Here's Why 'Real Beauty' Advertising Campaigns Are Garbage

Illustration for article titled Here's Why 'Real Beauty' Advertising Campaigns Are Garbage

British tabloid The Sun wants women to realize how beautiful they truly are by posing for the paper in a thong so they can rate their own naked bodies — and be judged by a panel of men, natch — for a piece on how we ladies are "overly negative on ourselves" but "needn't be." Gee, wonder why that is!


The Sun is often criticized for its regular boobalicious ladies feature; turn to Page Three and you'll see boobs for boobs' sake while clothed men do Important Things throughout the tabloid's other pages. Now the paper has devised a new and ingenious way to make women feel like shit by showcasing "Real Beauty," a tactic recently illustrated by those Dove ads that try to sell women beauty products by telling them they're already sooo beautiful. Here's a call for "real" models that was recently circulated to charities that fall into the “women’s group,” “children” or “family welfare” categories via AskCharity's answer service:

I'm looking for women who are able to come to a photoshoot in London on Tuesday next week. We are asking them to pose in a nude thong and we want them to rate their naked bodies. We will also be asking a panel of men to look at the pictures and to rate the women's bodies too. They will have a full read back of the piece and get $400 plus all expenses paid — it's a piece about body perception, how we're overly negative on ourselves, with psychologists discussing how we needn't be, and how to get happier. It's for the health section, so has that slant (similar to this, it's about real women) Please get back to me asap if you can help. We can plug any relevant charity/medical condition, etc.

"Real Beauty" features and advertisements cleverly sell you products under the guise of body-positivity while actually reinforcing the idea that a woman's worth is based on the way she looks to others. The editors still get to publish lots o' boobs — which is awesome for them, because boobs garner paper sales and pageviews — while ducking criticism by pretending they just want to help ladies love themselves.

That much is clear from "We Love Our Boobs," the recent Sun piece linked in the ad (NSFW). The topless women interviewed for the article don't look like traditional models — one power-lifts, another had a mastectomy — but the gist is still that 1) these women somehow overcame the odds to love their misshaped, droopy boobs because 2) they're...better than other boobs? "...he always tells me any more than a handful is a waste, so I’m glad they didn’t get any bigger," one says. Another "instantly felt more feminine" thanks to implants. This is supposed to be empowering?

If you're looking for photos of real "Real Women" to make you feel more confident or less alone, try the body-positive blogging community: there are tons of Tumblrs that let contributors post photos of their not-so-normative bodies. I've always felt a little uncomfortable with the way some of those posters benefit from "likes" and reblogs, given that the goal should be to stop caring what others think you look like, but lots of people I know say those sites help them enjoy and accept their bodies. (Feel free to share your favorites below.)

It's shameless, really, for a historically misogynist publication to ask women to pose in a thong and rate themselves as well as be rated by men (because obviously every woman's REAL end goal is to impress dudes). There's a reason so many women are "overly negative" on themselves when they "needn't be." Check out The Sun's recent reporting on other important boob issues: there's a detailed formula for perfect cleavage, an interview with a woman who hypnotized her boobs into growing three cup sizes, and an article called "Why British women want perky implants to get boobs like Christina Hendricks," to reference just a few. And let's not forget about the naked Page Three models who've creeped readers out since the '70s.


Women have low body confidence because "we are taught, you might even say brainwashed, from birth by the mainstream media, fairytales, toys, films, advertisements, adults, peers and so on that our worth is inextricably tied-up with male approval and that male approval is dependant on being beautiful, attractive and sexually available," explains an anonymous writer from Your Daughters Will Be Next. "We can escape severing the ties between our self-worth and our perceived sexual attractiveness. The 'health feature' you plan for Tuesday’s edition of The Sun, on the other hand, reaffirms for many women that their very happiness and psychological wellbeing should be based on male perceptions of their naked bodies."

Pro tips: The Sun is and will always be boob-obsessed because boobs sell. Dove cares about your feelings because your feelings prompt you to buy Dove's products. And hey: you look great! But not because we said so.


[Your Daughters Will Be Next]

Image by Jim Cooke; photo via Getty.


Pope Alexander

Ultimately my issue with the concept of "Real Beauty" is that long-legged, super-skinny, blonde and beautiful women do exist. And while Photoshop is bad, the fact is that ads essentially tell us that these blonde amazonians (like my beloved sister) aren't "real" and that they have something to apologize for.

It still pits women against each other. It still claims that there is an ideal or appropriate definition of attractiveness. It's still fucked.