Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Debenhams ends airbrushing in lingerie ads

In a move to promote positive body image and inclusive diversity, Debenhams has announced that it will cease the practise of airbrushing models featured in their lingerie ads.

The objective behind the decision is to make “women feel fabulous about themselves rather than crushing their self-esteem by using false comparisons”.
“We want other retailers to follow suit”, said the stores spokesperson, “and encourage positive body-image through minimal retouching rather than bombarding them with unattainable body images.

“As well as being a positive from a moral point of view, it ticks the economic boxes as well”.

Commenting on Debenhams decision, Sharon Web (Head of Lingerie buying and design for Debenhams) said:

“Millions of pounds a year are spent by organisations retouching perfectly good images. As a rule we only airbrush minor things like pigmentation or stray hair and rely on the natural beauty of models to make our product look great.”

This is not the first time Debenhams has broken away from the advertising norm e.g. in the past the retailer has featured disabled models and paralympians in their ads.

“ This is a small but important step”, said Julie Court (My Body Beautiful’s founder). “I’d like to see them go much further. Hopefully, Debenhams natural lingerie ads will be the start of a much bigger initiative that can be rolled out across many of their lines.

“Media images that are true to life in appearance, i.e. shape, size, blemishes, wrinkles etc, should be a normal everyday sight for individuals, both female and male.

“Formal research and anecdotal evidence gathered at our teen workshops show that children, teens and adults, tend compare themselves unfavourably with media images and desire to look like them. This does not bode well for these individuals body image and self confidence.

“Hopefully other influential High Street names will follow Debenhams lead.


Friday, June 21, 2013

Women, heels and Royal Ascot

Royal Ascot is known for it’s royal connections, ladies fashion and horse racing. I was among the thousands of individuals who attended the event this week. I was fortunate enough to attend on a bright sunny Wednesday afternoon, day two of the event.

In this blog I will comment on an aspect of Royal Ascot that never gets any media attention. The topic of my discussion, as vividly demonstrated in the picture above, is feet. More specifically, women’s feet that have been asked to endure high heels, the height of fashion, for several hours.

They say a picture speaks a thousand words and it is certainly the case for the picture above.

The owner of the feet in the photo was one of many women that I observed, who had taken off their shoes in an attempt to ease the discomfort emanating from their feet. In this particular instance, the plasters on her feet had failed to do their job. Not only were her feet aching and blistered, but they had swollen so much that she was unable to put her shoes back on. Cue the ice cubes, from an ice bag the purpose of which was to keep the Sauvignon Blanc cool.

The following day (yesterday) was Ladies Day. The day was marked by thousands of women ranging from the Queen, other royals, celebrities and ordinary individuals showcasing their outfits, hats, fascinators and shoes, most with high heels.

While looking through the fashion centred photos of the day, I couldn’t help thinking back to the day before and wincing in sympathy for the feet of the women pictured.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

PSHE workshop discussion

I’m sure you have all been in a position where a child says something; something in which their level of maturity and insight takes you by surprise.

This is the situation I found myself in last week when delivering a workshop to a group of year 7’s in a West Midlands school. The workshop formed part of their PSHE day, in which our Body Image Workshop was one of the day’s activities.

The discussion centred on the influence of the media, and whether or not the media held any responsibility for individuals developing negative body image.

During the session I proposed the following statement from the media’s point of view:

“We don’t make people ill any more than a manufacturer of champagne makes someone an alcoholic.” [Patrick Strudwick - Head of Features and Diet New Magazine 2008] 

A male pupil (in the mixed sex class) contemplated the statement seriously for a moment and then replied:

“I disagree Miss, because when someone buys alcohol they know what they are getting. They know that alcohol can harm their bodies if they drink too much and become an alcoholic.

"With the media it is different. When you buy a magazine you might not know how much of it has been airbrushed and how much of what they show you is not real. So if people get a bad body image because the media is not telling the truth, then it’s the media’s fault.

"The person who bought the magazine not did not make a knowledgeable choice; not in the same way that the person who bought alcohol made a choice”.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Melissa McCarthy airbrushed

The UK poster of the new comedy movie 'The Heat' , has it the headlines for reasons unconnected to the film itself.

Once again Hollywood has felt it necessary to airbrush an actress to the point at which she is barely recognisable.

In this particular case, the individual in question is the very talented comedy actress Melissa McCarthy.

Occasionally, being larger than the average Hollywood actress, does have its advantages, such as opening lucrative niche acting roles for characters with larger physiques.

This is a situation that Melissa has been able to take full advantage of. It is therefore surprising that promoters of the movie found it necessary to airbrush (soft unreal effect) Melissa into a significantly thinner, younger version of herself; an image that appreciably reduces her natural physical presence.

“Nobody is unclear [about] what Melissa McCarthy's body size is - she's plus-sized and proud”, wrote entertainment blog The Shiznit. “So why have the designers of this poster done their utmost to Photoshop a good 30lbs off of McCarthy's face?”

