Body image is a hot topic in our contemporary media. Especially in recent years, there have been a number of campaigns conducted to try and promote a healthy body image for women. These campaigns are often controversial because they tend to target a specific shape and disregard other body types.
Real Women Have Curves is a popular phrase within the body image campaign community. Despite its positive intentions, it still receives immense backlash for the use of the adjective real. Naturally thin women feel as if they are delegitimized and excluded from the community of women because of their thinner body type. These beauty campaigns imply that it is easier to be too thin than too fat in our society. They are criticized for their insensitivity and for hurting thinner women in the process of promoting self-love for women with curves. It is deemed counter-productive.
Yet the campaign is merely a response to the glorification of thin in our society. The ideal female body type tends to be skinny. The body image campaigns develop to counter this ideal. The use of real is meant to imply healthy and natural. It is promoting self-acceptance of the physical body of the “average woman” who does not devote their lives to food and fitness. These campaigns are few and far between compared to the media’s constant reportage of beautiful celebrities with perfect bodies. This image of skinny perfection is perpetuated in magazines, news articles and blogs where skinny is the projected goal for every woman.
The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty provides a perfect example of body-image campaigns that directly oppose the societal ideal of beauty. They photographed “average” women to encourage women to love their bodies as they are—flaws and all. The idea is to infiltrate the media with depictions of women that are more identifiable and realistic.
While the message is positive, we must remember that Dove’s ultimate goal is to sell their products. They are a branded industry with monetary goals—and they are successfully reaching those goals with these advertising techniques that target real women. They’re smart. Body image is a hot topic and insecurity for women is at an all-time-high. This emotional appeal to women’s confidence helped their products sell. However, I recently found out that Dove is owned by Unilever—the same company that owns the Axe brand. The conflicting advertising messages of Unilever’s brands also strike controversy. Axe objectifies women and portrays models throwing themselves at average men, completely countering Dove’s campaign to uplift and celebrate natural beauty with real women as models. Dove aims to increase women’s self-value while Axe portrays men capturing the ideal women as a sex-crazed being.
Regardless of who the body-image campaign is funded by or what the ultimate goal may be. Women constantly deal with depictions of ideal women, and body-image campaigns are fighting a losing battle against the media. These body image campaigns incite criticism from people based on their own individual insecurities. Curvier women criticize the media for their depiction of ideal women because they do not embody that ideal body type, while skinny women criticize body-image campaigns for implying that they are not proper women. No matter what is said, we are always offending something. Everything is met with backlash. It is inevitable. The problem lies in our societal view of ownership over other people’s bodies. We all feel like we can judge others, and yet we don’t want anyone to judge us. We should work towards celebrating the efforts of these campaigns promoting healthy lifestyles.
Most of all, we should all work on loving ourselves.
It is not a competition. We can collaborate to help each individual women celebrate her own unique body. We are all real women with pulses and emotions. While one campaign may appeal to you, the other may not. So lets work towards being a little less sensitive.