Tag Archives: gendered advertising

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

Sexist Ad Saturday: Only Men Drink Beer

What steps can be taken to call attention to such basic sexism in journalism and advertising? I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions! 

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Filed under advertising, sexism

“How To Be A Woman,” or Why We Like Gender Rules

    From inspirational quotes and images on Tumblr and Pinterest to the strict gender roles enforced by many religions, it is clear that many people like being told how to perform their gender. Self-help books like “Men Are from Mars…”, “Rules of a Lady” graphics, and even gendered advertising create the gender rulebooks that surround us. They tell us how to be a man or a woman, alienating all other expressions of gender and creating an environment in which people are punished for violating these societal codes. Though working against these gender rulebooks has been a major project of the feminist movement, it is not always easy to write off such deeply inscribed roles.

A Crystal Light ad clearly targeting women: “Finally energy for the gender who invented ‘multi-tasking'”.

I am an atheist who fully understands why so many people believe in a higher power. I sometimes wish I was not so vehemently areligious, because I am able to recognize and understand the benefits that religion has for many people. Gender rulebooks have a similar pull for me. Challenging gender roles that have been surrounding you since before you can remember is exhausting, and sometimes all I want is for someone to tell me what to do so I don’t have an identity crisis every family holiday when I realize that I’m helping my aunts and grandmother in the kitchen while all my male relatives are sitting on the couch watching sports on television.

As a feminist, I am supposed to abhor the rules and the stereotypes the society has created for women, but there are many times when I have wished that I had a gender rulebook. We see this struggle play out in popular culture. The rise of appreciation for the 1950’s and 1960’s, influenced by shows like Mad Men and a focus on vintage fashion comebacks, has brought a similar rise in sexism nostalgia. Many people express a desire to go back to a certain era when things were “simpler” and “men did x” and “women did y”. Though we recognize that the Mad Men era was not a particularly good one for a black lesbian woman in New York City, that nostalgia through rose-colored, sexism-blind glasses does illuminate the conflicting struggle of feminism and our personal feelings about gender roles.


It is important for the feminist movement as a whole to recognize this struggle within every individual. We all identify as feminists in different ways.  Our own personal gender expression is often influenced by the gender rulebooks that we either choose to follow or work against. My fourteen year-old sister will not call herself a feminist or accept the feminist ideas that I introduce to her. When I asked her why she doesn’t like feminism, she replied: “I like being girly. I like pink and sparkley things.” If that continues to be the roadblock between young women and feminism, I believe we have a big problem in the growth of the modern feminist movement.



Filed under feminism, gender, identity, pop culture, Uncategorized