‘I was never as happy or as sure of myself after that. It was just too big of a let-down, because it wasn’t a rejection from a high school bully, it was a rejection from ‘the experts’, from people with professional opinion, and it was a closing of doors in my face from a glamorous and revered industry’
Thank you for bringing the Dolly Model Reboot to my attention. I am disgusted and appalled. I’m sure you are already aware of the massive damage it can do. The fact that they have brought it back bothers me so much I wanted to share my story with you.
I was 15 when my mum entered me into the Dolly Model Competition. She told me it was to help me with my self-esteem which, at the time, was shockingly low. She said I was so beautiful there was no way I wouldn’t win. A mother’s naivety.
At first I was horrified because I had no respect for fashion models. I told mum that if I won, no one would ever respect me. I wanted more than to be a pretty face. I wanted to be a writer.
But she said, “What better way to get you noticed than to have everyone see your beautiful face?”
And it occurred to me that I would like to win.
I was bullied badly at school, long before I entered the competition. I had freckles and a flat chest and I was terribly shy, I wasn’t tall but I was very thin. You see, I barely ate. And I did think I had a pretty face. I’m part Native American, so I have very white skin with Indian eyes. I felt like it made me stand out.
I began to fantasise about winning the competition and not telling anybody, so they would all discover it when they saw the magazines and be sorry that they bullied me.
Of course, I didn’t win. I didn’t even make semi -finals, or get featured on the collage of entrants in the magazine. And I was crushed because I didn’t know why. The girl that won was pretty, but I just couldn’t see how I was different, or what made her, or all the other girls ‘better’ than me.
And I think the thing that is so painful is that they aren’t really better. They are all beautiful for different reasons, and for whatever reason they didn’t like the look of me.
But none of the entrants ever got to find out what was ‘wrong with us’. That’s what hurt the most. Not knowing why. All we got was the silent rejection of never having been called and knowing that for some reason we could never be told, we weren’t model pretty.
And because that was the whole point of the magazine’s message, that ‘successful’ was ‘pretty’ and ‘model’ was ‘most desired’, I started thinking that I would never really be successful because I wasn’t good enough, and that no matter how hard I worked, no one would ever pick me because I wasn’t pretty enough. The cold and silent rejection stung, and reinforced the message that I was not good enough, and that my bullies were right to pick on me.
It made me feel so worthless.
So 11 years later, after two sexually abusive ex-boyfriends, an eating disorder, an anxiety disorder that I’m still trying to control, and three suicide attempts, I have finally learned the value of myself and my life, and have clawed back some semblance of self-respect.
And I don’t blame the Dolly Model Competition for all of these things, but I do recognise it as a catalyst, and I know I was never as happy or as sure of myself after that. It was just too big of a let-down, because it wasn’t a rejection from a high school bully, it was a rejection from ‘the experts’, from people with professional opinion, and it was a closing of doors in my face from a glamorous and revered industry.
Teenage girls just are not equipped to deal with the conflicting messages, and they are not equipped to deal with damaging competition and rejection.
If I knew what I know now, I would never have accepted the competition in the first place. If people had been less fixated on my looks and more on my talents and interests, I might not have accepted a boyfriend that hurt me, I might not have tried to starve myself, I might not have tried to die.
Girls are worth more than how they look, and I cannot accept that, with teens feeling the way they do, magazines like Dolly are willing to exploit them.
The Dolly Model Competition is bad news. They have enough girls clamouring for stardom in the industry, without bringing the rest of us into it.
This month at Melbourne Westfield Fountain Gate, Elodie Russell beat 500 other teens to be named Victorian state finalist in the new Dolly Model Search.
The Geelong student and 500 other girls competed in the model search resurrected after 10 years.
Elodie is 14. But girls as young as 13 can enter. The winner will receive a modelling contract, fashion shoot and cover shoot for Dolly, and be a “Dolly ambassador.”
