There’s a lot of talk about body positive ad campaigns these days, as the idea of being “body positive” has become a major selling point for many lingerie and clothing companies.
Unfortunately, we tend to see this in the context of the failed "Perfect Body” campaign by Victoria’s Secret or the #AerieREAL campaign. Both are great examples of companies using body positive as a buzz word rather than as an actual commitment to women of all shapes, sizes and colors.
When most of us write about Lane Bryant, it’s typically in the context of banned ads. Now that another new ad has come out as part of their #thisbody campaign, it’s clear that Lane Bryant has taken another big leap forward into the fraught world of fat activism. Their past ads featured less idealized bodies with rolls as well as a plus-size woman breastfeeding, so I’m thrilled to see them taking on the world of horrible fat-shaming trolls with their latest ad.
To start, if you haven’t seen it, check it out here:
Lane Bryant has picked up some legitimately big names for this advertising round, including Danielle Brooks, Gabourey Sidibe, and Alessandra Garcia. It’s great to see such serious stars involved in this campaign, but it’s an even bigger thrill to see Lane Bryant start to branch out into showing women who represent a wide variety of races and body types. While these women are all naturally gorgeous, it’s wonderful Lane Bryant incorporates women who aren’t just tall and hourglassy into their campaigns.Ashley Graham via Lane Bryant YouTube
But the real punch of the campaign isn’t the models or even the lingerie: it’s the way it acknowledges internet harassment as a part of everyday life for female figures online. Being a woman online is enough to expose someone to internet bullying---being a celebrity in your underwear has to be dramatically worse. If you want to cry or hear more of a first person account of this, try this incredibly moving episode of This American Life featuring Lindy West confronting one of her internet trolls. While Lindy West’s troll may have reformed, it’s hard to imagine that all internet trolls will decide to call it a day and go home when confronted.
The latest Lane Bryant ad takes a similar approach, displaying real comments made about the models online by low-minded internet trolls. Each model is then shown in lingerie, directly confronting their troll and facing down their virtual demons. Every model speaks directly and powerfully to the camera, claiming their agency and facing down their online haters. These ads follow a trend that we’ve seen in the media lately, as actresses like Leslie Jones and Melissa McCarthy have started speaking up about online and offline bullying. We’ve seen lots of stories in the press about famous women facing down their internet trolls and getting a happy ending as a result, like the Leslie Jones and Christian Siriano red carpet collaboration.
So this is great and all, but why is it notable? This ad puts Lane Bryant specifically into fat activism territory---which has pretty amazing implications for the direction other retailers may go if this campaign is successful. The last two years have seen an explosion of brands branching out into size expansions, all as they dance around the idea of plus-size people as well as the actual rights that the fat activism movement is claiming. Lane Bryant successfully running this sort of ad means that we might see other companies start to portray larger women as actual humans with personalities and feelings, rather than merely a consumer dollar to grab.
Fat activism and the body positive movement, in general, has created a lot of momentum and support within the plus size community, but that movement has mostly stayed online. While it’s now a requirement to be openly body positive if you run a fashion or lingerie blog, the real world is full of people who just don’t like fat people. Ads in the latest #thisbody campaign create a bridge between online activism and a more traditional audience that desperately needs exposure to these sorts of ideas. It’s wonderful to see mainstream brands getting on board the body positivity train in such a big way. After all, the more diverse body images we see, the better off we will all be.
What's your view? Do you think these Lane Bryant ads make a difference?
Featured image: Danielle Brooks, Lane Bryant YouTube