Must We All Look The Same? Variety Is The Spice Of Life

Variety is the spice of life

Variety is the spice of life

“Find fits for every body type,” the ad says.

Hmmm, I see tall and skinny in the first frame. Tall and skinny in the second frame. Tall and skinny in the third frame. And tall and skinny in the last frame.

Lisa Wade over at Sociological Images wonders,

Are they actually mocking us? Do they really think we are so stupid as to not find the text and visuals in this ad laughably mis-matched? Are they trying to offend all people outside of this “range” of body types so that they don’t wear their clothes? I just… I don’t know.

She goes on to observe that fashion advice almost always aims at “Getting women’s bodies, whatever shape they might be, to conform with one ideal body type: the skinny hourglass figure.”

The advice is all about trying to hide the shape of a woman’s actual body so that everyone looks just one way. Here’s advice for women with a “pear” shape. Use clothing to:

  • slim your hips and thighs
  • draw attention to the upper part of your body
  • balance your figure with shoulder pads
  • a roomy top will de-emphasize your bottom
  • offset your hips
  • avoid side pockets, they add bulk where you least need it

“Why not highlight that awesome booty and tiny waist and shoulders?” Lisa asks. “Work that pear-shape!”

Others celebrate variety as the spice of life. Check out these lines from a piece called, “That Girl: What Makes You Different Makes You Beautiful” @ Absurd Grace.

I want to teach my daughter appropriate and healthy ways of seeing herself so that she doesn’t have to go through the same self-deprecating madness that I went through. It horrifies me that she could possibly grow up to be fearful of being perfectly herself, imperfections and all.

I think I will start with making a rule that she doesn’t look at Teen magazines in order to know what beauty is. Instead I am going to teach her that to look differently is real beauty. To use your natural physical attributes that are unlike everyone else is what makes you charming. And to have a balanced, kind, compassionate soul is desirous. If you can look deep inside of yourself, into your heart, and know that you’ve acted with those characteristics – that is beauty.

Everything else is just detail that can and will change. But who you are, inside, and what makes you different on the outside, that is where the stunning comes in.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on January 9, 2012, in body image, feminism, gender, psychology, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. I love the visual of all the ‘different’ body types. The name-brand designers in fact do not make their clothes in larger sizes because they don’t want their brand seen on large women.

    A note to the woman who intends to teach her daughter a different standard of beauty: It is really hard to fight peer culture, especially when it is backed up with trillions of dollars of media pressure. Try hard to understand what your children (boys too, increasingly so) are experiencing when they don’t look the way they are being pressured to look. This doesn’t mean you have to buy the $200 shoes — just let them know that their feelings (and pain) are valid.

    • Thanks Carrie.

      Interesting point about the reason for small-only sizes.

      And you’re right about about the problems of fighting media (which gets into the unconscious) and peer culture. I’m sure it helps to hear alternative voices, think through issues, get your critical thinking out and not just go by autopilot.

  2. I see this kind of advertisement all the time, not just for jeans, but in nearly every magazine. There are always articles titled “How to flatter your shape”. However, just like this article, the advice always tries to persuade women to be what they are not. If you are curvy, the article provides suggestions on dresses or swimsuits to hide the curves. If you are “petite”, the article provides suggestions on apparel to make it appear as if you have curves. Basically, you can never just be okay as you are. Why doesn’t the article help flatter those curvy people by playing up their curvy assets? if a woman has a petite or boyish frame, why not just wear clothes that exhibit this unique figure? There seems to never be a perfect figure, and this is how the media feeds off of women. The media always tries to convince us that there is something wrong with ourselves, and therefore we must buy something to fix the problem. It is a way for the magazine to make money and seemingly provide helpful advice. However, all they are doing is lowering our self-esteem and providing some false hope of happiness if we purchase their product or seek their advice. It is an absolute sham in my opinion.

  3. I agree with the mother trying to teach her daughter about true beauty and how it comes from with in. Although keeping her child from reading teen magazines is a start but that’s not the only place where a child can be influenced. A T.V shows also display a teen with idea on “what is beauty” children can even access that type of information at school where everything a children get from T.V shows and magazines goes into action. The ad is really questionable is they are trying to attract all type of woman why not put all type of women?

  4. I have unfortunately seen this kind of ad time and time again, I am a strong believer of clothes being made to make all women feel beautiful and comfortable. I don’t know why brands try to exclude bigger or different body types from being able to dress in whatever kind of style and clothes they want to dress in. I also don’t think it is teaching good things to girls, through all the stereotypes young teens and young women go through in their life, dealing with seeing ads claiming to fit “all body types” then having a picture that doesn’t back that claim up at all does not boost their self esteem or make them feel good about themselves. Why try to exclude and isolate people? what happened to lifting people up and making them feel welcomed and good about themselves? If anything, they are excluding themselves and weakening their brand by not bringing in as much clientele as they could be if they would expand their sizes to a bigger variety to fit all types of bodies. That being said, I feel ads need to start being true to what they are, because they are not fooling anyone.

