Victoria’s Secret vs. Dove: Or, how companies appropriate body-positivity to sell you more stuff

The above image has been going around Facebook to the same devastating results as the “When did this…become hotter than this…?” meme. Both images were taken from advertising and marketing campaigns by two large companies, Dove and Victoria’s Secret, who have been appropriating body positivity to continue to profit off of people’s insecurities. While the sale of false body positivity is all I see in these images, Facebook responded positively to Dove’s ad campaign and negatively to Victoria’s Secret’s.

These reactions of “ew, gross, way too skinny” about the VS models are not at all body-positive, and the celebration of Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign gives them far too much credit.

Dove’s Real Beauty campaign showcases women whose bodies fall on the societally acceptable side of normal. While people love to tell a size 0 VS model to “eat a damn sandwich,” the same people appreciate Dove’s campaign, which only celebrates the size 6, size 8, size 10, maybe size 12 curves of a conventionally attractive woman. Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign is just a marketing front for selling a line of “firming creams” to women with insecurities about “flab” and cellulite. Does Dove’s campaign ad show a few more women of color, a few more “curvy” women, and a little bit less retouching than Victoria’s Secret’s ads do? Yes. But is Dove really the savior of women everywhere whose self-esteem is continuously torn down by our culture and media? Not a chance.

Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign has been around for a few years now and the criticisms of it are widely documented. Now, Victoria’s Secret–the cultural gatekeeper of sexual perfection and unattainable bodies–has weakly used body-positive language to sell bras to women who may worry that their partners prefer watching the VS fashion show to looking at their imperfect bodies. Even though “I Love My Body” is very weakly tied to actual bodies– the bras they are selling as called “Body” bras, so really it’s just “I Love My Bra”– the use of a body-positive statement to sell products is offensive.

Dove, Victoria’s Secret, and those who celebrate these campaigns need to understand that loving your body, appreciating real beauty, and being body-positive is incompatible with buying products to make you do so. These pathetic marketing campaigns continue to profit off our insecurities when the truth is that self-esteem cannot be bought. The same fake endorsements of body-positivity can be seen in Julia Bluhm and Spark Summit’s recent “success” in getting Seventeen Magazine to stop airbrushing models. While Seventeen talks the talk with its diplomacy with Bluhm and its “Body Peace Treaty,” the magazine cannot celebrate real bodies because it makes its business by advertising to girls that they need certain products to be prettier, cooler, sexier, and more desirable.

What is the solution to this? We all need to buy soap or lotion or those special halter-back bras from Victoria’s Secret; companies make a business selling us things. So buy the things you need–but don’t let them convince you that you “need” something to make you sexier, prettier, more confident, or more desirable. Be critical of advertising and don’t fall for the celebration of “body-positive advertising” that is just another front for manipulative marketing. Criticize the sexism, the airbrushing, and the message that you are not good enough. And don’t tell the VS model to eat a sandwich.

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15 Comments

Filed under advertising, body image, feminism, gender, sexism, Uncategorized

15 responses to “Victoria’s Secret vs. Dove: Or, how companies appropriate body-positivity to sell you more stuff

  1. K L

    Honestly, being a teenage girl, I have things to say about both sides. For the VS models, they could stand to eat some more food, I mean really. But the Dove models could stand to lose a few pounds as well. I mean come on, most of us could too! Both sides are beautiful in their own ways. People are so much more opinionated now it seems like, and I think some just need to take a step back sometimes and realize that some people are naturally a healthy size for their body, whether it’s a size 0 or 8. Whatever. Honestly, it doesn’t matter. And it shouldn’t. Everyone is pretty in their own way. Rant= over :)

    • Brenna McCaffrey

      “For the VS models, they could stand to eat some more food, I mean really. But the Dove models could stand to lose a few pounds as well. I mean come on, most of us could too!”

      The problem is this idea that there is a way to look “healthy” and that we all know it when we see it. We cannot tell the health of ANY of those models just by looking at their body type.

    • Tyranna

      So, first you say that both sides don’t look great (implying one’s too skinny and the other not skinny enough), and then you say they do both look good. Which is it?

    • Charlotte

      “For the VS models, they could stand to eat some more food, I mean really. But the Dove models could stand to lose a few pounds as well. I mean come on, most of us could too!”

      Why is it your duty to tell these women how they should be eating or behaving based only on a photograph of them? How could you possibly know what would be the best course of actions in their lives? Why are you prescribing them with a way to fix themselves? Why do you assume that something is wrong with all of them?

      “People are so much more opinionated now it seems like, and I think some just need to take a step back sometimes and realize that some people are naturally a healthy size for their body, whether it’s a size 0 or 8.”

      I think that people have probably always been opinionated, just about different things, and it was expressed in different ways — but widespread and constant cultural messages has come with technology and so this stuff, at least to this extent, is still relatively new.

      That being said, I’m having a hard time reconciling your comment with itself. A “healthy size” should be what matters, yes, but we should also trust women to know that healthy size for themselves based on how they feel in their body — their bodies are their own, not everyone else’s to dictate what it should look like and how they should treat it. And yet, that’s what you did in the first half of your comment.

    • B

      YOU are opinionated. YOU need to take a step back, and YOU need to realize that some people are naturally a healthy size for their body, whether it’s a size 0 or 8 or 18 or 28.

  2. Rob

    It is important to feel comfortable in your body, but if being a certain size affects other aspects of your life whether it be anorexia or obesity then you have a problem that you need to address.
    If your goal is to be healthy then you need to understand what type of diet you should have and what type of exercise you need.
    If your goal is to be attractive, then you must consider what type of person you want to attract. There is not a single person on this planet that is considered to be perfect, we are all human, imperfection is in our nature.
    Being attractive is marketing yourself to the group of people you want to find you desirable. First you must understand what attracts your target market and then achieve that. Those qualities may be physical, emotional, social, or intellectual. Popular media and advertising makes a huge fuss over only the physical side of attractiveness because it is the most basic, but just because you are pretty doesn’t mean you are attractive.

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  8. Its like you read my mind! You seem to grasp so much about this, like you wrote the ebook in it or something.
    I believe that you could do with a few percent to force the message house a bit, however instead of that, this is excellent
    blog. A great read. I’ll certainly be back.

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  10. Jocelyn

    Now, I am only a teenage girl… But I have a few thoughts. One being my actual first thought. This was “Ek, those Models are really skinny.. Are they actually thinking of their own health… Or only their acceptance of the media?” And secondary…”Who would use these bodies for a campaign? Theyre kind of heavy…” And I know that was the basics of everyones thoughts too. The only difference are your thoughts afterward. “Hm. I want to post a comment, making me seem anything but judgmental towards the heavier ones, because thats considered wrong.” BUT the truth is. As human beings.. We all judge. Silently, to ourselves. Its just a matter of whether or not you tell the world your negative thoughts.
    Though, to me, all of them are beautiful. But I still instantly judged both ends. Because thats what we do. Also…Who says what beautiful is? THESE CAMPAIGNS. THESE ADS. They rule our lives. They make the most of us insecure. BUT these companies arent trying to do that. Theyre trying to sell. And obviously, (even with all the “hate”) , its working. I mean, I buy victoria secret bras, and I buy Dove products as well. And I dont look like any of them. Alot, even most..of us dont. And thats the talk of this Article. Even if they added a more varied selection of women, which I think they should (woops, my opinion, deal with it. We all have opinions.), Those campaigns would still get negative feed. Because, just like people, they arent perfect, and you cant please everybody.

  11. Angelina Montez

    Wonderfully written article.

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