Tag Archives: body image

The Success of “Camera Shy”

Dove’s True Beauty campaign has resulted in several viral videos all with the central goal of proving to every woman that she is innately beautiful (…and also selling soap). While I can’t deny that the intentions of these ads is a refreshing and positive change, often the way they have been executed has remained problematic. Several have casts that are almost entirely white, young and conventionally attractive so that while the text at the end reads “You are more beautiful than you think,” the viewer can clearly hear, “but you’d be most beautiful if you looked like these women.” The question also doesn’t address an equally significant problem, linked inextricably with body image, which is the sexualization and objectification of women’s bodies in our society which makes women believe being beautiful is so essential to their identity.

The same is not true of Dove’s recent work, Camera Shy. Opening with a montage of women each avoiding the camera, the commercial tagline asks “When did you stop thinking you’re beautiful?” as it shows a contrasting montage of little girls mugging for the camera. The cast of this ad is diverse in age, body type and race and the message is not so much addressing the individual woman and trying to assure that she’s beautiful. Instead the ad raises the point that as children we are not crushed by a constant fear of what we look like, it’s a fear that was impressed upon us socially and is not innate to womanhood.


Penelope Cruz + french lingerie = ?

This video is a part of a new ad campaign for the upscale French lingerie company, Agent Provocateur, for their new L’Agent line. The company recruited the beautiful Penelope Cruz to direct this seductive short film, which features her real-life husband, Javier Bardem. In this video, the main male character walks through a house that is experiencing some sort of orgy. Throughout this 6 minute video, the fundamental heteronormative characteristics of advertisements and music videos are present. Besides the obvious fact that there are a myriad of beautiful, thin women hanging around the house in their lingerie, looking sexy and never speaking a word, other elements are also displayed. For example, at 1:32 the man is staring at three underwear-clad women dangling from gymnastics rings, as if they are on display at an exhibit – they are not presented at women but as mere objects to look at. Although there is diversity presented (one woman is black), these women are all thin, exhibiting the Bordo’s idea of the ideal slender female body. At 1:50 and 2:00, two girls in lingerie are eating cupcakes and licking icing off of each other in the kitchen, which depicts the typical male fantasy — girl on girl action. At 2:50, two practically naked girls are touching themselves in an outdoor shower, displaying the typical “wet” female body, another male fantasy. This scene in the house ends at 3:45, when the man in the video is practically hypnotized by a beautiful woman simply whipping her hair back and forth and pressing her breasts onto his face. Not once does she utter a word, but solely uses her body and sexuality. In the end, this whole erotic vision ends up literally being a man’s dream. The alpha male in the video turned out to be a construction worker (typical male role) who passed out on the job and fantasized this titillating orgy.

What do you all think about this ad campaign? It is obviously a very sexualized/aesthetically pleasing lingerie commercial, but does that make any of these problems okay? Is the objectification of women made better or worse because it was written and directed by a woman?

The Only Female Body

This ad, from Victoria’s Secret’s I Love My Body campaign, claims to present new, diverse bodies to the viewer but fails horribly. Despite the two models with darker skin tones, the ad features three blonde white women and two white brunettes. While adding some diversity, every other model in the line-up order is pale white and blonde. Each body is nearing unhealthy-looking levels of thinness, other than their amply enhanced cleavage, that is. The lack of body diversity, that there is only one “true” female shape – the slender body – is revealingly degrading and harmful to women. The ad claims to have “a Body for Every Body” which begs the question, what are women who do not fit this shape? They are erased entirely from the dialogue. In fact, introducing the models as “bodies” is objectifying in its own right, claiming the women as objects of advertising which the viewer is encouraged to “discover.” The sameness of these women, while calling it diversity, and the questionable language used to present them are all things that Victoria’s Secret should really be changing if they aim to empower and appeal to their (arguably unanimously) female audience.

Spark Post: The Selfie

Lately, the feminist blogosphere has grown consumed with the concept of the selfie. Theories abound for its impact on self-esteem, body image and celebrity culture, among other things. At the crux of the discussion lies the question of its merit: are selfies good or bad for women?

On the one hand, they allow girls to assert their existence, claiming their right to “speak” by generating media and proliferating their presence.

