FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Revenge of the Average Woman

We may be seeing a backlash against rail-thin supermodels and celebrities as more magazines feature women with average bodies as models. Perhaps it's out of concern that unattainable figures harm the self-esteem of women and girls, and may even lead to eating disorders. Or, it may be that publishers and advertisers are finally realizing that the majority of their customer base have bodies that don't meet the criteria of supermodels, yet are beautiful anyway.

Magazines such as Seventeen, Teen People and CosmoGirl are featuring more "average" models. "It's not going to help my reader if we only show girls who are size 6's," said Atoosa Rubenstein, editor of Seventeen. "Everyone is beautiful, it's just a matter of confidence, and we try to show that." For their shoots, these magazines are finding prospective models in malls rather than turning to professional models (a move that the more cynical among us will say helps the magazines cut costs).

Last fall, Dove gained national attention when it launched its "Campaign for Real Beauty." A recent component of that campaign are ads and posters showing ordinary women of a variety of shapes in white bras and panties. The ad campaign for Dove cosmetics -- featuring the tag line "real women have real curves" -- is controversial (which was surely the intention), criticized by those who believe that the unattainable looks of supermodels serve a purpose by providing a look to aspire to. Others see it as mere marketing manipulation: "[W]hat bothers me most about the ads is the hypocrisy," says Lucio Guerrero of the Chicago Sun-Times. "The folks at Dove want us to embrace our 'real beauty' and love who we are no matter what we look like. If that's the case, why are they selling firming cream?"

But on the whole, moves toward featuring more average women in media are being applauded by the public. Says filmmaker and activist Jean Kilbourne, "Showing real girls is just great sociologically. Not only does it make more sense to show how a bathing suit will transform a person's body by using a real body, but it makes women feel like they aren't alone out there, that they are beautiful too."