If there is one thing I have learned in life, it is that women need to learn from an early age about watching their weight. Generally I find this trend extremely disturbing and somewhat nauseating. When my seven year old niece started talking about how skinny she wanted to be, I almost hurled. But then I found some ads that made it all too clear that I was wrong to feel that way.
Let’s take “Sally” in this lovely ad for Lane Bryant’s Chubby Girls catalog. Her parent’s should be ashamed of themselves. How can they let their child get so out of shape? Don’t they realize that girls who are this size will surely never grow up to be attractive women who will get married and give them grandchildren? Sally must be denied all nourishment until she slims down to a more girlie size. Until then, Lane Bryant has yards and yards of fabric to cover that unsightly mess.
And then there is portly Tracy Harper. Tracy might be able to stand with the poise of a true lady, but beneath that bubble gum pink pleated nightmare you will find nothing but lard. Can’t you tell from her innocent eyes and demure smile that she is really really really fat? Her mom knows! Sears knows! When will Tracy know?
It is no coincidence that these two ads from different errors evoke the same reaction from me and they undoubtedly reached their desired audience. The Don Drapers of Madison Avenue were worked with social researchers to figure out what all the Sally Drapers should want to be. The ads we have today certainly use different visual language and less text in general, but the granddaughters of Sally Draper still get the same message: thin is the thing.
Childhood obesity is a problem, but disordered eating is too. Our images of young girls must reflect the reality that Sally and Tracy are not going to be the same size and shape because you and I are not the same size and shape. Our bodies all have similar parts, but we all came from different molds. I hope my niece learns that lesson someday soon.