More double standards and mixed messages for Body Image Awareness Week
According to its website, Australian underwear brand Lovable says it is “dedicated to changing the culture surrounding eating disorders and body image”. It does this “by using happy, healthy models in our campaigns and promotional activities and by continuing to design intimates that are not created to objectify women’s bodies…”
I’m sorry, but I’m a bit confused.
Because I don’t understand how you change the culture with advertising like this.
Like Girlfriend misusing the word ‘revolution’ in its alleged new approach to body image (Girlfriend: we’re still waiting for the beauty revolution), Lovable is abusing the term ‘cultural change’.
Reinforcing not transforming cultural messages
Reinforcing cultural messages about the superiority of thin women who conform to conventional notions of beauty (with help from airbrushing and possibly even plastic surgery) doesn’t transform the culture.
Sexualising advertising designed to provoke certain responses in men doesn’t turn society upside down either.
It seems to me companies like Lovable are happy to spruik a love-your-bodies-we’re-all-beautiful-positive-self-esteem message, while not doing all that much. It has become an empty mantra. Can any corporation wear the badge of honour and become a sponsor of positive body image campaigns while at the same time harming the cause?
Lovable has a deal with a major eating disorders charity. That’s fine. I hope it gets lots of money. It’s also funding this week’s Body Image & Eating Disorder Awareness Week.
But the double standards around claiming to boost self-esteem in women and supporting positive body image, while acting in ways that undermine these messages, have to be exposed.
Lovable supposedly cares about poor body image, yet it continues to use ultra thin models – including supermodel and former Miss Universe Jennifer Hawkins
As one woman in her 20s, who recovered from an eating disorder, wrote to me:
Not wanting to objectify women? Come on.
The guff about not objectifying women is a little rich. Pornified imagery and styling features prominently in Lovable’s latest campaign, despite their denials to the contrary.
One ad shows Hawkins eating an ice cream that is dribbling down her arms, a classic intimation of a popular practice in pornography. (Women dribbled in substances is becoming increasingly popular in advertising). Another shows her sucking her index finger in a suggestive way.
There is nothing creative or empowering about Lovable’s ads. These representations reinforce existing scripts about women’s bodies and what women are “good for.”
And men’s magazine FHM must have missed the memo from Lovable about “not objectifying women’s bodies”. Here’s Jen Hawkins – “The Cream of the Crop” – in the latest issue. She’s described as “hotter” and “stickier”. There’s no questioning how FHM’s readers will interpret the image.
In 2007, New Zealand banned Lovable ads showing Jen Hawkins with a stuffed animal looking into the camera with the question “horny?” in every ad.
Clearly, Lovable’s models are waxed to within an inch of their lives, reinforcing another pornified beauty ideal.
We’re supposed to believe “Everybody’s Lovable” at the same time that Lovable’s ads link physical attractiveness to social attractiveness and more opportunities – and to being enviable. We are to envy Jen Hawkins (her breasts especially, judging by placement of the word). How does that promote self-acceptance? How does that stop body judging?
Too much hypocrisy
Maybe Grazia didn’t see the body love memo either. Its latest issue features Jen Hawkins and Aussie face of Portmans Jess Hart posing together on a cover that shouts: “Jen & Jess: how to get their $5M bodies!” Hawkins says she works out six days a week with 90 minute cardio and weights etc and Jess says she gets “super strict about her diet” prior to a photoshoot with an emphasis on carrots etc.
And Grazia is still promoting the “Thin by Friday Diet” along with other dieting /rapid weight loss articles.
Here we have more problems with engaging Brand Hawkins – ‘one of the most envied bikini bodies on the world’ – to support body image and eating disorder recovery. It’s a point I’ve made before .
Also on its website, Lovable says it wants to support the ‘physical and emotional needs of women’:
Our research shows that only 1% of women are totally happy with their bodies, citing their own self pressures, the outside influence of celebrity and model culture, and shopping environments as the leading causes for their dissatisfaction. We want to help reverse this thinking and encourage women to believe that Everybody’s Lovable.
So why does Lovable continue to reinforce standard beauty ideals when it claims to care about women? Why does it idealise rare and mostly non-attainable body types?
Lovable, show us you mean it. Show us you really do think ‘Everybody’s Lovable’. Don’t just say you’re challenging the status quo. Do it.