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Look how sneaky Old Navy’s advertising can be

I couldn’t believe what I saw on a bus ride the other day. From my seat, I noticed Old Navy’s storefront windows in downtown San Francisco covered with the big and screaming tagline ,“Here’s the SKINNY”, alongside a picture of a girl wearing the impossibly constricting “skinny” jeans. An online ad for the same pants looks like this.

On the surface, this is obviously “just” a campaign for pants, and later I was told that “Here’s the skinny” is actually an expression for, “Here’s the latest information” (English is my second language so bear with me).

But does this really help? Even if it’s an expression, most people relate the word skinny to, well, being skinny! I don’t think the “Mad Men” of Old Navy would be shocked to hear that people do.

Old Navy Instagrammed this picture from the campaign, and those leaving comments wasted no time discussing how “SUPER skinny” these jeans are, noting that most people need to go up one jean size to fit into them. Surprising? No.

I imagine the brainstorming for the campaign went something like this:

Mad Man 1: “Let’s make women feel like they get something they REALLY want if they buy these new pants.”

Mad Man 2: “Got it! Women and girls want to be thin. Let’s go for, ‘Here’s the skinny!’ No one can criticize us for this since it’s an expression!

All the Mad Men: “Hurray!”

The companies hide behind one meaning of the phrase while making money off another. And that’s only when they’re sick of being directly sexist since advertising apparently hasn’t changed that much from the original “Mad Men” era.

In the end, all of us get another reason to feel bad about ourselves while walking down the street — seeing yet another blatant advertisement screaming “skinny” as something for which we should strive.

We’re led to believe that “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” which, of course, is not true since bread exists. As does chocolate. And whipped cream, french fries, pasta carbonara, and a million other things.

Trust me, I have Jennifer Lawrence on my side. But I know it’s increasingly difficult to ignore these messages because Old Navy and their fellow companies keep bombarding us with images that support them.

What’s your take on Old Navy’s “Here’s the Skinny” ad?

Siri Nybakk is a Norwegian journalist currently working on her master’s degree at University of San Francisco. Her thesis is about how organizations and activism can spark a change to how women are portrayed in the media. As a feminist she is especially passionate about how female sexuality is represented and the awesomeness of Swedish feminist cartoons.

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