A couple weeks ago, on my way back to Philly after a restful break at home, I came across this advertisement for Swarovski crystals on a billboard. It immediately caught my eye because I thought the catchphrase with the picture was rather ludicrous. Get caught doing what? Eating a burger? Drinking a shake? Eyeing the skinny model, her bones jutting out, I thought the poor woman should probably be left alone to eat in peace.
Taking a look at the other advertisements part of the “Get Caught…Philly” campaign, it became abundantly clear that Swarovski was making a ploy that glamorous women should never be caught doing things that they depict as banal or low class. While the other ads were offensive in their own right to everyday women who do those activities, I was particularly offended by their depiction of eating as one of those ‘low class’ activities. According to this ad, eating has become on par with a criminal offense (the model is gaping and horrified at being ‘caught’) – something that should be done shamefully and in secret. God forbid you be caught buying a pint of Ben and Jerry’s or (Gasp!) indulging in a hamburger and shake. Because, clearly, glamorous skinny women would never do anything like eat in public.
This reminded me of Marilyn Wann’s introduction in the Fat Studies Reader about the stigma surrounding being fat. This particular ad is not shaming fatness directly, but rather establishing a new shame to habits associated (erroneously) with obesity – specifically eating. These ads are creating a kind of nonsensical fear surrounding normal and healthy activities. They are essentially saying that to be like the woman in the ad, you shouldn’t eat, and if you do, it is is a shame. They limit the domain of beauty and allure to a select few individuals who (apparently) never get caught eating – a ridiculous concept.
Wann, Marilyn. Foreword. The Fat Studies Reader. By Esther D. Rothblum and Sondra Solovay. New York: New York UP, 2009. Ix-Xxii. Print.