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.
“Shrinking Women,” a spoken word poem by Lily Myers, articulates the relationship between women, food, space, and voice. Myers compares her upbringing with her brother’s, and explains that while men are encouraged to speak out and raise their voices, women are told to become less than and belittle themselves. As Myers speaks, “I have been taught accommodation. My brother never thinks before he speaks; I have been taught to filter […] You [her brother] have been taught to grow out, I have been taught to grow in.”
The inequity Myers discusses is cultural, and we’ve all experienced or seen the phenomenon of the “shrinking women.” Susan Bordo discusses the issue of “the slender body;” culturally, women are told to view and value themselves only in terms of their physical appearance, and can only be deemed valuable if they fit the image of beauty societally upheld: skinny. Men aren’t upheld to a similar definition of beauty, however, and, as Myers highlighted in her poem, are taught completely different standards of behavior. As John Berger wrote in “Ways of Seeing,” “men act and women appear.” It is very obvious that a large inequality exists between men and women in our society. This inequity can only be eliminated when women are no longer upheld to the skinny ideal and taught to shrink.
Berger, John. “Ways of Seeing.” Ed. Amelia Jones. The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader. New York: Routledge, 2003. 37-39. Print.
Bordo, Susan. “Reading the Slender Body.” Unbearable Weight. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. 185-212. Print.
It’s almost mind-boggling how creative advertisers have become to enforce gender binaries and create sexist commercials in order to turn a quick profit. Al Rifai, a Lebanese nut company, managed to turn a poster for a seemingly innocuous food into yet another example of chauvinistic advertising. Who knew cashews and walnuts could be so offensive?
The advertisement consists of two pictures, one of a walnut and one of a cashew. The walnut picture bears the slogan “Because he’s got the brains,” while the cashew’s slogan reads, “Because she’s got the curves;” underneath these phrases are the words “Happy Valentine.”
According to Al Rifai, men are attractive because of their intelligence, while women are found valuable solely through their physical, not mental, attributes. This sexist message is particularly damaging because it reinforces the societal preoccupation with women’s physical appearance and conflates physical beauty with a woman’s worth. As Susan Bordo wrote in “Reading the Slender Body,” “women in our culture are more tyrannized by the contemporary slenderness ideal than men are, as they typically have been by beauty ideals in general.” Objectifying women by comparing them to cashews? That’s nuts.
Bordo, Susan. Unbearable Weight. “Reading the Slender Body.” Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. 185-212. Print.