The would-be models, many just in high school, are told they can be the next Miranda Kerr. The month’s Dolly has the Victoria Secret model in a red dress with words and arrow: ‘This could be you!’
Kerr is touted as an “inspiration” for young girls. (I’m not sure it’s just girls who find online images of Kerr semi-naked inspiring).
I asked editor Tiffany Dunk why the original search was shut down. She said: “I understand it was over concerns about negative body imaging”.
Things are even worse now. In an age of rampant body hatred and eating disorders, the timing seems off. In a video of the scouting session in Sydney, girls are asked why Kerr is an inspiration. “She’s got a great body!” is one of a number of similar responses.
Which shows us, no matter how many times words like “role model” and “inspiration” are thrown around, it’s still all about bodies. Even now girls will be comparing themselves to Elodie and thinking they are just not good enough.
Body image and eating disorder specialists I spoke to are concerned about the ability of a 13- year-old to navigate the world of modelling. Why is Dolly including such young girls when globally there is a move away from younger models?
In 2005 there was a storm over having a 12-year-old as the face of Gold Coast Fashion Week. Three years later Australian Fashion Week organisers bowed to pressure and dropped a 14- year-year-old Polish girl as the face of the event.
Australia’s Body Image Code of Conduct recommends only using those over 16 to model adult clothes or work or model in fashion shows targeting an adult audience.
The idea that 13 or 14 is too young to model is often met with “But Miranda Kerr started at that age and she’s doing great!”
But how many girls fell by the wayside, how many were damaged due to the harmful consequences of internalizing the message that their value as a person is in how others view and judge their bodies?
The revamped comp has a special spin. “Become a Model Citizen”. Dolly wants “more than a pretty face”, it wants a “great role model for Dolly readers.” It wants girls to “Have fun, don’t let looks rule your life!” (at the same time Chadwick’s judge lists ‘looks” first in what he’s seeking).
Dolly has enlisted the help of The Butterfly Foundation. They’ve prepared “an awesome body image tip sheet” and will also conduct a workshop with finalists. Dolly also says it will have strict rules on how its winner can be used.
But while I support Butterfly’s goals, I’m not sure telling yourself to be beautiful on the inside and the rest is enough to deal with a message dominant in the modelling and fashion industries that you have to be hot to matter.
Thrusting any girl into an industry where they are taught that what matters most is that they fit some cookie-cutter mould of what women should look like, is troubling.
Jess Hart, Dolly’s 1998 model search winner, posed with Jen Hawkins on a 2010 Grazia cover last year headed: “Jen & Jess: how to get their $5M bodies!”
Hart told Grazia she gets “super strict about her diet” prior to a photoshoot.
It is difficult to see how a Dolly Model search winner will deviate from the standard beauty ideal.
It would be one thing to pluck a girl out of a crowd and offer her a contract. But Dolly (with the apparent support of Butterfly) is enabling competition between teen girls on the basis (primarily) of physical appearance.
Dunk says readers want a “relatable teen role model.” “We have endless research that girls respond best to seeing “someone like me” in the media,” she told me.
But couldn’t Dolly give readers a great role model outside a competitive appearance-focussed event in which girls are compared and judged and learn life is just one big beauty pageant?
What about a role model who is an awesome athlete, or musician, or campaigner against violence against women? A teen anti-bullying ‘hero’ writing advice columns – ‘someone like me’ doing amazing things in the world.
It seems to me girls who are truly role models for other girls would be the least likely to enter, because their goals in life are beyond physical appearance. So the true role models may never be discovered.
Rather than introduce them to an industry which glorifies the cult of celebrity and fashion – and contributes to body image despair – why not foster more meaningful values and aspirations in girls? Now that would be inspiring.
Dolly continues to promote appearance over substance
The backlash against corporate exploitation of women
“Women are frequently positioned very differently to men in media. Often shown as passive, vulnerable, scantily clad, headless, and sometimes dead…”
Today a guest post from eating disorder prevention specialist and member of Collective Shout’s core team, Lydia Turner. It’s reprinted from theFierce, Freethinking Fatties blog.
