Since searches on plus size models, Lizzie Miller, and sexy big women have almost displaced Marina Sirtis on the top search hits, I thought I’d post a sort of follow-up to last year’s articles on Glamour and V magazine’s photo shoots with “plus sized ” (i.e., normal instead of anorexic sized) models.
From an article in The Frisky:
Bigger Models Make Women Feel Bad About Themselves, Too
Dove’s Real Beauty ad campaigns are heralded as groundbreaking forays into being a bit more realistic about how women look. Glamour‘s new habit of featuring regular-sized broads after the publicity deluge the first time they did it, too, is widely praised. But here’s the thing: According to a new study by the University of Arizona, ads featuring bigger models don’t actually make most women feel very good about themselves. Apparently, pretty much everything makes women feel like crap about how they look.
According to the researchers, larger women feel better about themselves when ads don’t include any models at all, average-sized ladies actually have lower self-esteem after looking at ads with plus-sized models rather than uber-skinny ones, and thin folk prefer the traditional tiny models. The study did, however, come up with one icky way bigger models can be used to actually influence product sales: ” … if a normal-size woman sees moderately heavy images in ads for weight-loss products, she might feel overweight and be more inclined to buy a diet plan or gym membership.” This is basically saying ads could use plus-sized models to make women feel bad enough about themselves that they want to spend more money on gym memberships and diet products. [The Cut]
What do you think? Do ads with bigger models make you feel better or worse about your body?
Since this seemed counter-intuitive, I checked the ASU article, which said, in part:
In the experiments, hundreds of female students were categorized as having low, normal or high body mass index (BMI) based on their heights and weights. They were then invited to a lab, but were not told the true nature of the study. They were shown a variety of ads and told to answer several questions, only some of which were truly related to the study. The questionnaires showed the participants’ self-esteem shifted based on the model sizes they saw in the ads and whether they considered themselves to be similar to or different from those sizes.
Low-BMI, thinner women tended to experience a boost in self-esteem when they viewed all models because they identified positively with the thinner models and saw themselves as different from the heavier models. Higher-BMI, heavier women dropped in self-esteem when looking at all models because they saw themselves as different from the thinner, idealized ones and similar to the overweight models.
But that’s okay, because normal sized women would have felt, you know, normal, and right in the middle, right?
Normal-BMI women had the most shifts in self-esteem, depending on what types of images they saw and could therefore be the most influenced by pictures in ads. For example, if they viewed a moderately thin model, they felt similar and good; if they saw a moderately heavy model, they worried they were similar and overweight.
My own question is whether the results of this study aren’t the result of a chicken-or-egg assumption. In our culture, we are constantly exposed to stick-thin models, and told (visually) that anything over a size 2 needs to cover up. So, is it possible that after a few years of exposure to plus, er, normal sized models such as those in the Glamour and V shoots, women in general would have a perspective, and studies such as this would have a different outcome?
So, what does it take for women to feel better about themselves, anyway?