The following post was written by 16-year-old About-Face supporter Haley:
I think I can speak for most girls my age when I say that my generation is an impressionable one. Knowing this, companies constantly bombard us with manipulative ads and products that make us feel worse about ourselves than we already do.
Take skinny jeans, for example. Those things have been around for years, and they don’t seem to be going anywhere. My friends don’t wear any other type of jeans, and they’re certainly the only style I own. But I wish that wasn’t the case. Not only do skinny jeans sexualize girls of all ages to an extent that frightens me — I mean, really, some girls can’t even sit down in them, they’re so tight — but wearing pants with a name like that is just plain problematic.
Sure, tell me that the term “skinny” just refers to how snugly they fit, but the truth is that skinny jeans send some not-so-subtle messages to consumers: you must be extremely thin in order to wear them. And when a disturbing sentiment like that catapults into the media, our culture becomes more and more weighed down by false beauty ideals. As if we needed any more of that.
As if their thin models don’t project enough of a destructive image onto consumers, Forever 21 has to go the extra mile and make thinness embody their entire line of clothing. Out of all the names they could have chosen for their blog, they chose the one that would hit the hardest.
I, for one, was shocked when I saw the words “Get The Skinny” emblazoned in neon across the front of Forever 21’s store in Times Square. Forever 21’s advice to “Get The Skinny” obviously has more than one meaning, one that no one should be encouraged to buy into.
And the marketing that cosmetics companies use is just as bad, if not worse. I was in Sephora the other day, and found myself looking at the Philosophy shelf. I’ve always liked Philosophy for their good-smelling lotions and cute packaging.
But when I read the description of their new self-tanning firming cream, The Big Skinny, I felt sick. It read, “Skinny is picking your favorite color, finding your best-fitting jeans. Skinny is choice. Expand your personal color palette, and find big fulfillment in your skinny victories.”
Things got no better as soon as I noticed their dessert-scented shower gel set they call “A Diet You Can Live With.”
Has our culture really got this far down the drain that it’s acceptable to promote negative body image as a means of advertising?
Both of these products make very vocal, destructive, and 100-percent-false statements about the power and good feelings supposedly associated with being skinny and eating less. When “skinny” becomes a “choice,” then “skinny” becomes a disorder. And, as if smelling those artificial, pretty little lotions would substitute for the actual food we were craving!
We need to take a step back as a society and look at what ideals we are thrusting onto our young people. I am not about to stand for this.
I’ll say this much, though: there may be rampant problems with fashion and cosmetics companies alike, but Benefit Cosmetics says it best with their slogan, “Laughter is the best cosmetic, so grin and wear it.” Maybe a little less pressure and a little more smiling would do us all some good. We don’t need those skinny jeans, that fashion blog, or that makeup, but we could all use a reminder that our natural smiles are what make us unique and beautiful.
Haley is a high school student whose interests include writing, playing sports, watching funny movies, and eating watermelon.