There’s no secret in the fact that American society’s obsessed with body image. Through movies, music, and advertisement, we’ve become conditioned to believe that being young and thin is attractive and something to obtain by whatever means necessary. Clothes, diets, pills and exercise are so entrenched in our psyche that we hardly notice them anymore. Even underwear ads such as Victoria’s Secret plays upon it through their Angels who are young, thin, attractive and by all means fit and athletic. They look like angels, for a lack of a better word (and they’ve probably had that in mind when they created the line).
In recent years, many people have protested a lack of diversity in advertising, not only racially, but for women of all ages, shapes, and sizes. There have been suggestions that marketers create ads that celebrates women from all walks of life and to break the image that women have to look and be a certain way. Lane Bryant has become the most recent company to try and counteract this image with their “I’m no angel” campaign. On the surface, the ad appears innocent enough, celebrating women of all shapes and sizes and allowing everyone to feel comfortable in her skin. But upon closer inspection, the ad is just as damaging as a Victoria’s Secret ad for what they imply about age, race, and size.
Let’s take a look at their line “I’m no angel.” To me, it says that plus size women aren’t perfect or “angelic” because they’re not the size of someone who can fit into something at Victoria’s Secret. They’re personalities are loud and abrasive, women who don’t care what anybody else thinks by what they say and act. They are in essence, the epitome of being a devil in sheep’s clothing. While plus sized women can be vivacious and energetic, it’s not to say that there aren’t those who are quiet and reserved or anywhere in between. A woman’s size shouldn’t stereotype her into what her personality should be to the point of making her feel uncomfortable and untrue to herself.
Then there’s the mitigating factor of age in the ad. The models in the Lane Bryant ad are middle aged, implying that only women past their prime are the ones that might be interested in wearing plus sized underwear. Time to hang up Victoria’s Secret and put on your big girl panties. And what if you’re in you’re twenties or early thirties and need attractive, plus sized underwear? Well, maybe if they work out a little harder, they’ll be able to fit into “normal” sized clothing and not wear something more appropriate for a soccer mom.
And finally, what about the representation of people of color? Lane Bryant has used a few women of color for their campaign, but they aren’t given any testimonials or speaking roles until the end of the ad and only then do they say “I am no angel.” I’m not an expert on African American representation in the media, but Lane Bryant seems to suggest that women of color are wild and untamed from the African plains, women who should be treated with suspicion for the fear of straying good people off the straight and narrow.
I’m not a plus sized woman, nor a woman that fits into any of the above categories. However, I’m a woman living in a world that values body image more than anything else in the world. Nobody should be made to feel bad because of how we look. We come from all around the world with all shapes and sizes. We are who we are through personal experiences and those of our ancestors. While we can’t force ourselves to be a different body shape, neither can we promote certain body images as those of angelic or devil-like tendencies. We can, however, change our views of the world and how we should be represented in the media so that hurtful stereotypes can no longer flourish.