September 16, 2010

Not So Loveable? Sisters aint doin’ it for themselves!

‘What’s your body for? What’s it supposed to look like? Is it for other people to look at and use?...for millions of young women all over the world, these questions are answered by glossy fashion and lifestyle magazines…such magazines are mostly written and produced by women, for women”. #(Faking It Project)
It’s sad to say that the very women who have claimed to uphold feminist rights, who have seemingly championed the cause for ‘girl power’, who purport to stand against the oppression, subjugation and objectification of women are increasingly becoming its perpetrators.
It’s no longer the faceless male dominated marketing industry who continue to do significant damage to the self-image, self-esteem and self-worth of women by the way women have consistently been sexualized and objectified in their advertising. It’s now the women’s magazines, the female advertising executives, the women’s brand marketers who are cashing in on their female counterparts vulnerabilities, using their ‘inside knowledge’ as women to generate dysfunctional and distorted images, not only of what women want’, or even what women ‘need’but more insidiously ‘what women CAN and SHOULD be’.
And the impact, of what should rightly be called ‘sisterly abuse,' extends far beyond the reach of adult women alone. These women’s magazines & female advertising executives have successfully managed to imprison and paralyze a whole generation of young women and teenage girls in the wake of its legacy.
A disturbing truth expressed in this telling comment by one young teenager in Melinda Tankard Reist’s book- Getting Real’:
So I’m not the only teenager who detests her own body? What is it about fashion and beauty advertisements that somehow make me feel fat and ugly?
Why do I feel depressed after reading a girls’ or woman’s magazine that I chose to purchase and read?”
Nowhere has the complicit nature of women’s role in this been made more clear than by the extraordinary response by one female marketing executive to one man’s protest at the recent release by Lovable’  of its lingerie range, underwear supposedly designed for the ‘ordinary woman’.
As you will see, not least disturbing is its claim to support the Butterfly Foundation’an organization who’s stated mission is to change the culture, policy and 
practice in the prevention and treatment of eating disorders’.

A FEW GOOD MEN: A Christian Brother Speaks Out:
Dear Lovable,
I’m a married man (almost 10 years) and father of 3 children (including a 6 year old girl who takes in everything she sees around her). I wanted to write to you today about your current advertising campaign featuring Jennifer Hawkins which, I would strongly suggest to you, runs entirely contrary to your stated claim on yourwebsite  that you are “dedicated to changing the culture surrounding eating disorders and body image … by using happy, healthy models in our campaigns and promotional activities and by continuing to design intimates that are not created to objectify women’s bodies…”
I’ve got to be honest with you. I perceive a complete disconnect between those stated claims and the images of Hawkins that you are using. Specifically you should be aware that use of such images, which portray an almost impossibly “perfect” paradigm of the female body, do damage to three things that I, and I think many other men, hold very dear.
They communicate to my wife that her body is not good enough. By plastering Jennifer’s (no-doubt airbrushed) figure in front of her you’re not giving her something to aspire to but, rather, are telling her with almost sledgehammer subtlety that her body is not what it should be. Let’s be honest, she’s never going to look like Jennifer (which is ok in my book) but does terrible damage to her self-esteem and to that of countless women like her. The irony, of course, is that my wife is actually a beautiful women – its just that the brand values embedded in your images communicate the exact opposite. They hardly “support … the emotional needs of women” – quite the contrary.
They communicate to my daughter the very same message. But more than that, they are very overt in sexualising the issue of underwear. Now, I appreciate that some lingerie is intended for exactly this purpose but that’s not what you yourselves claim for this product line, is it? Rather, you state that you do not intend to “objectify women’s bodies”. Frankly, I have to ask, how does a picture of Jennifer with ice-cream or watermelon juice dripping down her (airbrushed) torso do anything but objectify her? And yet this is the message that you are sending to my daughter and countless other girls growing up in our culture: underwear = sex.
You are communicating to me, and so many other men like me, a completely unrealistic view of women. The images that you use set up a completely false expectation for us and, as a result, do great damage not only to ourselves but also to the women that we love. Sexual intimacy in such relationships is, all the psychologists will tell you, a key component of health and stability and is grounded, not least, in acceptance of one another as we are. But your images drive a wedge right in the middle of such relationships. They make women doubt themselves and, even worse, make men expect something that looks more like Barbie than any real woman. How can this possibly be a positive step towards good body image and related mental wellbeing for either party?
I trust you will take these comments on board as you review your current campaign. I look forward to your response to my specific points.
-The Ould Family-
With kind regards
David Ould

