I Am That Girl Now

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Dove ads. I'm pissed.

Okay. I haven't actually written about this one. I'm going to now. But first, Wendy of Pound said it better than I did.

There are advertisements around town of women in their underwear. This shocks nobody, since I'm already used to seeing naked women with a few inches of strategically positioned covering on magazine covers, billboards, and whatnot. What is shocking is that these women aren't skinny.

Okay, wait, I'm not going to call model-thin "skinny". That's an insult to skinny women everywhere. There needs to be a whole new adjective created to describe the air-brushed, sagless, wrinkle-less women who are taller than average, much thinner than average, and who are engaged in a career of renting out their bodies as hangers for clothing, an accessory to a car, or a backdrop for smaller non-clothing products.

The women in the Dove ads (which, insultingly enough, are for some sort of firming cream-- a fact that had completely passed me by) are not your typical models. They're gorgeous, all right-- smooth creamy skin, not a fold or sag anywhere, no cellulite, no stretch marks, great hair, great smiles, look to all be in great shape-- but they have muscles under their skin, something you never see in the usual models who appear to have been made of the same rubber they use to make Barbie legs. These women have hips. They have breasts. One has a tattoo. Some are tall, some are short, some are of medium height. Their proportions are all different and unique to themselves. And, by God, they are wearing underwear, baring most of their quite nice flesh to public scrutiny, and they appear to be quite proud of themselves and feeling happy and sexy and delighted. Good on 'em.

I have to admit, I almost walked into a building the first time I saw one of these. I'd read something about them ahead of time, but when I saw one in person my first thought was Good Christ, that model has chunky thighs! It took me a while to really look at these pictures instead of just having shock every time I saw one. It took me a while for my brain to stop judging these women based on what I was used to seeing on billboards, and start comparing them to women I see on the street, or in the office, or in the mirror. Which is when I noticed that really, they're all in great shape. These are not fat women. They're just not shaped the way we expect people to be shaped when they're wearing underwear and up on a billboard looking happy about that fact. We're looking at a cross-section of the shapes that women come in-- the differences in bone structure, the differences in where we pack on muscle, the difference in natural breast size and width of rib cages and length of torso and proportions.

The controversy going on seems to be ignoring one fact: this isn't about weight. These women are not fat. Let me repeat that: THESE WOMEN ARE NOT FAT. And yet, everyone is reacting as though they were fat. Myself, at first, included.

That's the part that's boggling me. I don't think I had really realized just how much my view of the world had been affected by models. Yes, I've always known that they weren't realistic, they were far from normal, but I somehow thought that this knowledge protected me from being affected by the constant bombardment. It didn't.

When I was heavier, when I was imagining what my body would look like when I lost X number of pounds, I had an image in my head. Granted, the image looked a lot like Drew Barrymore, who I am never going to resemble (although my Hub claims I do), but nonetheless, I looked at myself in the mirror and imagined that everything would change.

My body didn't change. Just my weight.

My Hub likes to say "I love the way you're made," particularly when he's kissing me and wrapping his arms around me. He's always said that. That phrase has never changed, not when I was 185 pounds, not when I was 123 and teetering on the edge of a serious eating disorder, not since I've started putting on muscle. I'm finally getting a feel for what he means by the way I'm made, because I'm starting to see what that is.

My torso is short. My ribcage is wide. My waist is always going to be bigger than jeans manufacturers expect based on my height and hip circumfrence, because my organs need space and I'm a short woman with a short torso so dammit, they have to go somewhere. My arms and legs are longer than "petite" and shorter than "normal", so I live in a constant search for the perfect length of sleeve and leg. My feet are wide (oh, my beloved tripods) with a high arch, partly due to genetics and partly due to more than twenty years of walking tipped forward onto my toes; the number of shoes that I can wear comfortably is, due to this, a bit limited. My calves will never, ever, ever allow me to wear long boots, because those years of walking funny also gave me calves of steel which have some quality bulk on 'em. I've got medium-wide hips and boobs which, although they're quite nice and have perked up a hell of a lot since the alarming post-weight-loss long & saggy period, don't quite match my hips proportion-wise. My top half wears a different size than my bottom half. I'm good at packing on muscle and fat. I am, in short, a miracle of low German (i.e., any closer to Holland and I'd be Dutch) peasant stock-- a body built to work like hell and make extremely efficient use of resources.

That's my body. That's how I'm made. I can put fat on it or take fat off of it, I can put muscle on it or lose that muscle (granted, as I'm finding with the calf thing, that's not easy), but essentially, that's what I've got. I'm almost thirty years old and for the first time in my life, I'm really getting a realistic view of my own bod.

