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SergeantQueen's avatar

Are clothing ads/companies who have overweight models or models with self harm scars glorifying bad habits?

Asked by SergeantQueen (11751points) September 16th, 2020

I have started to see a rise in the amount of clothing (more specifically: lingerie) ads I get on facebook. A lot of them feature models who are overweight, who have self harm scars, who have tattoos, or who have stretchmarks or other things that you wouldn’t cosmetically see in more “mainstream” clothing companies.

The controversy tends to be around overweight models and models with self harm scars. Is it all that bad to truly show all body types, including scars and such, in clothing ads?

I will give my opinion on this after I hear a few responses.

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26 Answers

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

It is an important way to remove the stigma surrounding mental health to show self-harm scars. We don’t talk about these things, because we think they are shameful. That is a mistake. Talking about self-harm allows people who do it the strength to seek help instead of hiding in the shame.

The same can be said for using models who are overweight. People who aren’t thin face tremendous stigma. Using these models will allow these people to fully participate in life and make conscious decisions about their health that aren’t based in shame.

JLeslie's avatar

I have mixed feelings on this. I think there is a place for plus size models, like when advertising plus size clothing, but generally speaking I think it’s best that models be a healthy weight. Healthy means not very overweight and not so thin that they have to be anorexic to achieve it. I’d say sizes 2–10 for women and 30–36 pant size for men, with adjustment for very short or very tall people. I think part of the weight problem in America is as more people get overweight that looks normal to us, looks average, and a lot of Americans don’t realize they are at an unhealthy weight because of it. It’s worth noting that plus size female models start at size 8, they are generally sizes 8–12, which is ridiculous. That is a bigger problem that size 8 is considered fat. Although, keep in mind the 8 of today is the 10 or 12 of 40 years ago. Opinions on vanity sizing could be a whole Q; I might consider doing a Q about that.

Especially when we are talking about marketing to young people. I’m actually more worried about fake hair, lots of plastic surgery, and Botox than I am weight though. I see young women who are naturally gorgeous, but they distort their face, reduce the expression in their face, spend tons of money on hair, it bothers me.

Cutting scars I would be really careful about too. I don’t want people to feel they need to be in hiding, but normalizing it isn’t good either. At the same time, if a person goes through a difficult time in their youth, should scars from it affect the rest of their life? Maybe it does for some careers. Maybe they can model, but not wearing clothing that shows the scars? Tattoos, I worry young people don’t understand the impact a tattoo can have on getting a job or even the message it might send. I know men who have to always wear long sleeves at work, or now that they are fathers wish they didn’t have some of their tattoos.

It’s a hard question. In one way we shouldn’t care or judge people on superficial things, but we are talking models, not characters on a show.

In summary, I’m not sure what I think, my opinions are pliable on this topic. I’m interested to see the answers.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Remember these photos are for clothing ads. Their primary purpose is to sell product – either by making the item look good or by making the viewer think they can look better when wearing it. Since so many Americans are obese now it makes sense to use plus size models. Note that they are usually not as “plus” as the average “plus” and that they are made up to have flawless skin, perfect eye makeup and hair. Ads are expensive. If that tactic didn’t work, the sellers wouldn’t do it.
Unless selling sportswear, very few clothing ads would be successful if they said “Put down that extra bite and go exercise for a year and get your BMI down to a healthy zone. Then maybe you can look like this.”
Advertisers have stopped using anorexic, skinny models in response to public outcry about the dangers of the practice.

No one should use ads and the models that appear in them as a life guide.

If anyone sees a Patek Philippe watch ad with models displaying scars, tattoos or needing plus size clothing, let me know. It will be time to go down into the bunker.

jca2's avatar

@SergeantQueen: Facebook algorithms will feed you what they think you are interested in, based on your search history and based on groups you are in. For example, I’m in some cat groups, and I’ve searched for craft supplies so Facebook will feed me online pet store ads, like Chewy, and they’ll feed me craft supply ads. I’ve also searched for certain types of clothing and Facebook feeds me similar clothing styles and brands. That’s how they really pinpoint their marketing. Remember, on Facebook, the users are not the customer, the advertisers are. So if they can come to the advertisers and guarantee a certain amount of sales because of their algorithm, because they see everything you do and say, the advertisers will pay more money.

