Scrolling through the narrow lanes of the abyss that is the social media, I came across a quote that said, “If you are feeling insecure about your body, think about what the advertising industry is trying to sell you,” and it hit me like a rock. The notion that beauty comes from inside, has time and again been discarded by the advertising world, showcasing women as merely an object whose insecurities can be capitalized upon.
Advertisements are the omnipresent reflection of how society perceives things being portrayed to them. From fairness, aging and intimate creams promising to bleach every ‘inch’ of your body, all the way through to magical slimming tea promising to change everything in two weeks, advertisements have always been used as a tool to mold the definition of ‘beauty’. In a country where more than half of the female population is obese with brown skin, telling women they are flawed in order to strategically sell ‘hope in a jar’, is an easy task.
As more and more people are becoming comfortable in their own skin, the notion that a ‘perfect’ lady has to look like a porcelain doll is shattering. Fueled by social media and socio-political movement, the whole narrative took a one-eighty, forcing agencies to take a hard look at their marketing policies. Too many advertisements still continue to disappoint, but one thing has changed – more than ever, we are talking positively about our bodies. It all kick-started in 2004 when Dove launched its “Real Beauty” campaign featuring women of varying body contours.
Following the body positive movement, many plus-size and dark-skinned models came up front to talk about the issue of body shaming. Emphasizing on the need to accept the body irrespective of shape, size and color, Aashna Bhagwani, a plus-size model and activist assertively said, “Young girls are surrounded by all kinds of media and sometimes the image the industry portrays is not right. It makes them feel different about themselves. Body confidence and women empowerment are not just things to say, the struggle is too real to adapt and accept yourself, but it’s not impossible.”
Adding that the objectification of women has to stop, she said, “Funnily enough, according to the advertising industry, getting fair or losing that extra inch can get you to entice your husband, or get that job you have been looking for. ‘Body-positivity’ has become a ubiquitous global topic and keeping that in mind, the advertisement industry should also change their narrative.”
Over the years, traditional advertising brands, fearful of losing profits have adopted several women-driven advertising strategies to survive in the competitive market. Even though the whole narrative has changed, the advertising industry’s ruthless tapping into the micro-trends of individuality and body positivity is gradually becoming a mainstream marketing tool.
From bringing forth models of every color to campaigns that celebrate the real female contours, the advertising industry is changing slowly but surely. Due to this inclusive sales strategy, their profits have shot up drastically in the past few years. But, if seen through a prism of skepticism, these “pro-women ads” seem like a corporate profiting technique used to convince women that they need to buy the product in order to actually love themselves.
“I have met some of India’s most beautiful women and till date, I have yet to meet a woman who is happy with her body, or who thinks that somehow all her problems will get solved if she loses five more kilos,” said Meghna Pant, Indian author and speaker.
Stressing on the fact that a woman’s self-worth should not be tied to the size of her body, Meghna added, “Let’s change the conversation. Instead of giving so much power to a standardized benchmark, let’s teach our daughters and sons about seeking their agency from inside instead of the outside.”
At the end of the day, the way we see beauty should not depend upon the advertising companies who prey off our insecurities by capitalizing over them through body positive movements. To connect more to the people, these campaigners should not stop at making body positive advertisements, but should also bring about realness and transparency in their brand values.
As women are becoming more independent and thoughtful than ever before, they should stop looking towards advertisements to make them believe they are beautiful. Actual women empowerment will only stem from a comprehensive attempt at the grass root level, and not from the superficial transient marketing campaigns.