In recent years there has been a growing backlash against the prescription of a rigid beauty ideal. The bombardment of images of ultra-slim models, across a range of mediums, is increasingly gaining recognition as having a harmful effect on girls and women. Late last year, 45 international eating disorder experts released a statement, reporting that after reviewing over 100 international studies, the evidence was “overwhelming” that these images contributed to increasing rates of anxiety, depression, sexual dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, unhealthy weight loss behaviours, and eating disorders [http://bit.ly/cUwZSJ].
Rather than seeing eating disorders as ‘extreme’ responses to a culture that actively discriminates against those labelled fat, the Health At Every Size (HAES) movement recognises unhealthy weight loss practices have become culturally normative as a consequence. When fat people – especially fat women – are depicted in the media, they are usually held up as objects of ridicule, with a barrage of negative characteristics attacking their intellect, integrity, self-worth, and sexuality. For this reason, allowing ‘plus-size’ or fat women to be depicted as ‘sexy mynx’ may seem liberating, giving permission and visibility to women who are systematically denied sexual identity. Yet the need to prove sexual acceptance reveals that participation in a discourse of oppression is required – for women of all sizes – in order to achieve visibility.
We need to discuss the wider problem of the hyper-sexualisation of girls and women in media everywhere. It is not any one particular image that is problematic; but rather the reiteration of the same sexualised images that create a harmful cultural narrative of what it means to be a girl or woman in industrialised nations today. When corporations are given unfettered power, abuse of the consumer is a result. We have already seen this demonstrated in the massive conflicts of interest in obesity research and unethical practices promising thinness. It is now time to recognise that global brands are contributing to illness by cashing in on the narrow way in which women and girls are being depicted in media – even when the ideal is expanded to include fatter women.
While the beauty ideal for decades had already required women to be (usually) white and ultra-slim, pornographic themes are rapidly creeping into mainstream media, showing women in ways that suggest they are nothing more than sexual service stations for men. Consider Australian brand Lovable’s latest campaign. Employing Miss Universe, it shows Jennifer Hawkins in bra and undies, suggestively licking an ice cream with white liquid running down her arms, in reference to male ejaculation.
Then there are Calvin Klein and Dolce & Gabbana ads, known for ‘pushing boundaries,’ with many of their ads alluding to gang rape and violence against women, used in outdoor advertising. One Dolce & Gabbana ad has now been withdrawn in Italy.
In Argentina, Unilever’s child company Axe has launched ads that encourage boys to sexually harass women .
Unilever’s other child company claims it will open a lodge in Sydney later this year, promoting female servitude as “the ultimate male fantasy,” with scantily clad young staff obeying men’s orders in adherence to the lodge’s central theme of “tell her what to do” .
Women are frequently positioned very differently to men in media. Often shown as passive, vulnerable, scantily clad, headless, and sometimes dead such as in these ads:
These images inform women over and over that their body primarily exists for the purpose of evoking male desire, as though their bodies are merely sex aids. Robbing them of their humanity, women are often referred to as “it” or “that”, for example on Facebook’s Lynx Effect UK site fans say things like “you no [sic] you would ruin that all night long” commenting on photos of young women in bikinis. Axe, also a child-company of Unilever, has ads recommending men use its shower gel to “scrub away the skank” the morning after a regretted sexual encounter (including women who are disabled, ill, or elderly).
These images and language choice have a very dehumanising effect, which is dangerous on many levels. They help create a climate which increases violence against women, or at least, puts women in danger of violence. As we see on Lynx Effect Ireland’s page, fans discuss types of women they dislike: “She’s a bitch,” says one commentator. Others advocate violence against them, saying things like “spray Lynx in her face.” Lynx Effect Ireland insists this is all just ‘tongue-in-cheek.’ Lynx are not alone in portraying violence against women as sexy.