Maybe in the past you have searched for plus size clothing. Maybe you have searched for topics such as cutting, or are a member of groups about cutting or mental health issues, mental health for teens, something like that. Maybe you have discussed plus size clothing or cutting. Facebook knows all that and they will send you more of the same. If you click on it, to look at the clothing ads they send you, it confirms to them that you are interested in those things. Before you buy, you have to look and if you look, bingo, it tells them they’re accurate with their assessment of what you like.

gorillapaws's avatar

@jca2 GA! Remember that if you’re not paying for a service (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) then YOU are the PRODUCT, and the advertisers are the customers. This very-well could be a targeted marketing campaign. It could also be a new trend with so many depressed people right now. Advertisers are looking to “stand out from the crowd;” something controversial like this is a way to get extra, “free” views and media attention for their products as people discuss and link to the ads. When people link to the products in forums, it boosts the organic SEO results too.

I don’t know how I feel about it honestly. I don’t think we should encourage unhealthy behavior in advertising, but I don’t think we should be stigmatizing healthy people who have recovered from a period of self-harm and have permanent scars as a result. I really have mixed feelings.

hmmmmmm's avatar

Advertising itself is unhealthy and harmful. That said, it is part of the general culture. And it certainly can’t be a bad thing for more normal people to be reflected in advertising. Normal people come in all different sizes and come with real trauma and issues. If the result of this type of advertising is to make a dent at normalizing the stigmatized, then this would seem like a positive*.

* I just think it’s really important to not look to the advertising industry as a movement of some kind. If some women see themselves advertised towards and it improves their self-esteem…that’s good. But they are still being targeted as consumers, which comes with a whole host of other personal and societal ills.

jca2's avatar

@gorillapaws and @SergeantQueen: I just saw a very interesting Netflix documentary called “The Social Dilemma” and part of what they talk about is this very topic – advertising on FB and how it’s targeted and how we are not the customers, the ad companies are.

canidmajor's avatar

Certainly no more than glorifying anorexia and wildly unreasonable body-type expectations.

jca2's avatar

Even when you click on a photo or you look at a photo extra long, FB factors that into its algorithm @SergeantQueen.

jca2's avatar

Just another heads up, @SergeantQueen: Facebook knows when you search for things off of Facebook, so if you are looking at plus size clothing or cutting and other self harm, by googling or elsewhere, it will come up in your FB ads and suggestions.

stanleybmanly's avatar

How would one distinguish self inflicted scars in a lingerie ad?

canidmajor's avatar

@stanleybmanly Cutting scars tend to be even, and symmetrical or obviously patterned.

Darth_Algar's avatar

I don’t have much to add here that others haven’t already added, but I want to address this -
@JLeslie “Tattoos, I worry young people don’t understand the impact a tattoo can have on getting a job or even the message it might send. I know men who have to always wear long sleeves at work, or now that they are fathers wish they didn’t have some of their tattoos.”

Tattoos are much less of an employment issue than they once were. And as time goes on they’ll continue to become even less of an issue. Even among professional careers. Nowadays I see nurses that are sleeved and even bankers with visible inkwork. The older folks who stigmatized tattoos are aging. They’re retiring or dying off. Younger folks, such as Gen Xers, for whom tattoos are normal and accepted, are beginning to run things now.

SergeantQueen's avatar

@jca2 Ok, I have visited websites such as victories secret and I have obviously made references to me cutting on here and other sites. I have also mentioned that I am slightly overweight. I am not plus size though, so if anything it is just taking the word overweight and assuming I am plus sized.

This question wasn’t really about the Facebook ad part, I am aware that they track me and all that.

