Ever since I was little, the “perfect” body type was everywhere. Whether you are walking around the mall or watching TV at home, Victoria Secret ads were unavoidable, flaunting these beautiful (size double 0, I might add) models in our faces. To add insult to injury, once a year we were subjected to the over-the-top Victoria Secret fashion show! Media and advertisements influence the way women and girls see themselves and make them feel that they need to strive for this unrealistic level of beauty. Making girls feel like these unattainable body images are how they should look in order to feel pretty, desirable, and worthy can do so much damage on young female’s minds, self-esteem and how they view themselves. “Projecting ultra-thin models as a beauty ideal comes with its costs. The general conclusion among researchers is that the exposure to thinness-depicting media is related to greater body dissatisfaction, lower body self-esteem, and self-objectification, especially among young girls” (Bissell & Rask, 2010).
Fortunately, beauty and fashion companies are making a huge impact on changing this marketing approach. The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty is Unilever’s worldwide marketing campaign launched in 2004, one of the first of its kind, groundbreaking, revolutionary and bold to help expand the scope to beauty. Dove’s goal was to utilize their beauty bar product to encourage women to feel comfortable in their own skin building confidence and changing the traditional view of beauty. “Feminism (the advocacy of women’s equality in society) is a concept that is present in the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. From the 1960s on, women have empowered themselves to advocate for their own definitions of beauty, not allowing a patriarchal society to define them (Johnston & Taylor, 2008). “In relation to the twenty-first century, women have continued to advocate equality via feminist activism. The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty is a prime example of this, as it pulls away from the commonplace, stereotypical view of women in society today. In using “feminist consumerism,” the Campaign for Real Beauty has the power to disrupt gender norms with its engagement in grassroots activism, as well as in its critiques of the beauty industry (Johnston & Taylor, 2008).
Fashion companies are also realizing it is also time to change. Aerie owned by American Eagle Outfitters launched a campaign that encourage girls to understand and recognize their own unique beauty. “Long before the term “body positive” became fashionable, Aerie has been the forerunner in promoting the visibility of women in with a range of shapes and sizes” (Ell, 2018).
“Aerie began its no airbrushing, “Aerie Real” campaign, using regular-looking models in 2014. Female shoppers can also upload selfies of themselves – and all their flaws – using the hashtag “AerieReal”. The campaign represents a stark contrast from other lingerie brands that showcase near-flawless models” (Ell, 2018). Utilizing the ever-popular social media platform, Aerie is working to support and help women and girls feel better in their own skin. Their campaign is working, both American Eagle and Aerie continue to grow – “the company’s stock is up 114 percent year over year, Aerie was valued at $500 million, up from $200 million in 2017. The company is gunning for a $1 billion valuation over the next few years, meanwhile, long-time market leader Victoria’s Secret is losing market share fast” (Ell, 2018).
Women are responding, innovative brands like Dove and Aerie are working to normalize healthy and strong women in their advertisements and pressuring other companies to follow suit. People may say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but companies are now learning beauty is within us all. Instead of the flawless “super skinny” six-foot-tall models that many companies have used in the past, these companies are connecting with real women. They pride themselves on inclusion and body positivity, supply self-esteem resources and are taking the first steps in changing the beauty standard for women and the fashion world, it is inspiring, making body shaming so last season!
Bissell, K., & Rask, A. (2010). Real women on real beauty: Self-discrepancy, internalisation of the thin ideal, and perceptions of attractiveness and thinness in Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty. International Journal of Advertising, 29(4), 643-668. doi:10.2501/s0265048710201385
Ell, K. (2018, June 23). Aerie rapidly gaining market share off social media and ‘more authentic’ women. Retrieved April 04, 2021, from https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/22/aerie-is-a-standout-with-body-positive-ads-and-real-models.html
Johnston, J., & Taylor, J. (2008). Feminist consumerism and fat activists: A comparative study of grassroots activism and the dove real beauty campaign. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 33(4), 941-966. doi:10.1086/528849