NOT SO LOVABLE: A Female Marketing Executive’s Response:
Dear David and Jacquie
Thank you for contacting us at Lovable. 
In regards to your specific points, 1 and 2:
We take a serious view of the way women are portrayed in the media and in particular in our campaigns. We are very aware of the impact the type of images and messages can have on people. We strive to represent happy, healthy and realistic body images that capture the essence of Lovable’s brand values of being confident and comfortable. We do not deny that the image has been slightly retouched for colour correction purposes, as is done by most advertisers.
We believe that a healthy body on the inside is the most important priority for all women. That includes your wife and daughter’s happiness, their comfort and the pride they take in who they are. We have put this into practice by ensuring that our Lovable range is available in a size range from 8–18 and it remains affordable for all Australian women. We have also purposefully chosen a range of women of different sizes to reflect this on our website, including our maternity models (size 14) and DD cup model (size 12). We will take on board your comments to reflect more body shapes in forthcoming online store activities. 
Point 2
The creative was not developed to offend or to “objectify women’s bodies”, but use Lovable’s cheeky tone of voice to demonstrate the new Colour names for our advertised product via fun Props that remind the viewer of Summer, Lemon sorbet, Blueberry milkshake etc.
This was the intention of the creative agency, the Lovable team and our brand ambassador. Lovable sells products to Women only and hence the advertisement has been placed in shows and Magazines targeting women.
The Campaign has been received well in general by our consumers, but we understand that lingerie advertising does indeed cause issues, whether viewed on Billboards or Television. The Rating that Lovable was given by Commercials Advice Pty Ltd (CAD) commonly used for rating Television commercials was a G Rating. 
Point 3:
Lovable are proud of The Butterfly Foundation‘s fantastic work in eating disorder research, awareness and prevention programs.
During September, 25% of profits from our online store will be donated directly to The Butterfly Foundation. 
Kind regards, 

I would like to uphold and applaud my Christian brother David for his efforts (in fact his correspondence with Lovable continued on after this letter was released).Because the voices of men like David, of men, of fathers, of brothers and uncles is never more necessary to be heard by women, sisters, mothers and daughters than it is right now.
More than they may realize, men (and Christian men in particular) have a necessary and significant role in this fight against the objectification of women and young girls in society today. But sadly it seems, their voice has long since been lost.

Steve Biddulph in his article How girlhood was trashed and what we can do to get it back’, puts it this way:
The important place of men has diminished…fathers, uncles and grandfathers who ideally provided affirmation and thoughtful conversation free of sexual pressure, once made it possible for a girl to see herself as intelligent, interesting, capable, strong and fun to be with, independently of any physical attributes.
Most daughters wait in despair. A generation of adult women carry the wounds of this absence”. *
What men may not realize, is the incredible vacuum this silence creates in the hearts and minds of women, women who rightly or wrongly, are desperately seeking to understand what it is that attracts, pleases and earns the love and respect of men. This gaping hole of clarity and affirmation then becomes abandoned to the prey of willing marketers eagerly clamoring to fill that void with whatever sells.

Again Biddulph hits the nail on the head here:

“If no-one is helping a girl to appreciate her inner qualities, and she is bombarded with images of womanhood based merely on appearance, something unbalanced begins to happen. 

A girl’s sense of herself becomes more and more external, more and more visual. How she appears to others becomes everything”.

I for one am thankful to be part of a Christian community where women know they are valued, loved and respected by their husbands, fathers and brothers in the faith, for who they are in Christ and not by any other standard.

I am also thankful for Christian men like David, men who demonstrate by their words and by their actions what it means to “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (To) be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honoring one another above yourselves” (Rom 12:9-10)

*(For those of you who might like to hear more inspiring thoughts from David Ould, can I highly recommend reading his blog:

Or-why not join Collective shout!

# Selena Ewing: Getting Real: Challenging The Sexualisation of Girls.
Steve Biddulph: ‘How girlhood was trashed and what we can do to get it back’: Getting Real.


Verina said...

Excellent! well done sarie. This is a topic close to my heart and I struggle with it every day. your article is wonderful. Keep it up.

Gracy said...

Spot on!!!

Lesley said...

"I just sent this off to my husband at school. He'll enjoy reading it because he is married to a less than perfect bodied woman but loves her completely and regardless all the same! As well as that - we are raising 2 gorgeous girls to be the best they can be before God...yep...he'll love it Sarie!"

Tim said...

Encouraging...something for us to share with our girls....thanks

Sally said...

So true, thanks for writing this. We really do need to get this message out to girls and young women.....

Alison said...

Well done on tackling all sorts of areas to equip people to live for Christ. We need people like you!!

Maggie said...

Thanks for sharing this...great article

George said...

Thanks for sharing this, Sarie. And kudos to Dave as well.

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