The skinny on body shaming

This Sunday will mark the first day of SUMMER! While many of us love the BBQ’s, pool parties, and beach trips that accompany such warm weather, many of us groan at the idea of pulling out the old bathing suit.

The pain of finding suits that not only fit our body shape, make us feel comfortable, and also look good, is a seasonal struggle. This year however, Target has claimed to offer affordable bathing suits for all sizes and body types.

The “Target Loves Every Body” campaign was released this past week to promote their bathing suit collection. The campaign follows the styling of four fashion bloggers in the Target swimsuit collection.

From a marketing standpoint, Target seems to have hit the bull’s-eye. The positive message and use of real, diverse women is what customers want to see. For the company it was almost a necessity to promote such messages after last year’s bikini Photoshop incident and the decision earlier this year to make plus sizes of Lilly Pulitzer’s bathing suit collection only available online.

Body image is a personal issue for many women everyday, but this year it’s been a real forefront controversy in advertising. Companies such as Lane Bryant, Yves Saint Laurent (YSL), and Protein World have all experienced some backlash to their ad campaigns.

Lane Bryant

Earlier this year Lane Bryant put in motion the #ImNoAngel campaign. The campaign focused on promoting plus size sexy while dissing Victoria’s Secret Angel ads. While many women loved the campaign there were some who thought they took it too far and bashed skinny women.

The skinny shaming controversy has not been restricted to the ad industry. Even chart topping songs like “All About That Bass”, which seemingly promote positive body image, have been accused of slighting those who are “size two”. Both these incidents prove just how hard it is to create work that promotes positive body image.

Yves Saint Laurent (YSL)

Britan’s Advertising Standards Authority have recently banned a YSL ad for featuring an extremely thin model. They stated, “… the model appeared unhealthily underweight in the image and concluded that the ad was irresponsible.” The UK is not the only country taking stands on fashion’s unhealthy and underweight models. France passed a law in April that required models to retain a BMI level of at least 18. If modeling agents break the rule they can face jail and fines. The law was passed to combat body disorder diseases such as anorexia.

Protein World

“Are you beach body ready?” is more than just a question we ask ourselves and most of the time say “no” to, it’s the tagline for Protein’s World advertisement that has stirred major controversy in the UK and is making it ways to the states. The advertisement, which features bikini clad Australian model Renee Somerfield, was met with vandalism, a petition, and protest. Ultimately the Advertising Standards Authority ruled for the ad to be taken down, stating, “Due to our concerns about a range of health and weight loss claims made in the ad, it can’t appear again in its current form.” However, the ad crossed the pond and made a debut in NYC via a Time Square poster and an encompassing subway campaign. Both “Dove” and “swimsuitsforall” posted rebuttal ads on social media featuring curvier women with body positive messages and hashtags.


Protein World’s model Renee Somerfield spoke out after criticism began to flood social media, saying, “body shaming the image is very contradictory. Two wrongs don’t make a right.” She makes a valid point that leaves us pondering, is there a right way for advertisers to approach body image without slighting the “other” group?

Isabel Foxen Duke explores the answer to this question in “Why ‘Love Your Body’ Campaigns Aren’t Working”. She writes,

Unfortunately, we’ve been taught that looking a certain way is a prerequisite for “achieving” throughout the rest of our lives.” … “While changing the figures and images in the media is an important and wonderful first step (particularly for building new beliefs in younger generations), it may fall on deaf ears amongst those who have already been brainwashed that “thin” is where life happens.”

Is the key to a successful positive body image campaign the ability to show that life dreams are attainable at any size? Does Target do this in the “Target Loves Every Body” campaign by taking four ordinary fashion bloggers and giving them the opportunity to participate in a dream job?

-Caroline Robinson & Savannah Valade


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