I am overweight, by about 30 pounds give or take. To be honest, with my body type, if I was the target weight I would be insanely skinny looking. When I was the target weight, I looked almost anorexic. I have wider hips and shoulders and I think despite being overweight, I don’t look like it and I look proportional and all that. Still, I feel kind of bad about having a little bit of a belly or bigger thighs, which lead me to have to be a larger pants size. Seeing models who are larger/same size as me make me feel better because it helps me get the confidence that I can still wear cute/sexy clothes and look good in them.

I also have some stretch marks and self harm scars. Some are recent, some are from a few years ago that you can still see. That part for me personally doesn’t matter that they advertise.I do not feel it is normalizing it because I think the vast majority of people, even those who struggle with mental illness and those who cut, know it is not “normal” to do so. I have never tried to hide them (as scars, as scabs yes) so I don’t feel “ashamed” of them.

Not everyone sees these ads and goes “Oh, I should be overweight like her” or “oh, I should cut so I have scars like her.” Infact, I don’t think anyone would do that. I think it helps people who are overweight/self harming realize that they don’t need to be ashamed of themselves and that they can still wear clothes everyone else wears. BUT, I may just be speaking a little anecdotal here. I have only ever looked at a skinny model and wished I was like her. I have never looked at an overweight model and wished that I could just gain some more pounds.

SergeantQueen's avatar

@Darth_Algar True. Tattoos are really not an issue anymore. If anything they make them cover it up if it is an issue. But a lot of people my age are getting them. Tattoos, piercings, and dyed hair are really becoming more common now. I think some places still have rules on piercing and hair, but I suspect that will change soon too.

seawulf575's avatar

I think that the idea of the “classical” model was unrealistic. Most women don’t look like that. They are overweight, or have other beauty “flaws” that don’t let them meet those “ideals”. I think that showing women that more accurately reflect today’s women is at least realistic. I don’t think it is glorifying anything. I think it is reflecting a lot.

Zaku's avatar

I think ads tend to usually involve more of a “this is normal and desirable” message about their images, more than glorifying them.

It seems to me that there has been a clear problem in advertising that only shows trim and beautiful idealized people, in that it tends to communicate that anyone not like that doesn’t fit in and might not be “normal” and/or has a “problem”. Including models that are more like the full population would I think tend to be a step in the right direction.

Also, the clothing industry in the US tends to exclude people outside certain sizes, and/or provides not so great options for them. It’d be good to change that too.

I think it’s possible that some advertising could have problematic effects, especially if they do seem to be promoting wrist slashes as a fashion choice or something. But I wouldn’t exclude models with scars or other imperfections.

And I would not over-moralize around weight and body image, because that tends to project an inacurate and toxicaly shaming message about how everyone supposedly has control over their body, and people who don’t should be excluded and stigmatized. I would say that our society if far too full of that kind of message already. Sure it may get the occasional person to make healthier choices, but that kind of message and incentive already dominates our cultural conversations, and I think for the most part it is overall not a healthy message for most people. It causes more harm than good on the whole, even though you can find individuals who will attest it “saved their life”. Great I’m happy for them, but there are even healthier ways for a society to think about it, that might tend to have the issue go away for far more people.

stanleybmanly's avatar

I am still unfamiliar with any of this. I’m not for gawking at lingerie ads and am bewildered that photos of a scarred scantily clad woman would be sought after in advertising. I mean wouldn’t the photos be touched up to exclude scars and blemishes? Where do you see these self mutilated images?

SergeantQueen's avatar

@stanleybmanly The point of the advertisement is to not touch it up and exclude scars.

I can’t find the ads I saw again

here is an article

SergeantQueen's avatar

From article:
A spokesman told “Body scars are a part of a person’s life journey that should not be Photoshopped. Goodbye Bread wants to show to all girls out there that they should love themselves and reject fashion’s unrealistic standards.”

“We believe that not editing body scars is an important step toward encouraging body positivity and self-confidence. Showing to all girls out there that have been under a similar situation that they are beautiful no matter what they go through. Goodbye Bread is not just a store, we are a community of girls and it is important that our actions celebrate individuality and empower girls to be themselves.

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