It is not just women that are affected. Given these many of these images are displayed in public areas, children can’t be protected from seeing them. Yet if such images were shown to a child by a paedophile in a private area, we would call this “grooming.” Images such as these are also not allowed in the workplace, as they are considered a form of sexual harassment. Yet they pollute our public landscape.
What message do these images send boys about how women should be treated? What message do they send girls about their own bodies and self-worth? Academic psychologist Cordelia Fine revealed numerous studies confirming that environments that cue gender stereotypes negatively affect how men interact with women, even when women are fully clothed. With advertisements positioning women as sex objects, such as in this banned Toyota Yaris ad, this “drip drip effect” has a detrimental impact on women, and on the way men relate to them.
Children are further affected when corporations try to out-sell competitors by pushing boundaries by ‘adultifying’ and sexualising them. Up until two weeks ago, corporate giant BONDS was selling bras for girls as young as six. They weren’t the only ones. Retail chain Best & Less, and even Kmart was stocking ‘bralettes’ for little girls. Another company went as far as selling padded bras – with lace – for six year olds.
These messages go against the spirit of the Health At Every Size and Fat Acceptance movements, as they erode body trust while inducing bodily anxieties, for girls of all sizes. Retail chain Supre whose target market are ‘tweens’ ages 6-12 has sold t-shirts stating “Pussy Power” and “Santa’s Bitch.” In rap/hip hop culture this means the girl is ‘owned’ by Santa as he is her ‘pimp.’
Another retail chain, Witchery was just this week exposed for their latest catalogue showing little girls wearing mini-adult clothing and striking adult poses.
While these are not sexualised images, adultifying girls blurs the line between girls and women, where girls feel increasing pressure to achieve the same beauty ideals traditionally applied only to their mothers. The cultural messaging teaches them that their worth depends primarily on whether they are ‘hot-or-not,’ instead of fostering real values, talent, and intellect. It is predictable these days that when a young female celebrity reaches the age of 16, she must “prove” she is “all grown up” by stripping down, such as in the example of pop singer Gabriella Cilmi and Miley Cyrus. Funny how young male celebrities are never required to do the same.
When a ‘plus-size’ woman is allowed to be ‘sexy,’ she is still positioned as a sexual object rather than one who ‘owns’ her own sexuality and personhood. Take former Australian Idol contestant Ricky-Lee Coulter for example. It was considered a victory posing her on the cover of lads mag Ralph because she was not waif-like.
Yet she was required to be scantily clad, donning a dominatrix-style outfit with whip. ‘Bigger’ women are often positioned in this way. We are still attaching unhealthy messages to women of all sizes – being ‘plus-size’ or fat does not provide immunity against the damaging effects of objectification.
While the Health At Every Size and fat acceptance movements actively speak out against the harms of promoting thinness as the only acceptable body type, I urge all supporters to consider also supporting movements that send other harmful messages to girls and women about their bodies. Messages that tell women all they are ‘good for.’ While some argue that the increasing sexualisation of girls and women is sexually liberating, I say these corporate messages are actually sexually prescriptive.
As Gail Dines argues in her latest book Pornland, it’s time we stopped allowing corporations to hijack our sexuality. Accepting one’s body does not include feeling that everyone must have big breasts or obligatory fattened lips to feel good about themselves, nor that their stripping is necessary to prove their newfound body-love. Just as fat is not “evidence” of poor health, neither is aging- yet we are told on shows like Oprah that aging is somehow linked to not taking good care of oneself. It’s imperative these movements collaborate with others that challenge other notions that also affect body image.
In Australia, a new grassroots advocacy group has already achieved a raft of successes against advertisers, corporations and marketers which promote body shame through their hyper sexualised products and marketing practices. Headed by author and social commentator Melinda Tankard Reist, ‘Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation,’ has managed to stop the sale of bras and bra-like products to girls under age 10, block a rape-simulation game console from being accessed in Australia, successfully pressured Woolworths to cancel its support of the Lynx Lodge, amongst many other wins. Collective Shout is less than a year old already with over 1500 members worldwide. If you would like to show your support, please sign up here .
