Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Size -1 is the new size 6

The common factor that Susan Bordo makes evident in her case study in Hunger as Ideology is the suppression of women and their choices. The advertisement focuses on knowing what women want to do but offering the option of what women should do. And the things that women should do are all learned from either past generations or portrayed in the media. I mean, why would women subject themselves to eat as little as possible for the glorification of the appearance of their body if the media did not shove the idea that “thin is beautiful” down their throats?

A recent example I remembered was a commercial for Yoplait. She wife is talking to her friend about all of the sweets she has been eating while her husband, who is eavesdropping, desperately looks through the fridge to see if there are any leftover desserts. By the end of the commercial, it is apparent that the desserts she was referring to are actually Yoplait’s dessert flavors so women can satisfy their sweet tooth without having to pay the price of gaining weight. The advertisement encourages dieting, as long as it is with them. Yoplait also sends the strong message that with their product, women are able to be in control of their weight without having to starve themselves. Just another example of how “the popular media have targeted as characteristic dilemmas of the ‘contemporary woman,’ who is beset by conflicting role demands and pressures on her time” (105).

Bordo also brings a very interesting point, which is that during the mid-19th century, “voluptuous female nudes” (102) were adorned, and Lillian Russell was admired by both men and women because she had a “hearty appetite” as well as an “ample body” (102) whereas our culture praises the minority bodies of so-skinny-you-can-see-her-rib-cage. As Professor Retzinger mentioned, big bodies symbolized wealth, privilege, and status. Now reading through the case study, the comparisons food is made to in order to cater to women, such as sex, love, and morals is such a ridiculous idea until you realize that they still exist everywhere in today’s commercials and advertisements. They are so prominent in today’s culture, it makes me wonder: What positive change and impact have we made?

Our cultures’ media message may not have all shifted dramatically; however, it is relieving to know that there are some companies who encourage natural beauty as well as the bodies of all shapes and sizes. For instance, Seventeen Magazine launched a beauty campaign called Seventeen’s Body Peace Project. The campaign gets readers to sign the pledge of various vows such as: “Appreciate what makes my body different from anyone else’s,” “remind myself that what you see isn’t always what you get on TV and in ads,” and “accept that beauty isn’t just about my looks. It’s my awesome personality and my energy that creates a whole, unique package.” It may or may not sound a bit corny, but I think what is important is that there are well known and powerful companies, like Seventeen Magazine, that are encouraging the celebration of all body types. They also have female celebrities sign the petition to inspire others. As Jean Kilbourne mentions in Slim Hopes, we need more positive messages from the media as well as more critical thinkers and media literacy going around our society.
If you would like to sign the petition à


  1. Jean,really good example with the Yoplait commercial. I've never realized that there are so many subliminal messages about women being thin embedded in the media!
    Moreover, I like how you brought up the point that there are companies that counter-culturally promote positive body image. Although this might be yet another advertising tactic, at least it is a positive one. In addition to Seventeen Magazine, Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty launched in 2004 after a study discovered only 2% of women around the globe find themselves beautiful. The Campaign created educational programs and activities aimed at building self-esteem. Here is a relatively well-known commercial Dove produced as part of their campaign: As shown in this video, the images of the beauty ideal that women adhere to are time-consuming, the result of photo-manipulation and most, importantly, unattainable and unreal.

  2. After reading Jean's post, I wanted to post about Dove’s beauty campaign as well. Dove does a good job of using voluptuous women in their advertisements in order to promote a healthy lifestyle and show women that they do not need to be stick skinny to feel beautiful or comfortable in their own skin. However, how do we know that this is not just another advertising scheme created by Dove in order to attract women of different shapes and sizes? What many people don’t know is that the same company that owns Dove owns Axe body spray. Axe body spray commercials depict women going crazy for the scent of Axe spray, body wash, etc. They are drawn to the men, their clothing, or even objects that have been sprayed with Axe. The commercials are geared to attract women in to buying the spray for their boyfriends or husbands and to attract men in to wanting to use Axe so women will want them. Many of us have seen the Dove commercials on TV with the more voluptuous women telling the world that they feel beautiful and comfortable in their own skin even though they aren’t as skinny as models. The advertisements that Dove and Axe promote seem to be contradictory yet the same company, Unilever, owns them. Dove is trying hard to stray away from the typical advertisements of other beauty products such as “use this product and you will be beautiful,” but Axe is doing just that in their advertisements. Axe is not only attracting women in their advertisements but they are sending the message Dove opposes, “use this product and women will want you,” to boys and men. Both Dove and Axe’s advertisements are successful in attracting their intended audience, but it is important to know that the same company owns them and maybe Dove’s campaign for beauty is really just another advertising scheme.

  3. This blog post really reminds me of an example that I've seen countless times on TV. This January, 2012, I spent a lot of time watching TV and I must have seen at least a dozen weight loss program ads per day, especially Jenny Craig. Some of the ads show how low calorie a meal is in their program and show how much a woman, who went through the dieting program, accomplished losing weight X pounds. Also, some of these testimonial women don't even look that fat and when the ad revealed their weight the ad kind of sets the standard of how heavy is too heavy and how heavy is when you know you need to go on a diet. These representations in the media probably add to the prominent image of slender, tall, beautiful women.

  4. Ladies, I appreciate both the thoughtful post and comments, particularly Leily's reminder that we need to consider a brand's parent company (remember those huge music conglomerates? Much the same exists in the consumer products sphere, e.g. Procter & Gamble).

    And yes, it's always worth reminding ourselves that different standards of beauty have existed over time, including that of the voluptuous female (think Botticelli's Venus, Mae West, even Marilyn Monroe). The idea that nowadays those women would be labeled "plus-size" is fairly ridiculous.