by Tiffany Teng
More and more, companies are shying away from retouching their models. Modcloth, a vintage clothing site, was the first to sign a “Heroes Pledge for Advertisers”, denying Photoshop from its images. Years before, Seventeen Magazine released its policy of showcasing girls without altering their images. In 2014, Aerie, a popular lingerie brand, launched its AerieReal line featuring unretouched models. Recently, the company has made waves by featuring its latest model, Barbie Ferreira, a curvy size 12 model who stands out from typical models of other big retailers.
Though ads are glanced over no more than a couple seconds, their messages stay in the subconscious long after, as advertisements reach far beyond the products they’re selling; they sell a false promise of perfection, happiness, and high social standing. They sell a false definition of beauty. How are we to love ourselves if the idea that our bodies aren’t up to current beauty standards is constantly reinforced?
The statistics regarding unhealthy body image are bleak. They even reach our youngest members of society, as 50 percent of 3 to 6 year olds worry about their weight. In the US, over 80 percent of women say they are unhappy with their appearance, and up to 30 million people suffer from eating disorders .
Surely advertisements, which cater to the general people, should reflect the people and not idealized, Photoshopped versions of themselves. Companies such as Modcloth and Aerie represent the beginnings of changing consumer practices that embraces people as real people. And it pays, too. Aerie this last quarter has seen a rise in 21% of its sales. Body positivity encouraged by big-name companies should be more prevalent, and perhaps self-love and acceptance will abound plenty.
However, there’s hope. Recently, another development has perhaps softened America’s unforgiving beauty standard. Mattel Inc., multinational toy company that produces the famed Barbie dolls, released Barbie dolls that reflect a myriad of body types–tall, curvy, petite–along with a range of skin tones, hairstyles, and eye colors. Barbie’s iconic image of a blonde, blue-eyed, model-esque doll doesn’t stand alone anymore. Mattel’s message speaks volumes; it’s at the earliest stages of life where girls should recognize all sizes are equally acceptable and diversity is beauty.
No longer should beauty be exclusive only to rail-thin, size 2, five-foot-ten Victoria’s Secret models. Beauty is not captured solely in glossy magazine ads or New York Billboards. Beauty has no size, and no appearance. Beauty is not one single standard.
These aforementioned companies mark the first few steps to changing a culture mired in unhealthy body image. But a few steps aren’t enough to cover a thousand miles, and it’s integral that we all do our part to bust out of these confines.