Bratz dolls have undergone a makeover. Apparently they are more ‘demurely’ dressed and have less makeup. While the dolls may be marginally less skankified in appearance (and it really is marginal), the values they project remain the same. As shown on the company’s website, the Bratz dolls are still presented as hot, thin and sassy, they like to “strut” and have a “passion for fashion” including 5-inch feet-crippling stiletto heels. They still convey a message to girls that their value is in their physical appearance, ability to attract (male) attention and buy into commercialised ideals about beauty and fashion. Here’s what I said about the so-called new-look Bratz on Channel 7’s Morning Show earlier this week.
Lovable: debate about company’s unlovable body image behaviour continues
My original blog post about Lovable , examining its claims to want to change the culture on body image while running a new ad campaign featuring ‘hot’ Jennifer Hawkins, continues to get airplay elsewhere. It got a run onOn Line Opinion yesterday.
Everybody’s Lovable, especially if thin, sexy and covered in icecream
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..
Melissa is another to write to Lovable to complain about its current Jennifer Hawkins ad campaign. What she has written is so important that I’m reprinting it from the Collective Shout website, where she posted her letter yesterday. How much more evidence does Lovable need that its current campaign is harmful and its claims to want to change the cultural on body image just don’t stand up?
The Lovable/Jen Hawkins/body image issue has now gone well beyond these humble blog pages.
I spent a significant part of yesterday being interviewed on the subject. Susie O’Brien gave it a good run both as a news piece and a comment piece spread across two pages in the Herald Sun. An extract from the first:
Lovable lingerie firm cops a serve over Jennifer Hawkins campaign
LOVABLE lingerie company has come under fire for using thin Jennifer Hawkins in a sexy campaign, while professing to help women combat poor body image.
The Australian underwear company says it is “dedicated to changing the culture surrounding eating disorders and body image” and wants to reverse “the influence of celebrity and model culture”.
And yet it is using the former Miss Universe extensively in its advertising.
The company is donating a quarter of online sales profits this month to The Butterfly Foundation, a body image issues and eating disorders support centre.
Women’s issues campaigner Melinda Tankard Reist, who first raised the issue on her website, said the company was hypocritical in its approach.
In a post on the issue she attacks the company for displaying “double standards around claiming to boost self-esteem in women and supporting positive body image, while acting in ways that undermine these messages”.
“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,” she said.
Jennifer Hawkins lingerie ploy is hypocrisy, says Susie O’Brien
TAKE a look at this saucy, sexy woman selling Lovable lingerie.
What part of this picture is helping improve young women’s body image, do you think?
In my view, absolutely nothing.
In fact, some women who have low self-esteem will feel worse about themselves when faced with these near-naked pictures of Jennifer Hawkins and her tall, slim, tanned body.
So it’s the height of hypocrisy for Australian lingerie company Lovable to try to buy credibility with female customers by donating 25 per cent of the online sales profits to The Butterfly Foundation.
In fact I think the campaign could be decidedly damaging to the very cause the foundation is committed to – helping women with eating disorders and body image problems.
And, it must be said, what the hell is The Butterfly Foundation doing accepting money from a lingerie company that uses a famously slim, busty model plastered all over its advertising? Read full piece here
It’s because we’re jealous and stuffing our face with cheezels
These stories and coverage elsewhere outraged Jen Hawkins fans, who accused me – and those who agreed with me- of being fat, lazy, jealous, ugly slobs (among the words which were printable). Jen was hot, hot hot and I needed to get more exercise. Some of my personal faves from the Herald Sun comments section:
“Here we go again, someone who’s years are past them, and gravity has taken over having a good old whinge again”.
