss it as just another hateful ad, my first thoughts are clearly influenced by being inundated with these sorts of images and ideas about what a woman can look like and still be considered beautiful.
In actuality, I admire all women who are brave enough to put themselves out there like this and am envious of their self-confidence. I am especially impressed with women who are working to make the public idea of female beauty more inclusive such as Jacqueline aka “Juicy Jackie,” the plus sized model who was featured in this ad without her knowledge.
But, for just a split second after seeing these women (particularly in the context of this ad) I am momentarily glad that I am smaller than the plus sized woman, and I hate the woman who is thin yet buxom. This is clearly sick thinking.
So what is going on here? I consider both of these women attractive, and don’t mean either of them disrespect. If I think about it, the hate I have for the thin model isn’t actually directed at her, but rather that I don’t have a body like hers…something ads like this suggest I should have. In this ad, the message to women is pretty transparent. Unless your body looks like this (possibly airbrushed) model, you shouldn’t necessarily expect your mate to be sexually attracted to you.
Women, and men to growing, but admittedly lesser, extent are overwhelmed with similar images on advertisements like these, as well as in television and movies that not only push certain ideals of beauty, but also actively shame those who do not fit it.
For women, it seems these ideals are especially narrow in media representation. Think about the sort of woman most often featured in advertisements, catalogues, television, and movies. Not only should a woman be smaller than a size 6, (or size 12 for plus sized models) but she should have an hourglass figure, not too much muscle tone, an angular face, and professionally done hair and make up. While these standards don’t always carry into the real world, body shaming certainly does.
A thin woman might hear “eat a cheeseburger” which implies that she must be thin because she doesn’t eat enough. A plus sized woman might hear, “like she needs that” implying she must be fat because she eats constantly. A woman with defined abs and arms might be called “manly” or even told, “Stop working out so much and have some icecream,” implying that well toned bodies aren’t feminine. Of course, not everyone engages in this sort of behavior, but just a few comments can be damaging. The worst part is, sometimes people aren’t even aware they are doing it.
Once, while sharing my body insecurity woes (for the umpteenth time) with a past boyfriend, he told me, “You’re no Natalie Portman, but you’re acceptable.” He went on to say something along the lines of, “just like I’m no Johnny Depp.” I realize this response was not meant to be hurtful, but the wording certainly compares both of us to people famous for their good looks..and finds us lacking. For you guys who are wondering, the correct response to a woman shaming herself would have been: “I think you look great, and there are more important things to me than just how you look. I feel like you should stop talking down to yourself.”
Jacqueline said of the ad she was featured in, “Not all women are necessarily insecure, but it’s no secret that body insecurity is endemic, regardless of size. This kind of message is extremely damaging to self worth…A size 2 woman who sees this ad sees the message: ‘If I don’t stay small, he will cheat.’ A size 12 woman might see this ad and think ‘if I don’t lose 30lbs, he will cheat.’ A size 32 woman could see this ad, and feel ‘I will never find love.’ It’s horrific.”
She said the photograph was taken before she began her modeling career, and she was unaware the photographer would sell it as a stock photo without regard to its usage. “I am a size 32. I am beautiful..Beauty is not and has never been one-size-fits-all. I do not appreciate my image being used, without notice or permission, to tell women I have never met otherwise.”