This is not the first time Melissa McCarthy shape and size has hit the headlines. Film critic Rex was universally condemned for his scathing criticism of Melissa when he said that she was ‘a female hippo' and 'tractor-sized'.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Cheryl Cole - aging and body image

The Sunday Mirror's new magazine Notebook has Cheryl Cole on the cover. Inside there is a feature in which she discusses several things including her approaching 30th birthday and body image.


Are you worried about getting older?
I'm not. I have great role models in my mum and my family. The whole botoxing and surgery is like, what? They don't get it, they don't like it. My mum brings me back to normality. I've been saying to her, 'Can you believe your daughter is going to be 30?' and she's like, 'And? You've been 20, now you're going to be 30.' It's a refreshing frame of mind: this is how life goes, people get older.

Do you feel more confident in your skin as you get older?
Yeah. And you know what, I knew this was going to happen because I always used to look up to women in their 30s and think, 'This is when women are at their most beautiful, their most sexy, their most confident.' That's what I was aspiring to be and now I'm here too. I feel like, 'Cool, I can relax now'.

Early on, were you ever told to change your appearance?
Never, it wasn't like that for us...

That's unusual and quite lucky...
I don't know if it was lucky, I could have probably done with a bit more advice. I look back and think, 'Somebody should have talked me out of that'. Everyone has embarrassing pictures, it's just unfortunate mine are publicly documented for the rest of my life. My adolescence is out there for the world to see, and it wasn't cool. But that's fine. And it makes turning 30 feel even better.

What are your tips for boosting body confidence?
I feel more confident with a tan. I've kept my holiday tan topped up .

How do you feel about showing off your figure for cameras?
I like wearing a long dress with a scoop out of the back. I'll do that more than showing my legs.

You're not keen on your legs?
I've worked on them a lot. That was my problem area in my early 20s but I'm happier with my body now.


Thursday, June 06, 2013

Plus size beachwear

This week many pairs of interested eyes were drawn to H&M’s online "Beachwear" collection.

The collection was slightly sidelined, as most attention was directed at the model rather than the clothing.

Plus size model Jennie Runk was selected my H&M to showpiece a range of sizes that were available in their beachwear collection. Jennie is a UK size 16 (US size 14), which in the fashion world is categorised as "plus-size.”

Realising that the main talking point was centred on the size and shape of her body, not H&M’s apparel, Jennie decided to voice her opinion that it was time for everyone to end their preoccupation with body size.

“I had no idea that my H&M beachwear campaign would receive so much publicity”, she said. “Suddenly having a large amount of publicity was an awkward surprise at first. I found it strange that people made such a fuss about how my body looks in a bikini, since I don't usually give it much thought”.

After modelling H&M’s beachwear Jennie has become much more popular on Facebook e.g she gained approximately 2,000 new likes in the space of 24 hours.
Realising that she was now able to reach many more people, Jannie decided: “ to use the attention as an opportunity to make the world a little nicer by promoting confidence. I've since been receiving lots of messages from fans, expressing gratitude”, she said.

“Some even told me that my confidence has inspired them to try on a bikini for the first time in years. This is exactly the kind of thing I've always wanted to accomplish, showing women that it's OK to be confident even if you're not the popular notion of ‘perfect’.

“This message is especially important for teenage girls. Being a teenage girl is incredibly difficult. They need all the help and support they can get. … Having survived it, I feel compelled to show girls who are going through the same thing that it's acceptable to be different. You will grow out of this awkwardness fabulously. Just focus on being the best possible version of yourself and quit worrying about your thighs, there's nothing wrong with them.”

It is also worth noting that H&M have not labelled the collection ‘plus size’ or in any way indicated that Jennie or the clothes is anything other than normal.


Monday, June 03, 2013

Oprah discusses body image and ego

Oprah Winfrey has been talking about the mindset that she had in the 1980’s; during the time when she was struggling with her weight.  Over a several years
Oprah’s weight famously yo-yoed from one extreme to the other.

 In consequence her self perception and body image underwent an emotional rollercoaster ride of highs and lows.  

 “I actually thought at the time that being thin made me better," Oprah confessed.

 “My identification with form … wanting so desperately to be in a size 10 jean … was so prominent,” she expanded.

 Shortly after Oprah successfully achieved an amazing weight loss milestone (very public), she regained 5 pounds. At this point in her weight loss story she recounted her response to a party invitation from Don Johnson:

 "I [had] gained five pounds … I did not go to that party because I thought the five pounds made me too fat … not good enough … to be at Don Johnson's party.
 “Sounds kind of sick now … I know, but that's what the ego does.”

The ego, “is sick”, She continued. ”It's wily, it's cunning, it's deceptive. It's an imposter imposing on the real you.

“You're not the shape of your body” ,  Oprah  added. ". You're not your status. You're not your position in life. You're not the car you drive, no matter how fancy it is. You're not your house or your square footage.”

Oprah explained that she overcame her body image issues with the help of mental exercises, which helped her to “understood the difference between my true self and my ego self."