By John Hessburg
I was raised by parents who never let even a nuance escape their attention, and who taught us four Hessburg siblings, usually with humor, that to poke fun at overweight people -- in fact at anybody outside the norm -- was a kind of cringe-worthy ignorance akin to that of a redneck bigot. When one of us kids would comment on a stranger's weight, in a store or restaurant, Dad often jutted his front teeth over his lower lip, making that "Duhh" sound of the archetypal ignoramus. Then he'd arch one eyebrow, just so, as if to whisper, "No need to be an oaf here."
That's one reason why last week, while cruising the Huffington Post, a short-yet-piquant article caught my eye, entitled "Yet Another Reason Advertisers Should Embrace Body Diversity," by Rebecca Adams. As a kid in middle school, I always hated being the thinnest guy in the locker room or at the beach, so I truly get it when some of my gal buddies talk -- on social media or at parties -- about the fear and loathing they suppress daily when their weight starts blooming a bit.
Regarding women's bodies, academics have ID'd a covert "tyranny of slenderness" engrained deeply in contemporary culture, Ms. Adams wrote. This powerful social pressure is perpetuated by the super-thin pro models that abound in almost all women's magazines and websites nowadays. Though the knee-jerk default setting for advertisers targeting women is to use ultra-skinny models, Adams declared that actual scientific research still has yet to prove this strategy sells more products, more effectively, to any women.
In a recently published study, Baylor University researchers wanted to determine if the “slimness sells" axiom holds any water, so they surveyed 239 women ages 16 to 65 to learn how much each woman internalized the "thin = sexy+beautiful+more feminine" ideal. They randomly divvied the females into 3 groups to see if they would buy purses linked to various body types highlighted in advertisements. Ms. Adams wrote that one group was shown five ads for handbags with "skinny" models, while another group was shown five handbag ads featuring "average-size" models. (These were the identical "skinny" models from before, just Photo-shopped to look chunkier). The third group was shown ads with no models at all, just handbags. Researchers also collected the ladies' basic demographic info plus their body-mass index.
Ms. Adams wrote that "of the 239 women in the sample, only 30 percent were what the researchers called "high internalizers" who fully subscribed to the thin ideal. The other 70 percent were either ambivalent (45 percent) or "low internalizers" who rejected the thin ideal (25 percent). Ads with ultra-thin models only convinced women who were "high internalizers" to buy the handbags; otherwise model body size had no direct impact on the effectiveness of an ad -- the "average size" models worked just as well as the "skinny" models. Fun facts about those "high internalizers": these women were younger, consumed more media, earned more money and were generally unhappier with their bodies than the other women in the study."
The Huff-Post article also said that "if advertisers pander to the insecurities of a small percentage of women, then also they're likely alienating 70 percent of female consumers. It seems that a wider range of bodies are just as effective, if not more, at selling products, so perhaps that's incentive enough for advertisers to embrace body diversity on a wider scale. Until that actually happens, it might be helpful for women to keep in mind that previous research has shown that only 5 percent of women can actually achieve the thin ideal -- just something to consider while you're being bombarded with nearly 3,000 ads" -- every day in all forms of media.
Imagine that; what a glut of rubbish, what a surfeit of mentally tarnishing inanity -- 3,000 ads per day x 365 days = 1 million 95 thousand ads each day, pouring down like a tropical gully-washer! That stat boggles the brain.
Plopping a tart cherry atop this hot fudge sundae, this Reality Face-Plant for the Fashionistas, I later found an agitated post by one prominent woman I know on social media, (who has thousands of followers, both middle class and well-heeled, mind you) and who read Ms. Adams piece then railed...
"I am SO SICK of (effete metrosexual) men controlling the women's fashion industry. Enough is enough, already!"
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
REACTION FROM A TYPICAL AMERICAN GUY (who trusts Madison Avenue about as far as he can deadlift a freight car.)
Yesss! Finally. Great to hear women actually shouting this, standing up to the Fascist-leaning Fashionistas. You are right on the beam, ladies... Go tell it on a mountain, over the hills and everywhere.
Let me make it plain. Men do not lay awake at nights dreaming of Matchstick Marjie and her Sullen Sisterhood of Purse-lipped Anorexics, the Cosmo Girl Wannabes.
Every red-blooded man who genuinely loves women -- who's ever enjoyed a healthy and lasting relationship with one, who delights in her friendship as much as her female pheromones -- only cares if women are comfy in their own skin, if they smile daily with that sly-wry joy of life that lights up a room, if they like to laugh and play a little every day -- sometimes roughing it in the mountains or on the seashore -- if they truly delight in their own femininity and wear it stunningly some days when the spirit moves (like flying a wind-fluttered flag with flash, flesh and flourish), and if they give their guys the freedom to be boys and men in fusion (not PC-crippled, skinny-jeans-imprisoned, doe-eyed little shaved-chest sycophants -- as idealized by Madison Avenue metro-sexual mutants -- who get stoked on selling aftershave and ridiculously self-indulgent Italian sports cars and watches as heavy as a hockey puck that you could pawn to pay for a full year of your kid's college tuition).
Damn the torpid ads, full speed ahead... We are with you, good sistahs. Most men are with you, most of the time -- if the truth were to penetrate that insidious P.C. fog that traps most honest thought today, in nearly all the mainstream media.
There are millions of old-fashioned newly-enlightened men all across America, in fact all across the G8 nations -- good men eager to relish the company of good women -- fed up with this media-generated crap, foisted on us all by shadowy beings with a grayish natty-noir vision of their own sexuality, guys who would love to depict most women 24-7 as pre-pubescent boys, never smiling only pouting, lingering in some eternal Turkish bath where the sun never shines.
And the reason these murky mad-men depict women that way in their ads is that they have -- either from utter lack of desire (or lack of cojones) -- probably never dated a woman, kissed a woman, loved a woman or really listened to a woman longer than the time it takes to bark an order to their assistant. Ergo, what the hell gives them any authority to decree just what a quintessential post-modern woman should look like? Or feel like? Or BE like?
BTW: A fun fact... Ms. Adams article was topped by a monochrome photo of five beautiful plus-sized women -- African American, Asian, Caucasian and Latina -- all of them considerably more ample than the skinny chicks you see dominating women's magazines today. Every woman in that Huff Post photo was aglow, healthy-looking, just delightful in fact. Oh, and did I mention -- sexy? Big time.
Read it & weep, Madison Avenue.
Note to all my women friends who wrestle daily with these body-image demons injected wantonly into their urban psyches by "mad men" -- remember that even in their heyday, back in the 1960s, '70s and '80s, fashion models like Twiggy and Kate Moss were retro-chic, risibly passe' just a month or two after they peaked.
Now today in 2015, women that skinny and pale seem so... so mid-20th Century (fox).
But please don't poke fun at them, boys and girls. That would be unbecoming...
© Copyright 2015-2020, John Hessburg & The DICTION AERIE.™ All rights reserved.
Special thanks to photog Rene Pister, & Pixabay, for the image of this beautiful woman above.
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