Advertising on our walls
Glamour magazine recently came out with a campaign titled "Are You Ready to Start a Body Image Revolution?" The photo shoot featuring seven women "three to five sizes larger than the models you generally see in magazines" will run in the magazine next month. When looking on Glamour's Web site at this article, directly to the right is a link for another article, "Exactly What To Eat To Lose Weight." That is why until photographing plus-sized models stops being a big deal, our culture has yet to change its idea of beauty.
If Glamour editors were so interested in promoting body acceptance among women, they would eliminate all articles on "How To Look 5 Lbs. Thinner Instantly!" and "Tips For Flatter Stomach!" and if that ever does happen, it will be a slow, slow overhaul. On the pages adjacent to Glamour's realistic models, there are still advertisements for SlimQuick pills and AbCrunch machines. So now we are being told to love our bodies no matter what, but not to forget to buy things to make us look better. Also, there is much criticism about this campaign in regard to the ladies' sizes. If the usual fashion model is a size zero to four, that means these plus-sized women are size four to nine — hardly the average women sizes editors are going for.
Even if these steps are publisher Condé Nast's reaction to four other publications being canceled and trying to get more readership, they are still steps toward a world where women see a realistic ideal in advertising. And these changes are more necessary than ever.
Women have gotten the short end of the advertising stick for decades. Ever since "Mad Men" was real life, and men decided what we should look at in our magazines, newspapers and advertisements, women have been depicted as an unattainable ideal. One would think with the advent of women's rights and civil rights, and now the fight for gay rights, along would come some body image rights.
If anything, time has only brought more outlandish and scandalous images of women. American Apparel, specifically, has ads featuring impossibly thin men and women in provocative poses. They are often nude or barely clothed, showing advertisements have progressed beyond selling a product, to selling consumers an ideal and way of life. Beer commercials and print ads always seem to objectify women as well, often times even showing the woman's curves as the beer or bottle, which makes the woman seem to be an object to be handled, consumed and at the mercy of the drinker.
Women are not immune to the relentless stream of advertising we see everyday. Once girls reach puberty, their self-esteem levels drop. The unrealistic type of beauty that permeates every wall and page causes girls to "feel less confident, more angry and more dissatisfied with their weight and appearance," according to a recent study by Dove. The study shows that 77 percent of girls think that they are ugly. If more than two-thirds of girls are thinking this, who are the ones who decide what pretty or ugly is? Perhaps it is the "mad men" who airbrush and edit the pictures we are surrounded with — about 3,000 advertising messages a day, in fact. Twenty-four million people in the United States today have an eating disorder and are damaging their bodies and lives to fit into an ideal body, perhaps not even their own ideal.
Dove came out with a campaign in 2004 similar to Glamour's, called the "Campaign for Real Beauty." Advertisements, video, workshops and sleepover events are all part of the campaign to "celebrate the natural physical variation embodied by all women and inspire them to have the confidence to be comfortable with themselves." In 2006, Dove even started a Self-Esteem Fund that funds programs and workshops that give young girls a healthy dose of self-esteem reality. Dove's programs may not be groundbreaking but are one of the highest-profiled and biggest-named company to start combating this problem. And to make any headway in our culture, a lot more companies will have to think that consumers want to see real women. We will know the pendulum is swinging this way when showing realistic images is the norm and not a novelty.
Hopefully, that swing happens before more companies pay schools to plaster their advertisements everywhere. It happens enough in many high schools and colleges already, in places where students are supposed to be trained as better citizens and not better consumers. Here at Rutgers, we do not have too much advertising on our walls. In classrooms, there are the ubiquitous ads for study abroad sessions or work for students. And there may be the occasional visit from a beauty company to campus willing to do your makeup. But until classrooms are sponsored by corporations and we have to sit through commercials before lectures, which is not that far out, I think we are doing all right.
So ladies, maybe it's time we stop dieting and start rioting.
Joanna Cirillo is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in journalism and media studies.