British retail shop John Lewis is going to start featuring a variety of body sizes in the models they use to advertise clothes. They will not stop using very slim models entirely, but will simply incorporate other sizes and shapes to offer a better representation of "what British women really look like." They cite Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign as inspiration.
John Lewis spokesman Mark Forsyth said last night that although the chain would not necessarily stop using size 8 models, it would include more variety. ‘What Dove [the skincare manufacturer] has done, promoting the very diverse aspects of women, different shapes and sizes, is very positive,’ he said. ‘It’s about health and promoting diversity. We are hoping that this will stimulate a debate about the use of fashion imagery.’
The company has recruited Britain’s leading campaigner on how the media and fashion industry influence eating disorders to advise it how to switch to its new, ‘more responsible’ policy. Susan Ringwood, chief executive of Beat, the eating disorders association, will next month address a group of staff, including designers, public relations executives and those involved in devising John Lewis’s marketing activities. She will tell them that while advertising involving very skinny models does not itself cause eating disorders, it can damage the health of some young women by making those at risk of developing anorexia or bulimia think that such shapes are normal or desirable.
The part I bolded is important. All too often, those of us who point out negative images of women in media are accused of blaming those images for eating disorders, violence against women, etc. Or of wanting to censor the media and control what is shown. What I and every pop culture critique I read are really after is a greater variety of representation. There is nothing wrong with featuring very slim women in ads – some women are naturally very slim without even trying. But when that’s all we’re shown of women – when its portrayed verbally and visually as the way a woman should look – we can’t help but think, "What the… is there something wrong with me that I don’t look like that?" Of course, while we’re wasting time learning to overcome those messages and regain self-esteem we never should have lost, men are busy doing things and accomplishing stuff. Sometimes I wonder if that’s what it’s all about – eliminating the competition by keeping them demoralized and worried about trivia. Or maybe it’s just about control: the need for every man to rest secure in the knowledge that no matter how low he is on the male monkey hierarchy, there’s always someone lower than him – a woman.