”Let me guess…Melinda is fat”
“People like Melinda Tankard are why girls and women now think it is ok to be fat, overweight, and unhealthy”.
“…more complaints from fat and overweight women that would rather die on their sofa eating cheezels and watching reality TV”
These comments brought to mind this piece by Dannielle Miller about how it’s so much easier to insult and ridicule someone you disagree with than to engage the arguments.
Not fit to be loved
But these were more than outweighed by intelligent and thoughtful comments. Like this, also in HS comments:
[Comment From Peter]
My daughter has an eating disorder, and while Jen Hawkins is beautiful, it sends the wrong message to her, to associate Jen Body image with the Butterfly foundation.
And this from Tabitha, in blog comments on my site
OK, having read the comments on this article I feel compelled to add my two and sixpence. I’d like to add that as backup for some of the things I’m about to say – I used to be a personal trainer, and I am currently a doctor.
Firstly I completely agree with the article about the hypocrisy of Lovable sponsoring the Butterfly Foundation. The fact that you can click on the Lovable link on the BF website and be taken to an ad with Jen Hawkins slinking all over the place covered in icecream just absolutely astounds me.
And for those who don’t understand why it’s a problem if the company are providing finance for a good cause, this is why: I’m not talking about people who are carrying a bit of extra weight. I’m talking about eating disorders. People who have eating disorders suffer daily under the feeling that they are not thin enough or attractive enough to be loved or desired. They feel this to such an extent that people throw up or starve themselves until they die over trying to get thin enough. Organisations like the Butterfly Foundation are designed to be a place of safety and support for people who feel this way, one voice telling them that being their own weight is ok and is good enough as long as they are healthy. And that the purpose of their existence is not to be attractive – it’s to enjoy their own life. Lovable is a company which both exploits women as sexual objects to sell products, and represents Jennifer Hawkins as its ideal. Even their “fuller figure DD” bras are sold with pictures of people with JH type of body. For the BF to associate with this company tells people with body image issues (and in fact all of us) that this is what it considers a healthy body, and that it has no problem with the sexualisation of women. This is an enormous betrayal of those the Butterfly Foundation claims to support…
People are tending toward being overweight and if it does harm your health then that’s a problem. But many comments have implied that if we disagree with Jen Hawkins weight, then we are advocating people being overweight. Do you understand the ridiculousness of that statement? JH is 180 cm tall and weighs 57kg. This gives her a BMI of 17.5 which is considered dangerously underweight. Then in addition she is airbrushed for these ads. There are thousands of people in Australia who have perfectly healthy BMIs between 20-25 (myself included – I am 173cm and weigh 63kg who end up feeling like we are actually OVERweight, because of ads like this). And as a personal trainer I happen to know that that weight is, as well as being unhealthy, almost unattainable for most women unless they do indeed begin to stave themselves, or throw up what they do eat. SO are we being encouraged to have poor body image and develop eating disorders? Your call. But in the shouting about whether people should be fat/thin/allowed to advertise how they like etc, try to remember the thousands of people in our society who are literally starving themselves to death because we continue to allow them to be told that they are not fit to be loved.
The critique I and others have made is not about jealousy or personal insecurity. It’s not personal at all. And it’s not that some women need to ‘get over themselves’. It is about analysing harmful messages and shining a light on double standards in current body image campaigns. It’s about deconstructing an ad campaign by a company that wants to be at the forefront of cultural change while running ads featuring (in their words) “hot” pics of an “enviable” supermodel presented as a male porn fantasy stereotype. I just don’t think you can have it both ways. That’s all.
