Monday 26 September 2016

Gillian Fitzpatrick: Women are still 'real' if they're a size 8, Lane Byrant's new campaign is just skinny shaming

Gillian Fitzpatrick

Published 08/04/2015 | 14:08

Gillian Fitzpatrick
Models at the 2013 Victorias Secret Fashion Show

Whatever happened to loving yourself for the body you were born in?

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Body shaming comes in many guises and this week, we saw US-based clothing brand Lane Bryant join the fold.

The retailer launched a new underwear advert. Entitled, I’m No Angel, it shuns the standard superhuman, supermodel types, replacing them instead with ‘normal’ women, who appear to be around a size 14 or 16.

The title is a purposeful dig at lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret, who last year raised eyebrows with its controversial Perfect Body campaign – a campaign which attracted plenty of criticism for insinuating that body ‘perfection’ means super-skinny.

The response to Lane Bryant’s move, of course, has been predictably glowing. Indeed, for a brand that was little-known outside of its native US, it has now attracted waves of global applause.

“This is all about empowerment, and self-worth, and self-esteem,” declares singer Cheryl James, one third of rap group Salt-n-Pepa, which is involved in the movement. Other words used with unsurprising regularity include  ‘positive’; ‘power’; ‘sassy’; ‘sexy’, and – perhaps most abundant of all – ‘real’.

Lane Bryant’s message is clear: women are not ‘real’ if they’re thin, toned, tall or – heaven-forbid – if they boast a dress size that reads 8, 10, or 12. By all means wag your finger at the slender likes of Jourdan Dunn, Adriana Lima, or Candice Swanepoel – so long as you’re giving a hearty pat on the back to their fuller-figure counterparts.

It’s an infuriating contradiction. Because Lane Bryant is no more about diversity than Victoria’s Secret is. The women featured in the company’s latest advertising drive are not different, nor do they represent diversity.

Models at the 2013 Victorias Secret Fashion Show
Models at the 2013 Victorias Secret Fashion Show

They are one entity: size 14/16 women that, it should be noted, still have perfect teeth and skin and are perfectly in proportion. Lane Bryant doesn’t do apples or pears. It doesn’t do petite or problem areas either. What it does do is gorgeous hour-glass women who are happy to strip off for a reason: they look great naked.

Even Dove’s famed Real Beauty crusade had the good sense to include all shapes and sizes, and guess what, that means – despite Lane Bryant’s assertions – women who are slim too.

There’s no denying that skinny-shaming continues to be the trend-of-the-moment. After years of abuse, last month, size 6 E! presenter and reality TV star Giuliana Ranic spoke out saying she’s “sick of being bullied” over her appearance.

Men want ‘something to hold on to’ we’re told – most of them really like curves, it’s often reiterated.  And fat is the ultimate feminist issue: if you’re thin you’re adhering to societal expectations of feminine beauty, if you’re not you’re championed as a powerful, independent woman who refuses to conform.

So maybe it’s time we all made real efforts to move away from body-shaming – in all its many guises. Because if we want to curb body-hatred, how can we applaud a campaign that encourages us to see slim women as lesser beings than their fuller-figure counterparts?

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