On the other hand, the basis of that assertion is their appearances: they’re channeling society’s gaze, reaffirming the idea, as discussed by John Berger, that women exist to be looked at. Yet there still seems to be some subversive agency in women’s ability to control their images through selfies.

Does women’s agency in taking selfies claim a new territory for women? Or does it represent another iteration of the male gaze, as women internalize the societal imperative to value, above all else, their being-looked-at-ness? Can we designate the as selfie definitively detrimental or progressive for women?

Cited: Berger, John. “Ways of Seeing.” From Jones, Amelia, “The Feminism & Visual Culture Reader,” New York: Routledge, 2003

Ad Critique: I’m Beautiful the Way I Am


I was impressed to learn of a new ad campaign that New York City is running directed at young girls. Meant to tackle issues of self-esteem and body image, the posters depict girls of many different races, ages and sizes, engaged in a variety of activities. They’re accompanied by variants on the slogan, “I’m a girl. I’m smart, a leader, adventurous, friendly, funny. I’m beautiful the way I am.”

The diversity of representation in the ads is clearly unusual; the depiction of . The girls are portrayed as dynamic, multivalent individuals. In contrast to many representations of little girls in advertisements, these girls aren’t hyperfeminized; they aren’t wearing tutus and playing house. These girls, in short, can grow up to be anything. The ads’ text refers to the girls’ many attributes. They aren’t exclusively valued for their appearances, an issue John Berger discusses in “Ways of Seeing:” women are typically regarded as exclusively ornamental, not instrumental. In this campaign, their intangible qualities and abilities are emphasized.

Or so it seems. In each ad, the dominant sentence–in a large font, below the rest of the slogan–is “I’m beautiful the way I am.” This is meant, of course, to refer both to “inner beauty” and to the affirmation of beauty across various body types and races. But should this be the takeaway? Is it enough to expand the definition of beauty, if only to continue insisting that women embody it? This campaign does well to broaden how “beauty” is construed, but it still shouldn’t be a determining factor in how we affirm girls’ worth. Girls should be affirmed as smart, as leaders, as adventurous, friendly and funny. They should be reminded that their worth doesn’t depend on how beautiful they are. They should be reminded that they don’t exist to be looked at.

Works Cited: Berger, John. “Ways of Seeing.” From Jones, Amelia, ed. “The Feminist & Visual Culture Reader.” New York, Routledge: 2003.

You Go, Girl!

Jennifer Lawrence on Body Image

In the video linked above, Jennifer Lawrence speaks out against society’s impossible beauty standards in answer to a question from a young girl about how to deal with the pressures from peers and the media to achieve perfection. I found her answer not only refreshing but inspiring. If society shared her views, more women would love their bodies. Women face the nearly impossibly task of feeling confident in about their own bodies while ignoring the harmful (and wrong) messages society sends about what is healthy or beautiful. A new attitude toward appearance – when “fat” and “skinny” are no longer relevant terms, when every woman’s body shape is accepted for its inherent beauty, and when women are no longer compared to and pitted against one another – is the ideal that society as a whole must strive for. Because as Lawrence says of how it is now, “that shouldn’t be the real world.” Amen, Jennifer!

Cultural Pressures of Thinness and Disorderly Eating


The above video shows a mildly clothed thin woman on the beach eating a large sandwich. This video is from a Hardees television commercial that depicts Nina Agdalin in provocative poses in comparison to the sandwich. When I first viewed the commercial I noticed the way she devoured the food in a sexual manner. After viewing a second time I noticed how this commercial has the potential to promote disorderly eating. As Biber mentions “The media bombards us with images of every imaginable food…at the same time women are subjected to an onslaught of sources devoted to dieting and maintenance of a sleek and supple figures” (67).   Physical perfection is displayed in advertisements of thin women eating immense portions of food. Physical perfection is often associated with thinness but yet foods that are harmful to the heath and have the possibility to make people fat are promoted along side skinny women. The representation of a skinny woman eating unhealthy food is damaging to a society that polices body conformity. Many people try to control their body weight by not eating fast food in order to obtain a similar body to ones viewed in commercials such as Hardees. These kinds of advertisements promote disorderly eating in an environment that juxtaposes unhealthy eating habits with unattainable figures.

Source: The Cult of Thinness by Sharlene Nagy Hesse- Biber