You know, I think Dove has done us a great service. It's for their own ridiculous reasons, of course, but I'm grateful nonetheless. Fat is one thing; body shape is another. You can diet and exercise to get rid of fat, but you can't change the way you're made, and you shouldn't be expected to. You shouldn't want to. And in retrospect, I am even more pissed off at the clothing industry-- the way they size their clothes and the way they market them. Women are shaped a million different ways, and most of those differences have not a damn thing to do with fat.

I am so fucking mad. All the people out there who are reacting to these ads negatively-- some extremely negatively-- are unrealistic bastards. Have they looked at real women before? Are they aware that by judging all women based on a few of one particular body type, they're being bigots? JESUS CHRIST. Being built differently than a model is not a crime. It doesn't indicate someone is out of shape, or ugly (you FUCKHEADS), it just happens to be a different brand of humanity. Are we supposed to somehow be sorry that we don't conform to those proportions? Are we supposed to apologize for having different genetic stock? Fuck you, people. Just fuck off.

The worst part of it is, this is a judgement hurled at perfectly in-shape women. I can't even begin to imagine the horrible things these people think about anyone who dares to carry more weight than the all-holy Socially Acceptable Norm. Dove's ads aren't going out on a limb, they're still clinging to the trunk-- if they really wanted to show some gorgeous heavier women, I can't imagine the flack that would be hurled in their direction. It is infuriating. It's insane.

I keep thinking, this is just one "imperfection" of many that the majority of women have. They're just looking at shape, and height. They're not dealing with age; they're not dealing with weight; they're not dealing with skin differences like scars and stretch marks (I refer to mine as "battle scars") and wrinkles and pimples and freckles and differences in body hair growth. They're not dealing with the difference in tooth shade or straightness; they haven't wandered out of the box of "attractive" facial features or shape; they're not dealing with-- by a LONG shot-- any kind of surgical or accidental disfigurement. The women on these billboards are still so far from being a legitimate cross-section of gorgeous feminine humanity that it's not funny, and people are still freaking out because a single new variation was added. How do morons like this deal with reality? How do they bear the horror of walking down the street and having their eyeballs seared by the terrible awfulness of normal women? OH MY GOD, THE HORROR! THE HORROR!


I am so mad right now I can hardly see. The only light in this pit is the fact that my Hub's first reaction to those billboards was "Whoa-- gorgeous!" He's just built like that. He's been delighted the whole time that there are finally women on billboards that he thinks are hot. I love this man. God, I can't believe how lucky I got when I found him. And yet-- I'm pretty sure that there are more guys out there who like women who're built like the ones in the ads. Hell, I am positive of it.

You know why? MODELS ARE NOT THE ONLY WOMEN WHO FIND LOVE, ASSHOLES. In fact, the majority of women who find love are not models, or shaped remotely like them. Do the math. This sort of "eeew, I see women who are not up to my standards, why must they sully my breathing space" bullshit is the reason that I have friends who are convinced that no man could ever love them, the reason that I was convinced for the longest time that I would have to change in order to have a man, and that then I'd have to stay thin my whole life or the man would leave me. Because of assholes like this, and because they were backed up by the movies and television and the models, the relentless models. I believed them. Fuckers.

There are men out there who are loving this advertising campaign. My Hub is one of them, so I know. There are men who naturally think that women built in different ways than model-thin are fantastically sexy and totally their thing. Hell, I'd be willing to guess that there are as many men who find non-models sexy as there are non-models. As my little Swiss great-grandma used to say, "For every pot, there's a lid." You just gotta find the damn thing.

Kudos to Dove. More advertising needs to be like this. That's what they mean by "real women"-- yes, it's still not sampling the various weight ranges out there, but at least they're showing different body types. THANK YOU. It's about time. We need this step to get to the next one, and the next after that, and based on how this baby step is being received we're going to have to hunker down for a real fight.


  • BRILLIANT! Yes, Wendy said it well, as she always does, but you've hit the nail on the head too. "Are they aware that by judging all women based on a few of one particular body type, they're being bigots?" That's it exactly. Thank you.

    By Blogger M@rla, at 3:38 PM  

  • My husband loves those women too. Few things give me a better feeling than seeing him wrinkle his nose in disgust at a woman he views as 'too skinny'. He likes hips, and curves of all shapes and sizes.

    Hurray for our husbands!

    This post was brilliant, you made my day :)

    By Blogger Caleen, at 6:46 PM  

  • Okay, three things (at least, maybe four, hah).