  5. Really, is this at all surprising?
    Ever since Twiggy hit the catwalk some forty-odd years ago, Madison Avenue’s version of the ideal woman has been leaning (pun intended) more and more toward the ectomorph body type common to young adolescents before the hormones really kick in: long, skinny, flat chested and lightly muscled. I don’t think it is a coincidence that this propagandized change of view occurred when it did. This culture has a long history of keeping women dependent and childlike in anyway possible. Various tactics include disallowing admission to institutions of higher learning, refusing the vote, criminalizing access to birth control, and oppressive inheritance and property laws, Add to this the general perception that women are weak mentally and emotionally and need to be guided and overseen by men. However, one thing that did not seem to come under attack was the curvaceous beauty of the female form; rather, it was lauded in the media in the persons of actresses such as Sophia Loren, Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe (whose demure manner and affectedly breathy voice was very childlike and ingenuousness). But now women were finding their collective voice and taking it to the streets, demanding to be taken seriously as human beings on the same par which society accorded men. Strong, loud, big and bold. “I am woman, hear me roar!” And along comes Twiggy…

    Fast forwarding a few decades we see that women have made great strides legally, professionally, socially, and personally. And yet, while on the one hand we are championed for being strong, assertive, capable and accomplished women, we are also being told that to be the best we can be, we actually need to look like little girls with no secondary sexual characteristics. It’s just another way of infantilizing women. They can’t get us out of the courts or the boardrooms, but they can make even the most powerful woman doubt her attractiveness and spend a fortune trying to look weak and small.

    Again, is this really surprising? A quick perusal of history will show that no matter where or when a woman lived, she was subject to the pressures of bringing her body into compliance with the societal norm, usually by adopting some extreme and punishing regimine contrary to the interests of physical comfort and good health, whether it be throwing up or fattening up.

    So, to be totally outraged by ads such as this I think are a waste of time. (Been there, done that.) Put the energy into your own happiness. And if you’re a mother, rather than making rules about what she can or cannot see (there is always the friend’s house with the contraband magazines) celebrate her strengths and surround her with supportive people. I find that playing sports is a great way for a girl to enjoy her body and the good things it can do for her.

    I know we can’t totally guard our children against the pervasive and pernicious lies of the media and society, but as with so many other areas of child rearing, you do what you can, including setting a good example, and hope that they make it through to the other side relatively unscathed.

  6. It is true that I see this kind of advertisements all the time. Those companies always suggest that skinny and slim are much suitable for women. But, is it true? Is it the true beauty for women? I can’t deny this kind of body shape is becoming a main trend around the whole world. I don’t know whether it is true but most of the time American women are facing the problem of obesity. Is it good for them trying to make themselves become slim and skinny? Another question we need to think about is that, what will our society be if every women have the same body shape? It seems women need to think carefully about those questions but not blindly dieting or losing their weight.

    • Thanks for your thoughts. And yes, obesity is a problem, but some people are healthily built “pear” shaped or “apple” shaped, yet our culture says we should all look the same.

  7. I agree with the author of this article, in that advertisement you don’t see a variety of women’s bodies. You see skinny models with long legs and that are probably close to six feet or taller. The advertisement should show someone that is tall and bone straight, someone slightly curvy, and someone who is pear and apple shaped. It would actually make the advertisement more believable that there is a fit for every body type. I myself have tried jeans on that are available for “every body type” and for me, none of those jeans actually fit me. Some were way big in the thighs because I am not curvy enough, and my legs are not tiny enough to look good in skin tight jeans. Its a lose-lose for me usually. Advertisements like these are a big reason why so many women have body image issues I think. They all want to look like these models in the advertisements and yet they forget that sure these models are thin, but a lot of them have be photoshopped and airbrushed like crazy.

  8. Just looking at this ad does not sit well with me because of what they are saying “find fits for every body type,” yet every woman on this ad looks the same shape. The sad fact is advertising companies do not really focus on real women. What I mean in this ad what they are showing and what they are saying are two different things. Women come in so many shapes and sizes and in this ad we only see one.
    I agree that this ad is not really concentrating on the different shapes of women’s bodies but more on the certain body that women should have. I mean take me for instance if I am 5 ft and am very curvy on the backside, there is no way that I would be able to fit a pair of these jean and expect to look like one of these models. These jeans would definitely be low riding in the back. I would not even consider buying these unless I seen a model with a shape somewhat like mine in this ad
    In reality it all comes down to is in advertising it’s all about the money and finding ways for you to buy their products. So they put a thin model and a slogan that is sure to catch the eyes of all the women out there who want to look like this. Sad to say it’s all a mind game.

  9. It seems like in every magazine these days there is a section for clothing and the best fit for your body type. They have this for every season and type of clothing like shorts, jeans, jackets, and bathing suits. These magazines say that they are giving advice on how to dress your body type the best and show off its best features but in reality it’s trying to conform each body type to look the same. They want to hide women’s curves and add curves to women who don’t have them. They want all women to look skinny and taller than they really might be. Everybody should love the way they are as an individual because who wants to look the same and blend in.

  10. It is sad to see ads like this over & over again because of the affect it has on not just young girls, but women as well. I myself have never had an eating disorder, but I grew up hating my legs because they weren’t naturally twiggy. I am built like my father, with thick & muscular thighs, therefore making it impossible to be the “ideal” size 0. That was mainly in my teenage years that I had to face the different ideas floating around on ads and out of other students mouths. “Your thighs should never touch when you walk” or “When you sit down, if they spread out past the size of your hand, you could use some work”.

    I did however grow up in sports & was tomboyish, so these comments did make me think, but never to the point of an eating disorder. My friends on the other hand did not have the Dove ads or stores like Torrid to shop at yet. I remember going with them to shop & having them break down in the dressing room because nothing fit or the harsh fluorescent lighting made them look unflattering in anything that did fit. If companies wanted to sell more clothes, they should at least have the dressing rooms have better lighting. But besides that, most of those friends I mentioned ended up with an eating disorder of some kind. The most popular being binging & purging. It got to the point where they did lose the weight, but because their body type was naturally curvy, they looked horribly unhealthy with so little weight. It was hard to start eating normally again when they wanted to stop because every time they ate, the food would automatically come right back up. They all eventually found better ways to tone up rather than lose weight, but it was years after we were out of high school before that happened.

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