Yesterday I was flicking through the inevitable junk mail that had accumulated in my mailbox, and stopped at a double page spread in the Best and Less catalogue. It actually took me a moment to realise what it was that was so odd about the ad: it featured seven women who were not your traditional eighteen-year-old, impossibly photoshopped models.
In fact, two of the models were middle-aged. All were larger than a size ten, some were most definitely what is generally considered ‘full-figured’ or ‘plus sized.’ This is the ad, taken from the online catalogue:
First of all – kudos to Best and Less for subverting the idea that lingerie (or anything, for that matter) can only be advertised by young, thin, perfectly photoshopped models. I’m not sure whether any of these images are photoshopped, but even if they are, it’s definitely an improvement. Well done on showing that bodies not falling into the traditional model image are also beautiful, and that women should be proud and confident in them. I for one find it great that the ad shows women with actual stomachs. I also particularly like that older women have been included in this ad, because older bodies are often relegated to second class status and deemed unattractive.
That said, there are still a range of issues with the campaign that could be better addressed by Best and Less. For one, all the women in the ad appear to be white, perhaps with the exception of the woman on the far right. The women are also all conventionally attractive, their hair styled perfectly and faces made up. Their body shapes also fall into the same category, as all women have clearly defined waists and the general ‘hourglass’ shape that is deemed attractive and desirable.
The other main issue that I have with the ad is the use of the ‘real women’ tagline. On one hand, it signifies that these women have been taken from many walks of life and professions, rather than just the modelling industry. However, the ‘real woman’ rhetoric is deeply problematic, because it is often just as prescriptive as stereotypical beauty standards. ‘Real women have curves,’ for instance, automatically relegates everyone who is naturally thin or not ‘curvy’ in the right way to non-real status, which is deeply dehumanising. Similarly, the ‘real woman’ rhetoric still predominantly excludes women who are larger than a size sixteen, or who don’t have an hourglass figure. The idea of the ‘real woman’ doesn’t help anyone, because being a woman isn’t defined by your weight or body shape.
Overall, this ad does a lot better than the majority of ads, and for that it should be applauded. It also has problematic aspects that need to be addressed. But as a first step towards more representative advertising, it does pretty well. What do you think?