    1) I saw the title of this post and thought it was about the chocolate/cookies/ice cream Dove. That is a sad, but true fact.

    2) I think the women in those ads are HOT! I'd be thrilled to look like any single one of them. You are dead on that people think they are fat only because we aren't used to seeing this type of body in print, or on film. I don't know if you know who Sara Rue is, but she's an actress who has played "fat" roles. If she's bigger than a 12, I'd be shocked. She's gorgeous, with an amazing, real, curvy body... and there are those who call her fat. We're such a warped society. BTW, I've seen those ads all over NYC and have yet to see any negative grafiti. I'm sure it's there, but I haven't seen it.

    3) We must be on the same wavelength, on some level, because the post I began today sort of focuses on body image. Your post struck some kind of nerve, and I ended up tearing up reading it.

    4) You're just so freakin' awesome.

    That's it.

    By Anonymous Mae, at 7:22 PM  

  • marla sent me. i haven't seen the actual billboard ad or magazine ad but after i saw all of the headlines, i found it online. those girls are all cute. every normal guy on the planet will think these are cute girls. if me and my buddies saw these girls on the street, we would be checking them out. tv and the media seems to have a vice grip on influencing how women feel about themselves and that is so unfortunate. i like that these girls appear to be confident in themselves. this makes cute girls even more desirable. its fairly easy for guys to pick up on whether or not a girl has self-image issues (it's not a deal breaker but not an attractive feature).

    By Blogger brent, at 7:33 PM  

  • nail on head again, you smart n sexay genius woman. it IS a shock to see these women initally, coz we're so used to seeing these airbrushed creations. and that's what they are... creations! photoshoppery!

    i stared at those ads for a long time and really admired the muscle tone on them lasses. lovely stuff... but those buffoons from the chicago papers that wendy linked to, good LORD. i dunno if they were being deliberately provocative to stir up trouble and extra sales, but it's sad if they really are that ignorant.

    i have a male friend who actually worked on the Dove campaign and i emailled him about my outrage. he reckons the dove chicks are all foxy and says the chicago reporter is living in a fantasy world. hehe.

    By Anonymous dietgirl, at 5:55 AM  

  • one thing i think about, however... is Dove equating 'real bodies' with 'curvy bodies' in their campaign (there in huge text on dove.com). REAL bodies should just mean "not have their fucking thighs shaved off with an airbrush" but shouldn't be limited to gals with subtle curves. Real is also short and skinny with nae tits, or beanpole tall and hipless, or a 300lb apple shape. if i was a really naturally slender chick looking at these ads i'd be thinkin, "HEY, I'm real too! And I need moisturizer just as much!"

    By Anonymous dietgirl, at 6:01 AM  

  • Hey Dietgirl,

    The ad on my commute to work has a lovely older lady on it, beautiful wrinkles around her eyes. There's another one with a tall-looking, slender redhead with big freckles. There might be an attempt to emphasize the curvy bodies thing in other regions, but I've found the ones hereabouts are very conscious of including different body types, ages and ethnicities.

    I love the Dove ads, even though I am totally aware that is a marketing campaign. Meg, thanks for bringing attention to it.

    By Blogger lisa, at 11:24 AM  

  • Time to be calm. First off, its an ad that can also be just showing beautiful women. They are larger than the model-waifs out there, but they are still hot. As a man, the slightest thing can get me excited in a woman. Something as obvious as a six pack set of abs, or as beautiful as a cherubic face. I might get aroused from your eyes, your feet or your toes. My wife is now in fabulous shape. When she was huge, and pumped with Prednisone from Cancer, she was still beautiful to me. My friend wife Kim is as large as any woman I have seen. She is beautiful to me. Dont get mad at all men, dont get down on all the ads, and dont boycott the soap. Shit happens, you and I know the truth, and beauty is so subjective that an ad like that is not worth your ire. Keep the faith and use the Force...

    By Blogger Allan, at 12:56 PM  

  • Hey girl, your ARGH up top sent your profile down the page... ;-)

    And, nice post.


    By Blogger Melting Mama, at 3:50 PM  

  • Four years later and the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty has virtually disappeared. It looks like when all it said and done, people prefer the beautiful and rare in ads after all. Natural is fine, but after all, the streets are full of cute and plumpish women like the overrated Dove girls. It's precisely because they aren't ordinary that supermodels are lionized.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:15 PM  

  • Just realize that the men who put down real women and only want the models are very insecure. They have to put others down to build themselves up. They're pathetic and to be pitied. Don't waste your time or energy getting upset with these idiots. You've got a great man, who cares what these other jerks think?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:01 PM  

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