Listen, I know that as a consumer I cannot expect everyone to hold themselves to high standards. Advertisements work, and sexy advertisements work even better. But what I can’t stand is pandering to the “love your body” movement while double-crossing it in the same breath. (For example, did you know that Unilever is the brand behind both Dove’s “Love your real body” message and Axe Deodorant’s “do what you want with this sexy foam-woman in the shower ” message?)
And maybe that’s a little dramatic, but that’s how I felt reading O Magazine’s May issue: a little abused and a little confused.
The cover started off pretty all right and set what I thought would be a good tone: “How to love the skin you’re in: a head-to-toe celebration of you (less-than-perfect-parts included!”)
When you throw around phrases like “our bodies, our souls,” I get suckered in a little bit. I start to think that maybe, finally, someone’s going to use their status to try to right the boat and get some truth out there for all those troubled teen girls who really need a role model right now. With columns from Brene Brown and Martha Beck, you’d think it would be the right place to do it.
(Side note: I Googled “teen girls + weight” and the first selection that came up was “How to Lose Weight Quickly and Safely (for Teen Girls)” and the second was Seventeen’s “Weight Loss Tips for Teenage Girls.” This is why I’m mad.)
Alas, the excitement wasn’t going to last. Within four inches, the O team started being mean again:
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised — making you feel bad about how fat you look has been a popular way to sell magazines for a long time now. For some reason I thought Oprah might be different — at least in the issue of the magazine that promises to be different.
It was about to get worse. I flipped through and came across this ad for Medifast and felt so many feelings at once:
First, maybe they should have screened the ads for this issue and avoided ads specifically targeted to help you change your body to achieve photoshopped perfection.
Text: “My own mother walked right by me at the airport during my visit. She couldn’t believe it was me!“
Just look into that happy grandma’s eyes. Now that you’ve lost weight, she seems to say, I finally see the daughter I’ve always wanted! Thank you so much! I’m so delusional with joy that my eyes are a little crossed!
This advertisement made me feel sick. Our deepest desire is to have our mother not recognize us? We’re so disconnected from a relationship with the woman who birthed us that impressing her with our weight-loss is what will make it right?
I have felt this way before. Sometimes, despite all my reading and meditating and loving of my body, I still do. I’m not saying women are stupid for feeling this way, I’m saying it’s stupid that we DO feel this way.
At 100, 200, 300, or 400 pounds, we are so much more than our weight. It’s always better to be healthy and feel strong, but even at our most unhealthy we are amazing biological creatures that can love and feel and do good for other people. And being too large or too small (or even just perfect, because, in the words of a dear friend, you can hate yourself at any size) just means you’re fighting with an imbalance that requires love, understanding, and patience — not cruelty, judgement, and self-hate.
To top it all off? The editorial team wanted to give us the most inspiring image of all time: A thin, long-legged, and long-haired blonde dancing in slow-motion and in spanx.
And when you look carefully, you can see they were kind enough to give her a little space between her thighs so we can be 100 percent sure that her body is how it’s supposed to look.
WAY TO GO TEAM.
Advertisers make their bread and butter off of playing on your emotions. So, really, it’s our own fault that we let ourselves be susceptible to these messages to such an extent that they actually work.
It will only end — for ourselves, for our daughters, for our nieces, for our granddaughters — when we refuse to judge ourselves and other women by the size of their bodies. When we see a fat person and think They must be struggling with something, I wish I could help, but they’re a person, not a problem, not If they’d only drop a few pounds, they’d be really attractive. They’re gross and lazy. I better not be friendly. When we start saying we’re uncomfortable with the naked women everywhere. No, not because we’re fat or jealous, but because it’s weird to be surrounded by naked people when you’re walking through the mall with family members. It’s weird to sexualize everything. You’re weird, ads, not me.