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The skinny on “skinny” products

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.

Likewise, Forever 21 has started up a new blog called “The Skinny,” morphing a body type into an attention-grabbing way of encouraging customers to stay “in the know.”

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.

16 thoughts on “The skinny on “skinny” products

  1. EXCELLENT article, Hayley! You make some really solid points on why media literacy and positive body image are issues that kids need to be raised with, so more kids grow up to be like you and are able to read through all of the crap.

    You are a smart and impressive young woman! I am sharing your post on my business’ facebook page 🙂

  2. This reminds me of this awful bathroom scale that’s really popular: Conair’s Thinner scale. All of them say the word “Thinner” on them. As if we needed a reminder while STANDING ON A SCALE.

    Haley, this piece is incredible and I’ve never seen anyone put it this way before. Keep writing for the About-Face blog!

  3. While I agree that a cream to firm the skin called “The Skinny” is pretty silly, I have to disagree about the name for the Forever 21 blog being completely evil. As is my understanding, the term “the skinny” is akin to “the downlow” or “the scoop” or “the deal”. Perhaps younger generations don’t use this slang as readily as previous ones, but I honestly don’t feel the title of the blog is hurtful.

    Forever 21 offers a fairly decent full line of plus size clothing, that doesn’t actually restrict itself to a bunch of dowdy sack-shaped dresses- it’s really many of the same types of garments in larger sizing. Check out the awesome models: http://canada.forever21.com/category.asp?catalog_name=FOREVER21&category_name=faith_main&Page=1

    Perhaps you think I’m naive, but “skinny” jeans, do refer to fit rather than body type. At the aforementioned Forever 21 plus size line, they offer plus sized skinny jeans which look very flattering on the voluptuous model, regardless of the fact that she is not skinny.

  4. Speak it girl! I love this! Especially after battling an eating disorder, I am so aware of our culture’s pressure to be thin…uuggghh!! Smiling/laughter- best beauty secret ever;) Loved this article!

  5. Wow, what a well written article. I especially love the shout out to Benefit cosmetics tagline, because so much of the pressure women put on themselves to be skinny, etc., leaves out the most important part of life – enjoying ourselves and living and doing what makes us happy. And happiness is a beautiful thing.

  6. This article is so well written and every point is a good one
    it sends a good message to women everywhere

  7. Great piece of writing, Haley!

    When I wear close-fiting jeggings, I call them Fatty Pants. I find that my name enhances my sassy look, ya know?

    Megan, I’m kinda perplexed why you’re defending The Man. Sure, there’s a non-prejudicial take on these various names. That’s how they get away with using them! We’re not stupid. You or I or the people being marketed to. We know both levels of what they’re saying and the thin supremacist level is not okay.

    After watching that documentary, America The Beautiful, I’ve come to see most cosmetic and hygiene products as carcinogenic, hormone-disrupting jars of anti-woman, anti-fat hate-mongering. In other words, the packaging and the smells have become a turnoff for me. I use Doctor Bronner’s soaps or Burt’s Bees shampoo or Benefit (but I only wear makeup when I have to be on TV) or the guaranteed non-cancer-causing type of deoderant. I found a super-tasty toothpaste that has no strange, chemical ingredients but still has fluoride and isn’t chalky. And of course, I *ALWAYS* use organic, non-bleached tampons!

    When I’m shopping, I remind myself not to encourage meanness, certainly not to give mean companies my money!

  8. this was an absolutely WONDERFUL article. so well written. and i couldn’t agree more. well done!! im so glad there are people like you in the world.
    ps.. watermelons are one of the finest fruits out there.

  9. STUNNING. you are a spectacular writer and this was a great article. you should be very proud of yourself!!

  10. Hey Haley!! Great article although you shouldve talked about plus size skinny jeans too. I would like to know your opinion on that. Thankx!

  11. Marilyn- perhaps we see things differently, but I do not see the name “skinny jeans” as telling me I should be skinnier. Just as I wouldn’t see a pair of pants called “fat jeans” as telling me I should be fatter.

    It’s important to also keep in mind that the point of a business is to make a profit, and if what people are looking to buy are things that make them think they are helping make them look skinnier or that skinny is the goal these consumers are aiming for- then it’s unsurprising that they will try to market to that huge majority of consumers. I suppose you could see it as a chicken or egg situation, but I have a strong feeling that the media was telling women to have a specific body type long before Forever 21 went into business. Money speaks- if we don’t want companies to market to us as though we are people obsessed with our body size, then we should opt not to buy in relation to that cliche, and buy things just because we like them, or because we agree with what they represent.

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