Lydia H Delamere
With the amount of media material that infiltrates our brains on a daily basis, no wonder our society constantly scrutinises each other with the help of perfect images of big-boobed, tight-abbed super-people. According to research, around 56% of television ads aimed at women used beauty as their primary product appeal, leaving us women feeling that there is no excuse but to be a bronzed, cellulite-ridden goddess.
The New Year of 2015 is upon us, and instead of starting it battle-axing my way through the droves of uncomforting and downright abusive messages from the media, let us start with something much more empowering.
2014, you can argue, was the year of the empower-ad – and for women in particular.
Let’s take the #AERIEREAL campaign, by the lingerie sister store for American Eagle Outfitters, flying the flag for the slogan ‘The Real you is sexy’. Placing the good old hashtag in the campaigns name, Aerie are challenging the likes of Victoria’s Secret Models in the everyday women’s quest for beauty, and they’re making sure we know about it. With one of the posters reading “The Girl in this photo has not been retouched” I can hear women from across the world breathe a sigh of relief at the promise that not all adverts we see that showcase women draped in delicate lingerie have been photo-shopped up to their eyeballs. These women are beautiful – still facially model beautiful of course but hey, you can’t win them all – and the best part is that they are real.
“No more retouching our girls and no more supermodels”. Yay! Let us all celebrate with a big glass of bubbly relief. It’s no surprise that studies have found that young women’s self-esteem and body-confidence is heavily influenced by the hundreds of adverts that they are bombarded with, and Aerie are out to gun down the unrealistic images that batter our body image. The only sadness here I feel, is that a campaign like this is even needed, and that Aerie’s highlights the uncomfortable fact that the beauty industry continues to ignore the calls for non-retouched images. With only a few other female advertisements such as Cate Blanchett’s cover in Intelligent Life back in 2012, why is it that we are still forced to believe that what you see is what you get?
Possibly a less well-known advert, (for those that are fitness-‘unenthusiasts’ like myself), that circulated in July 2014, was Under Armour’s ‘I Will What I Want’ ad campaign, the world’s first social network for athletes and fitness go-getters. Featuring ballerina Misty Copeland display a dazzling performance while a female voice reels off one of the many rejection letters in which Misty has heard throughout her career, and before she became a world-renowned ballet dancer and self-proclaimed feminist.
“You lack the right feet, Achilles tendons, turnout, torso length and bust – you have the wrong body for ballet and at thirteen, you are too old to be considered”
the rejection letter proclaims, with her body being scrutinised for its muscular build and female curvature, subsequently halting her from entering many prestigious dance competitions. As a young and passionate girl of thirteen, you can feel the words of rejection almost plummet Misty’s heart into her stomach.
Years later, and a professional ballet dancer for the American Ballet Theatre, one of the leading classical ballet companies in the world, Misty and Under Armour’s empowering message to all young girls – or in fact anyone that faces rejection, athletes or not – is to persevere and continue to chase what they are probably put on this earth to do. Rejection is not an end; it is the drive that forces you to do go above and beyond. If you haven’t already glimpsed the video, you’re in for a mesmerizing treat at what the female body is capable of when it has passion behind it.
My 2014 empower-ad I feel really hit home for me was the feminine brand Always#LikeAGirl campaign. With the help of the emotive piano music, the confidence of the young girls, as well as the sad realisation of adolescent women’s struggle with self-confidence, I began a journey of teary eyes and runny nose. As men, teen women and young boys are asked to display actions ‘like a girl’, they all offer flimsy arms, bouncy legs and a generally passive and unconfident demonstration. When the young girls are asked the same however, their response is overwhelmingly dazzling. Arms are flying strong, their running is fast, powerful almost, and there is absolutely no inhibition. You witness them put their very heart and soul into their performance, as though they were born to do this. This to me, is a huge eye opener of how the phrase ‘like a girl’ is commonly used as an insult which disempowers those that hear it to feel feeble and incapable of something great.
When asked how do you think hearing the words ‘like a girl’ as an insult effects girls as young as ten and twelve, teen Erin sadly confesses:
“When someone says, ‘you hit like a girl’ it’s like, well, what does that mean? Cause, they think they’re a strong person, it’s kinda like telling them that they’re weak and they’re not as good as them”.
Always displays how it is vital to prevent such insults infiltrating our society and keeping our brilliant and strong teenage women from embarking upon every life journey with strength and determination. I think all women understand how puberty is a time where change comes in more ways than one – but our character and self-worth does not need to change.
What is your take on these adverts? Do you believe they encompass empowering messages? What would be your top empower-ads of 2014?
Lydia is a second year undergraduate, studying English at Liverpool John Moore’s University. After a period of travelling at nineteen, she subsequently chose to follow her undeniable passion for writing and head to higher education to discover more. Her newly established blog ‘The Power of Advertising Her’ explores the power of the media in regards to its portrayal of women, hoping that her writing will empower women, enabling them to take charge of how they are represented through such a powerful medium.
You can read more on her blog https://lydiahampsond.wordpress.com/ and follow her on Twitter @LydiaHDelamere.