A new ad campaign by Betabrand—a retailer of casual clothing—has a positive message for women: You don’t have to choose between brains and beauty. The new ads feature models who have PhD’s. Following in the footsteps of ad campaigns like Dove’s “Real Beauty,” Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In,” and Aerie’s “#AerieReal,” Betabrand is adding its name to a sadly short list of companies working to counteract the media’s objectification of women.
This video shows how models’ bodies are manipulated for advertising:
And that means that today’s girls are growing up with negative self-images. The rate of eating disorders has continued to increase dramatically since 1950; twenty million women now suffer from a severe eating disorder. We no longer advertise “healthy” as beautiful; we advertise emaciated. This chart shows the declining body mass index of Miss America to the point of being starved—so underweight that their BMIs resemble the impoverished, famished children of Africa.
See that one little outlier dot from a few years ago? The one that’s normal, healthy weight? The commentary after she won was something to the effect of: “Did we just pick a fat Miss America?” No. You picked a healthy Miss America. There’s a difference.
That’s why campaigns like those from Betabrand, Aerie, Leanin, and Dove’s are so important. Betabrand’s attempts to show women—especially young women who are the most vulnerable to the media’s pathetic portrayals of women’s bodies—that there is more to beauty than big hips, big butts, and big breasts—that a big brain is a big deal, too. The messages may not be the most effective, but they’re certainly inspirational.
Aerie’s models are unretouched- completely un-Photoshopped, hoping to show that “the real you is sexy.”
Leanin has partnered with Getty Images to create stock photos showing empowered women- women, a departure from images of the stereotypical mother trying to balance work responsibilities with family obligations. or the woman stuck being paid less than her male counterpart.
Dove paved the way for these new portrayals. Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign sparked a “global conversation about the need for a wider definition of beauty, after the study proved the hypothesis that the definition of beauty had become limiting and unattainable. Among the study’s findings was the statistic that only 2% of women around the world would describe themselves as beautiful. Since 2004, Dove has employed various communications vehicles to challenge beauty stereotypes and invite women to join a discussion about beauty. In 2010, Dove launched an unprecedented effort to make beauty a source of confidence, not anxiety, with the Dove® Movement for Self-Esteem.”
There is one problem, though. No matter how much Betabrand tries to boost self-image by showing brainy and beautiful women, it still pushes thin women. Aerie faces the same issue. The models may be unretouched, may be less emaciated than other models, but they’re not the typical, every-day woman. The push to show women of all cup sizes when shopping for bras, to try to show that all shapes and sizes are beautiful, still feature slender women.Yes, they can keep trying to promote the idea that dress sizes don’t define us, but then they should show women with more realistic dress-sizes, women with wrinkles, women who aren’t as able-bodied or athletic as every model out there, PhD or not. As great an idea as it is, it could use improving. It’s definitely a step in the right direction, though.
For more disturbing Photoshop transformations feeding women’s unattainable view of beauty, see here.