Laurie Toby Edison

Photographer

Legs, Shoulders, Butt and Thighs … Butt and Thighs

Last month we talked about Dove Cosmetics’ “Campaign for Real Beauty”, which got lots of attention both here and around the blogosphere and the world of news. Now that campaign is receding into obscurity, Nike has begun an astonishing campaign called “What Story Does Your Body Tell?”, very interestingly discussed in Salon, by Rebecca Traister.

Dove used a very different group of women on their website than in their ads. Nike uses the same women on its site and in its ads. Fascinatingly, the women are actually all hard-bodied, young, and very muscular. Each one is discussing a particular body part (shoulders, hips, thighs, knees, legs, and but) and each one is photographed to exaggerate the size of whichever body part is in question. You have to go to the website to realize that Ms. Thighs actually doesn’t have “thunder thighs” by any standards other than that of the advertising industry and those who’ve bought its line, or that Ms. Butt actually has a hard, muscular butt rather than the giant one in the ad.

So the ads are actually far less “flattering” than the whole women. And the unflattering pictures are accompanied by personal narrative that discusses how women feel about their butts, legs, shoulders, etc. And unlike the Dove ads, the campaign shows body parts only; you have to go to the website to see whole women.

So, once again, we’re pondering. How does this campaign compare with the Dove campaign? Are we on the brink of a real new trend featuring real women’s bodies? Is advertising coming to terms with something different than the air-brushed size 2 model? And what does that mean in terms of body image, and body acceptance?

4 Responses to “Legs, Shoulders, Butt and Thighs … Butt and Thighs”

  1. Lynne Murray Says:

    I liked the Salon writers more honest takes on their bodies.
    http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2005/08/18/poems/
    On the Nike ad site I couldn’t help but see the “shop for shoulder/butt/thighs” icon on the far right. The statement is pretty upfront that these body parts (and the women’s positive attitude toward them) are for sale–buy the Nike sportswear and get this muscular body part as a bonus. This statement is a few ticks toward the positive from the “feel the pain and do it anyway” message they’ve put out in the past. Are they also selling the self-love? As the Salon article writer points out, it’s hard to argue glamorizing exercise. The self-acceptance is like totally conditional… Yet….hmmm.

  2. laurie toby edison Says:

    I’m still thinking about some of this, but I hate the way the only part of a woman’s body that supposed to be soft is her skin.

  3. stef Says:

    Here is an article about the Nike ads, which includes two interesting quotes:

    First, a charming quote from “Barbara Lippert, the New York-based ad critic for Adweek, a trade magazine that chronicles the advertising industry”:

    She said depicting a truly obese subject is not likely to please anyone: “If they were actually cellulitic and gross no one would want to see it.”

    Second (although earlier in the article), a quote that boggles my mind – or at least makes me REALLY want to know what sort of survey question they asked:

    A recent survey of 1,000 American women by Allure magazine supports that conclusion, said the magazine’s publisher, Nancy Berger Cardone. Editors at the magazine were astonished, she said, when 91 percent of the respondents said they were satisfied with what they see in the mirror.

  4. Body Impolitic - Blog Archive - » From the Artist’s Studio: Seeing the Body - Laurie Toby Edison: Photographer Says:

    [...] The Nike ads got me thinking about photographs of parts of bodies. They belong to a long photography tradition tht includes both the work of Edward Weston and Ruth Bernhard . Usually, it’s work that reflects the photographer’s vision exclusively (working with shapes, working sculpturally) rather than portraying the model. It’s almost always depersonalizing. [...]

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