In case you hadn’t heard, there is a new ad campaign by Lane Bryant: I’m No Angel.
At first I was feeling pretty positive about it. I get why we need to buck the ridiculous, idealized version of a perfect female body brought to us by Victoria’s Secret. I think we can all agree that the campaign below was nauseatingly bad for most women’s body image.
We definitely don’t need a bunch of tall, thin, and yet somehow busty women telling us that they have society’s version of the perfect body while simultaneously reminding us that we do not. We’re well aware, thank you very much.
It’s confusing to me that anyone at Victoria’s Secret could have looked at the photo and thought “Yes, this is a good representation of our target demographic and will garner a positive response from the public coupled with an uptick in revenue.”
But I guess it’s also confusing to me that anyone with boobs big enough to need a supportive bra would shop there to begin with. I personally prefer the old lady section at Macy’s, the land of thick straps, muted jewel tones and comfort.
So sure, a positive, inclusive conversation about realistic female bodies is better than the eating-disorder-inducing kind. However, this new #ImNoAngel campaign really got me thinking:
Why do we need to keep talking about women’s body’s at all?
Aren’t we tired of this conversation by now?
Are ads like these really the answer?
We all know that feeling good in our own skin is really important for a positive life experience. Feeling good about ourselves and confident in our own skin makes life better. Sometimes we need to talk about it because we might need help getting to that confident place. And we should talk about it, because feeling insecure about our body can induce shame and aid and abet our playing small in the world, which is no bueno for anyone.
But is the antidote to Victoria’s Secret’s version of the perfect body, as defined by media-driven societal pressure, to simply shift the version of the perfect body? Or worse, to go a step further and cause a dichotomy between women of different body types?
No. No it is not.
I fully, 100%, reject that it’s either the bigger, curvier women that are “real women” or the skinny yet somehow-still-busty ones.
We are all real women and we should try to overcome the body image issues forced on us by society by dropping the obsession with how we look altogether. I think we should work instead on loving and accepting ourselves exactly as we are, no matter what … and then going about our business in the world with the confidence that comes from doing so.
When I first saw the ad yesterday I thought:
“Okay but I’m a size 4/6 with skinny legs, big boobs and a frustratingly short torso.” (Note: my torso is only frustrating because I love crop tops and they are hard to pull off when they’re just sort of regular-length on you.)
Then I thought:
“Where exactly are my homegirls clad in underpants? Where is my representation? Neither of those ads make me feel included. Are you saying that me and my short torso do not equal a real woman?”
But then, I literally thought (this is all on the bus ride home, mind you):
“Wait, why the hell am I even thinking about this? Why am I sitting here contemplating which ad for underpants makes me feel more like I fit in as a real woman? Why do I feel like I need to pick an underpants team? I have a business to build, a wedding to plan, a school to raise money for, a job to tend to and books I wanna read. Who gives a flying f…? ”
And I think that’s the issue here.
I think that this entire conversation about women’s bodies need to stop. Let’s end the obsession with who has a real woman’s body by starting to shift our focus to other things involving our gender, like equal pay, reproductive rights, personal safety, access to clean water and education plus, all the cool tricks we can do, like … anything we want.
Let’s stop talking about which version of a woman’s body is right and start using our time, energy and resources to do better stuff in the world.
I don’t think we would have to battle so hard to get to a good place in terms of confidence and body image, if the world wasn’t talking about our bodies so damn much to begin with.
So while I agree that the Victoria’s Secret as the ideal body conversation needs to change, and while I totally understand that Lane Bryant was just taking a jab at it with their ad, I don’t think ads like theirs are the answer.
I just don’t think they’re going to be effective.
Sure, we need to reverse our fat shaming culture and create a more realistic portrayal of women’s bodies, but we’re not going to do it by saying some other version of the female body is better.
My concern is that we’re just starting to pit women of different body types against each other. I mean, shall we actually make everyone choose sides or pick teams as well? No. Because then we might end up ending fat shaming only to replace it with some other form of shaming, and that is definitely not the answer.
Maybe it would be more effective, not to just broaden the spectrum of body types in the conversation about what the female body should look like, but to just stop having that conversation at all.
Maybe the antidote to the harmful, media-driven idealization of the female body isn’t to change the ideal, but to stop the idealization in the first place.
But who knows? I mean, what do me and my short, left-out torso know about anything anyway? I think this as I kick the dirt, shove my hands in my pockets and walk away with my head down because I wasn’t picked for any underpants team at all.