Yesterday, Sydney man David Ould wrote to Australian underwear company Lovable. He’d read my post on Lovable’s contradictory behaviour and felt he had to do something. It’s good to know there are men who care about the impact of unrealistic sexualised representations of women on the women they love. This is what David wrote:
I’m a married man (almost 10 years) and father of 3 children (including a 6 year old girl who takes in everything she sees around her). I wanted to write to you today about your current advertising campaign featuring Jennifer Hawkins which, I would strongly suggest to you, runs entirely contrary to your stated claim on your website that you are “dedicated to changing the culture surrounding eating disorders and body image … 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’ve got to be honest with you. I perceive a complete disconnect between those stated claims and the images of Hawkins that you are using. Specifically you should be aware that use of such images, which portray an almost impossibly “perfect” paradigm of the female body, do damage to three things that I, and I think many other men, hold very dear.
They communicate to my wife that her body is not good enough. By plastering Jennifer’s (no-doubt airbrushed) figure in front of her you’re not giving her something to aspire to but, rather, are telling her with almost sledgehammer subtlety that her body is not what it should be. Let’s be honest, she’s never going to look like Jennifer (which is ok in my book) but does terrible damage to her self-esteem and to that of countless women like her. The irony, of course, is that my wife is actually a beautiful women – its just that the brand values embedded in your images communicate the exact opposite. They hardly “support … the emotional needs of women” – quite the contrary.
They communicate to my daughter the very same message. But more than that, they are very overt in sexualising the issue of underwear. Now, I appreciate that some lingerie is intended for exactly this purpose but that’s not what you yourselves claim for this product line, is it? Rather, you state that you do not intend to “objectify women’s bodies”. Frankly, I have to ask, how does a picture of Jennifer with ice-cream or watermelon juice dripping down her (airbrushed) torso do anything but objectify her? And yet this is the message that you are sending to my daughter and countless other girls growing up in our culture: underwear = sex.
You are communicating to me, and so many other men like me, a completely unrealistic view of women. The images that you use set up a completely false expectation for us and, as a result, do great damage not only to ourselves but also to the women that we love. Sexual intimacy in such relationships is, all the psychologists will tell you, a key component of health and stability and is grounded, not least, in acceptance of one another as we are. But your images drive a wedge right in the middle of such relationships. They make women doubt themselves and, even worse, make men expect something that looks more like Barbie than any real woman. How can this possibly be a positive step towards good body image and related mental wellbeing for either party?
I trust you will take these comments on board as you review your current campaign. I look forward to your response to my specific points.
With kind regards
“We strive to represent happy, healthy and realistic body images”: Lovable responds
Dear David and Jacquie [the letter was copied to David’s wife]
Thank you for contacting us at Lovable.
In regards to your specific points, 1 and 2:
We take a serious view of the way women are portrayed in the media and in particular in our campaigns. We are very aware of the impact the type of images and messages can have on people. We strive to represent happy, healthy and realistic body images that capture the essence of Lovable’s brand values of being confident and comfortable. We do not deny that the image has been slightly retouched for colour correction purposes, as is done by most advertisers.
We believe that a healthy body on the inside is the most important priority for all women. That includes your wife and daughter’s happiness, their comfort and the pride they take in who they are. We have put this into practice by ensuring that our Lovable range is available in a size range from 8 – 18 and it remains affordable for all Australian women. We have also purposefully chosen a range of women of different sizes to reflect this on our website, including our maternity models (size 14) and DD cup model (size 12). We will take on board your comments to reflect more body shapes in forthcoming online store activities.
The creative was not developed to offend or to “objectify women’s bodies”, but use Lovable’s cheeky tone of voice to demonstrate the new Colour names for our advertised product via fun Props that remind the viewer of Summer, Lemon sorbet, Blueberry milkshake etc.
This was the intention of the creative agency, the Lovable team and our brand ambassador. Lovable sells products to Women only and hence the advertisement has been placed in shows and Magazines targeting women.
The Campaign has been received well in general by our consumers, but we understand that lingerie advertising does indeed cause issues, whether viewed on Billboards or Television. The Rating that Lovable was given by Commercials Advice Pty Ltd (CAD) commonly used for rating Television commercials was a G Rating.
Lovable are proud of The Butterfly Foundation‘s fantastic work in eating disorder research, awareness and prevention programs.
