Check out these ads from ItambÃƒÂ©, a Brazilian dairy company. Though their recent circulation around the web has prompted some speculation as to their validity, for me the issue is not about how or by whom they were created, but about what they say:
This series of ads recasts three iconic film images (Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch, and Mena Suvari in American Beauty) as full-bodied women. The accompanying words translate as: “Forget about it. Men’s preference will never change. Fit Light Yogurt.”
It took me a few minutes of staring incredulously at my computer screen, eyebrows threatening to rise off my face entirely, before I could even figure out where to start.
Clearly, those of us who profess that every body is beautiful have been deluding ourselves. Can plus-sized be pretty? Can you be fat and still be happy? Will anyone who’s not thin (and extensively airbrushed) ever be celebrated as an iconic representation of beauty? Apparently we shouldn’t get our hopes up.
I don’t know what’s more offensive: that the ads have such a homogenous and absolute perception of beauty (it is attained, exclusively, through having a fit/thin body, which is attained, also exclusively, through eating their yogurt) or that this perception stems from a definition of beauty as that which is attractive to men. Men, they warn us, will never like big women. No man wants to see up the skirt of a fat bisexual serial killer. No one will ever say, “Isn’t it delicious?”Â when the passing of a subway train raises a fat woman’s dress. And certainly no man will ever fantasize about his high school daughter’s fat best friend.
The worst part of the ads’ interpretations of male desire is the message that appealing to it should be at the forefront of female concerns. Even the most mundane aspects of daily life, such as grocery shopping, are to be approached with men in mind. The suggestion that we should choose yogurt based on how it makes us look to men essentially reflects an archaic idea that is remains all too potent in the structure of our everyday lives: a woman’s value lies in what she does for men.
Regardless of these ads’ legitimacy (Fit Light is a brand of ItambÃƒÂ©, but we haven’t been able to find these ads on their web site.), the message they contain is definitely displayed in other elements of both Brazilian and American cultures (or many others, for that matter). So what can you do next time you see an ad like these? Stop and challenge the message it sends; in this case: “Men’s preference will never change?” Why not? We can fight back by seeing the women in the ads as beautiful. You can try writing to companies that produce offensive ads, letting them know how you feel. Challenge yourself and others to remember that beauty is not tied to size, and that it isn’t limited to we see in ads. And next time you buy yogurt, pick the kind you like the best, regardless whether it will make you look sexier.
Margot Brooks is a rising junior at Stanford University. She is thinking of majoring in psychology and/or sociology, but will probably change her mind several more times henceforth. In the meantime, she is excited to contribute to About-Face and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.