Lovable and False Messages About Body Image

Surprised to see that picture at the top of a blog post on this site? Good. It's meant to shock you. Read on…

Melinda Tankard-Reist points us to a real example of terrible double standards…

 

According to its website, Australian underwear brand Lovable says it is

“dedicated to changing the culture surrounding eating disorders and body image”. It does this “by using happy, healthy models in our campaigns and promotional activities and by continuing to design intimates that are not created to objectify women’s bodies…”

I’m sorry, but I’m a bit confused.

Because I don’t understand how you change the culture with advertising like this.

Like Girlfriend misusing the word ‘revolution’ in its alleged new approach to body image (Girlfriend: we’re still waiting for the beauty revolution), Lovable is abusing the term ‘cultural change’.

You can read the full article on Melinda’s blog where she encourages us to write to Loveable. So that's just what I did. I think it's important that men write in about these issues too. Here's my email to them:

Dear Lovable,

I'm a married man (almost 10 years)  and father of 3 children (including a 6 year old girl who takes in everything she sees around her). I wanted to write to you today about your current advertising campaign featuring Jennifer Hawkins which, I would strongly suggest to you, runs entirely contrary to your stated claim on your website (http://www.lovable.com.au/we-love/w1/i1568119/) that you are “dedicated to changing the culture surrounding eating disorders and body image … by using happy, healthy models in our campaigns and promotional activities and by continuing to design intimates that are not created to objectify women’s bodies…”

I've got to be honest with you. I perceive a complete disconnect between those stated claims and the images of Hawkins that you are using. Specifically you should be aware that use of such images, which portray an almost impossibly “perfect” paradigm of the female body, do damage to three things that I, and I think many other men, hold very dear.

 

  1. They communicate to my wife that her body is not good enough. By plastering Jennifer's (no-doubt airbrushed) figure in front of her you're not giving her something to aspire to but, rather, are telling her with almost sledgehammer subtlety that her body is not what it should be. Let's be honest, she's never going to look like Jennifer (which is ok in my book) but does terrible damage to her self-esteem and to that of countless women like her. The irony, of course, is that my wife is actually a beautiful women – its just that the brand values embedded in your images communicate the exact opposite. They hardly “support … the emotional needs of women” – quite the contrary.
  2. They communicate to my daughter the very same message. But more than that, they are very overt in sexualising the issue of underwear. Now, I appreciate that some lingerie is intended for exactly this purpose but that's not what you yourselves claim for this product line, is it? Rather, you state that you do not intend to “objectify women's bodies”. Frankly, I have to ask, how does a picture of Jennifer with ice-cream or watermelon juice dripping down her (airbrushed) torso do anything but objectify her? And yet this is the message that you are sending to my daughter and countless other girls growing up in our culture: underwear = sex.
  3. You are communicating to me, and so many other men like me, a completely unrealistic view of women. The images that you use set up a completely false expectation for us and, as a result, do great damage not only to ourselves but also to the women that we love. Sexual intimacy in such relationships is, all the psychologists will tell you, a key component of health and stability and is grounded, not least, in acceptance of one another as we are. But your images drive a wedge right in the middle of such relationships. They make women doubt themselves and, even worse, make men expect something that looks more like Barbie than any real woman. How can this possibly be a positive step towards good body image and related mental wellbeing for either party?

I trust you will take these comments on board as you review your current campaign. I look forward to your response to my specific points.

with kind regards

David Ould

Now, it's not hard to set aside the time to think about these issues and do something about it. Can I encourage you, no matter who you are, to do the same?

Leave a Reply

5 comments on “Lovable and False Messages About Body Image

  1. Yes- fabulous article, David! It’s so important to have men speak up about these issues. Lovable’s response dismisses the ‘soft porn’ aspect of their campaign – I mean, seriously, they are showing jen hawkins sucking her finger and eating ice cream with it dribbling down her arms in a way that is deliberately designed to allude to oral sex!

    women are already taught that their self worth is entirely based on how sexually desirable they are to men. these ads merely repeat that – they do nothing to challenge the status quo, as stated by Lovable.

    and meanwhile, lovable gets all the kudos for supporting an eating disorders charity!

  2. Hi David, Great letter, thanks so much for getting involved. If you are on facebook, please check out our page here: http://www.facebook.com/collectiveshout  Quite a few of our fb members are writing messages to lovable today and I know they would really appreciate seeing yours too. Also, if you would like to add your letter to the others being posted in the comments section of our site or a link to it, that would be great!
    http://collectiveshout.org/2010/09/everybodys-lovable-especially-if-youre-thin-hot-sexy-and-covered-in-ice-cream/

  3. Hi David
    Thank you for the fantastic post today! I too work alongside the Collective Shout team. LOVE this movement!

    As someone who works in the mental health field, with children and adolescents daily, I am incredibly aware of how children ‘take in’ all they see! Thank you for speaking out for the children. They need strong role models in their lives, especially more men!

    http://voice4life-voice4life.blogspot.com/
    Collett

Leave a Comment - but please pay careful attention to the house rules