During September, 25% of profits from our online store will be donated directly to The Butterfly Foundation.
MARKETING & PR MANAGER – WHOLESALE BRANDS
David cuts through the PR Spin
Many thanks for taking the time to respond. I wonder if I might point out to you, however, the worrying nature of what you wrote.
You write that you “strive to represent happy, healthy and realistic body images”. Can I ask you, do you honestly think that Jennifer’s body is a realistic image for most women?
You write that “[t]he creative was not developed to offend or to “objectify women’s bodies”, but use Lovable’s cheeky tone of voice to demonstrate the new Colour names for our advertised product via fun Props…” Can I ask you a serious question – do you actually think I’m stupid? I don’t mean this in a confrontational way but I had to ask. I ask because the images, (here they are again), are so blatantly sexualised (particularly the first 2, although Jennifer’s “come hither” eyes in the 3rd panel leave little to the imagination either) that only a few possible conclusions are open to me:
1. You honestly don’t think they are. Now, I seriously doubt this. You work in the field of marketing and public relations. You know very well what these images communicate. Do you need me, for example, to explain the blatant fellatial imagery of the first panel? Surely neither of us is going to continue that pretense? I don’t think you can be that bad at your job that you don’t get it. On the contrary, we both know that the images were chosen exactly for this reason.
2. You think I’m stupid, or at least terribly naïve. I look at the images. I see that they’re highly sexualised. I communicate that to you. But, nevertheless you write your stock answer which only serves to tell me that either you didn’t take what I wrote seriously or you ignored it anyway. Either way, your response is communicating to me that you think I’m stupid. Surely you would not treat someone this way?
3. (and I truly hope this is the case) You actually agree with what I’m writing but you’re in a terribly difficult position because you realise the obvious fact: there is a gross discongruity between the images and the stated aim of Lovable to “[change] the culture surrounding eating disorders and body image” and the donations made to the Butterfly Foundation. Again, in coming to this preferred conclusion I’m assuming that you’re intelligent and, furthermore, you have integrity – both intellectual and moral. If that is the case then can I make a suggestion to you? Resign. A principled resignation by someone responsible for communication at Lovable would be a noble thing to do. After all, they’re asking you to massively compromise your integrity by writing these sorts of emails to people like me. You don’t want to pretend that you can’t see these images for what they are. You surely don’t want to treat me as though I’m stupid. So, Justine, I’m left urging you to resign.
Since Lovable clearly doesn’t want to listen to those from the outside, perhaps they’ll listen to those on the inside? Seriously, Justine and Dianne – do you look at those images and think “realistic” and “not objectifying”? These people aren’t just insulting their customers. They’re insulting and demeaning you by making you write this nonsense to me.
Please, for the sake of my wife, my daughter, me, your customers and, not least, yourselves, will you please stop the nonsense and actually do something about this? And please, please, please, don’t send me another stock answer. Actually engage with the issues that I and so many others are raising with you.
Yesterday I wrote about your ad campaign featuring Jennifer Hawkins. I hope you read the piece. If you missed it, and you’re on the home page, scroll down a little and you’ll find it (it’s got lots of pictures of Jennifer Hawkins looking thin and sexy in bra and knickers and there’s a video too in which she’s getting up close and personal with an icecream and cavorting with a slice of watermelon).
Your company claims to care about body image. You claim to want to change the culture. You claim to produce intimate wear which doesn’t objectify women. You are even sponsoring Body Image Awareness Week which is on now. And you support a prominent eating disorder charity.
So I think you should read this comment, from Joni, a young woman from Sydney. She posted it on my site last night. She says your campaign makes her feel horrible. She says it tears at her self-esteem. She says she hates your ads more than any other ads.
I reckon you might want to revise your approach. Perhaps you’d like to respond to Joni and my other readers? We’d like to know how you can justify an approach which flies in the face of your stated goals.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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