General Mills is the latest brand giant to jump on the correlation bandwagon, linking consumption of MultiGrain Cheerios to weight loss and size reduction.
A recent Cheerios commercial features a run-in with two women at a clothes donation drop box. The first female praises her friend’s weight loss and appearance. The pal attributes her svelte size to a whole grains, specifically MultiGrain Cheerios. The closing, uninspired voiceover assures the viewer that “more whole grains equals less you.”
Why is a woman’s ability to take up less space revered? This is a maddening message and an obvious objectification of women. Cheerios assumes that we are all in the business of losing weight, promoting the “one-size-fits-all” standard of beauty. Weight loss as a primary goal idolizes thinness and irresponsibly encourages unhealthy and disordered behaviors and attitudes towards food and body image.
This idea of taking up less space even works metaphorically showing that, as women, we are still being marginalized in the media. Our culture encourages this unhealthy obsession with weight loss and reduction, as though we can only take up space if sporting diminutive dimensions in a pretty package.
The woman in the commercial slips her old clothes into the mouth of the drop box and in a triumphant tone resolves that she’s “not going back there again”. She suggests that that any sort of “going back” implies a moral failing. This is infuriating because it demonizes our bodies and reinforces the idea that they are to be controlled and managed.
While Cheerios’ push for a diet high in whole grains is a positive and healthy one, the implications of this commercial are dangerous. Our fundamental worth is not derived from being objects; we are more than visual morsels whose primary purpose is looking good. Advertising objectives reposition products based on this premise, attempting to capitalize on self-consciousness. Commercials like this diminish female presence by reducing us to our physical bodies and encouraging us to be thinner. Our strengths are so much more than the ability to whittle our waists into a narrow definition of beauty and attractiveness.
These media-mandated definitions of beauty are unimaginative and downright old-school. There are more outlets of empowerment today than ever before, but we still have work to do. Let’s take Cheerios’ directive and curb our consumption of these damaging media messages. In the ad, the woman’s reflexive response to seeing her friend is to immediately praise her for her weight loss and appearance. How many times do we do this? Let’s refuse to contribute to this culturally coached idea that size and appearance are our currency.
How can you rail against society’s “one-size-fits-all” standard of beauty and encourage a focus on overall health and body diversity? What one thing can you do today to appreciate your female form its capabilities? What accomplishments can you pay tribute to that have nothing to do with appearance?
Heather Klem is a blogger, yoga enthusiast, and impassioned body image and media literacy advocate (when not working at her corporate day job!).