If I didn’t know anything about the female body I would think there was only one accepted body type. The mall contains countless images of slim models in skimpy clothing. I open up Instagram and see photos of thin models posing provocatively. TV ads portray similar model types selling alcohol, clothing, makeup and food. Everywhere I look I am surrounded by images of the female body looking a specific way: slim and sexy.
Even with the knowledge of Photoshop and other means of editing images in the media, these representations of the female body still affect viewers. The emergence of social media has both helped and hurt body depictions of females. How are some companies and individuals fighting back against these rigid representations to help females accept their bodies? We need more representation because there is more than one type of body and all are beautiful.
On the surface, people may think that images of thin and sexualized females are harmless and function as entertainment, but it has been proven that these images can cause detrimental thinking about ones body image. This thinking can lead to fad diets, and disordered eating. (Hellsvig- Gaskell) With girl’s well being at state, it is vital that diversity in body representation improves. Aerie, a lingerie company aimed at 15-21 year olds, made a big statement when they proclaimed that they would no longer retouch their models. No retouching means that both in advertisements as well as in the store, all images are natural and real images of models of all different shapes and sizes.
All models in this company will be untouched showing their natural curves, rolls, bumps, and marks ultimately challenging the typical supermodel standards. (Krupnick) Although this is only one company in a sea of millions of lingerie companies out there, this store is mainstream and people know about their campaign. The hope from girls like myself who are 21 and struggle with accepting their body is that other companies geared towards college youth will start to do the same thing. I find it very refreshing to see girls who have similar body types to mine posing in lingerie, it reminds me that beauty does not come in one shape. This is a step forward for body representation of females. It fights back against the idea of perfection that so many companies reproduce and enforce.
The Plus size Aerie model, Iska Lawrence, explained in The What’s Underneath Project, that when companies Photoshop her body it causes large dents in her self-esteem. Iska Lawrence had tried to model many times but she always was turned away for having big hips and an unfitting model body. In this video she clarifies that she became a plus size model because she, “wanted to see models like [her].” Lawrence states that there was no better campaign than Aerie Real to help herself and others believe that the untouched you is good enough. She is very proud to be a part of the body positivity journey that some companies are beginning to take. Both the models and the consumers of Aerie’s products can see through this campaign that attributes like cellulite and rolls are not flaws but rather just a part of you that makes you special. This confident and positive mindset is important for the young girls strolling in the mall or viewing TV ads. When companies like Aerie come out and say that the natural you is beautiful, we move closer to a place where body confidence is easier to attain and keep.
Moving away from modeling and clothing companies, young girls are also coming forward to make a change in the representation of women in the media. From a 17-year-old having a “No Makeup Day” at her high school to another female teenager starting a petition for Seventeen magazine to give their consumers images of real girls, females of all ages are fed up. (Yorio) Youth is aware of the lack of diversity in the media they consume regarding body positivity and image and it is inspiring to see them mobilizing to change this. The “No Makeup Day” that was created by seventeen year old Lauren Alberti started a discussion for her classmates on “feelings of inadequacy and unhappiness with their appearance”. (Yorio) For change to occur we need to create a discourse that focuses on the effects of female body representation in the media and how to attack it. These young girls have a pretty good start.
In the article, Young women are fighting back against media portrayals of beauty, it is reinstated that, “movies, television shows, magazine covers and other forms of mass media show images of super-thin, scantily clothed girls and women with unblemished skin, bright white teeth and not a hair out of place… It’s very important…that girls understand the media images they see do not portray real girls and real women.” (Yorio)
As consumers, we have the knowledge about the behind the scenes of images we see in the media everyday. Even with this knowledge, the effects of female representation in the media are a strong force that many feel. In order for change to occur we need more companies like Aerie and young girls like Lauren Alberti to come forward and remind people that beauty is not a number or a size on a pair of pants. Beauty comes from who you are as an individual and on the inside; we need more advertisements that remind us of that.