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Unoriginal and Offensive!

Date: July 20, 2007 | Posted By:

Check out these ads from Itambé, 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:

fit_light_3.jpg fit_light_2.jpg fit_light_1.jpg

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?” 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 Itambé, 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 margot09@stanford.edu.




What Do You Think?

23 Responses to Unoriginal and Offensive!

  1. JennyFur on 07-21-2007

    I'm going to state the obvious and say that this is a blatantly hurtful ad. It preys on the very thing that women in this day in age are so very paranoid about - weight.
    I'm sorry, but some men don't like walking toothpicks with bobble heads. I have to ask why they find a curvy body so offensive? What's so attractive about a woman who looks like an 11 year old boy?

    I've noticed that they use big women quite a bit in dietary ads. For example, a couple of months ago I saw an ad in a woman's magazine for SilmFast that featured a plus size woman. You never see curvy women in any other type of ad - it's depressing and disgusting.

    *Sigh* Will things ever change?
  2. RW on 07-21-2007

    You've worried me a bit in republishing these pictures. Please forgive me if I'm wrong but I'm guessing that some of the readers of this site are probably vulnerable to just this kind of image. Some readers here may be thinking "I don't find these photographs attractive - so their message must be right - fat clearly is ugly."

    I'm not sure it's enough to say that we don't agree. I personally know some people who will need more than that to be said if they aren't to find these photographs depressing. So I want to write down what I'd be saying to them to take the power out of the images. I hope that's OK so here goes…

    I certainly don't agree with the message of these photographs. I don't find one shape of person more attractive than another - but I do find that these pictures are unattractive (the first two anyway). But that's NOT because these women are unattractive.

    The images are very very very clever. Put together by some very clever people. Have a look at the real original photographs:
    Marilyn Monroe: http://tinyurl.com/3blbcx
    Sharon Stone: http://tinyurl.com/2kvx5x
    and: http://tinyurl.com/36vb25

    Note that the main differences between the originals and the adverts isn't the shape of the women. There are many other differences.

    Marilyn Monroe's photos are taken in black and white – well photographed. Her expression is different. Her dress is captured in several positions – mostly showing movement – or like wings. She has men looking on admiringly. In many of the pictures she fills the frame. But then look at the advert. In this the woman stands alone. The colour is dowdy. The dress is shapeless. It hasn't even blown upwards properly. Her smile is half hearted.

    In Sharon Stone's photographs she also fills the frame. In one she's smiling. There's a fair amount of colour. There's a good deal of texture shown – for instance shadows of a grating on her skin. She's lit from behind, and there's some life to the light on the walls.

    The thing is that images can be used to carry messages in a very clever way. If we read something in text – for instance 'fat is ugly' - we understand that this is an opinion – and we think about whether we agree. If we see images which carry a message they often bypass our reasoning – and carry the message straight in. But the message they carry is an opinion just the same.

    The last thing that I think is clever about these images is that they seem to be spreading by upsetting people – and therefore reaching their intended audience very effectively. The only places I've seen them are on sites about body image!

    Lastly – can I recommend a look at the photographs of Laurie Toby Edison ( http://laurietobyedison.com ) as an antidote to these adverts (but please note that these are nudes).
  3. Miranda on 07-26-2007

    At first, not knowing the translation of the Portuguese, I was filled with shock and happiness that an apparently mainstream dairy company had the chutzpah to flaunt gorgeous, curvy women in their ads. I really do believe that the women in these photographs are incredibly beautiful.

    After reading the translation, I feel sick. I haven't got much else to add to your well-written post - just wanted to express my anger.
  4. a few amusements « thilly thenny on 07-26-2007

    [...] look.  I guess fat people can’t be pretty or happy… I’ll be sure to let my body [...]
  5. anonymous on 07-26-2007

    I thought you would appreciate this review on Amazon.com of their 'Life's too short to dance with ugly women' bumper sticker (it can be seen here.)

    As an aesthetically challenged, or differentially appealing, woman, I should be highly offended by this bumper sticker. I mean, are only the so-called "pretty" women worth dancing with? And who decides who is "pretty" and who is not? Why should symmetrical, regular features and overall good health, with the absence of disfiguring, pustulant growths and raw, seeping wounds be important criteria for physical attractiveness? And what about un-handsome men? Are they still worth dancing with?

    I showed my friend, who is also aesthetically challenged, this bumper sticker, and she agreed with me that it was beauty-ist and demeaning. Just to prove how wrong the message was, we danced together. After about the second song, however, we began to realize that we found no joy in dancing with each other, and, in fact, were quite repulsed by having to move in rhythm together. We tried this little experiment with a few other of our differentially appealing friends and always found that after the first song, we would rather rub lemon juice and cayenne peppers into our suppurating wounds rather than continue dancing with each other.

    We asked some of our "pretty" friends to dance with us, and they too were unable to continue dancing with us after the first song. We then put dark glasses on them and found that we could dance with them long past the first song and at least until the tenth song, at which point we stopped the experiment.

    So maybe the bumper sticker does have a point. But why should the brevity of human life be the reason not to dance with aesthetically challenged women? Put another way, just how long would human life have to be to justify dancing with differentially appealing women? I can only assume that the number of activities more enjoyable than dancing with aesthetically challenged women must be of such a great number that to perform them all within the span of a human lifetime is not yet possible. As such, my aesthetically challenged friends and I have begun to list all the activities more enjoyable than dancing with us and adding together the estimated times necessary to complete those activities. So far, we have listed 1123 activities with a total time of 7 years, 5 months, 23 days, 16 hours, and 31 minutes. When we finish the list, I will update this review and finally answer the question whether life really is too short to dance with aesthetically challenged women.
  6. nuihnin on 07-31-2007

    Do you think commenter 1 that by calling skinny women bobbleheads or 11 year old boys things will change? Why dont i just call all large women beach balls. Same idea right?

    By insulting skinny chicks, you doing the exact same things this company does, you hypocrite
  7. Jennifer on 07-31-2007

    Let's keep the personal insults to a minimum; this is a discussion, not a fight.

    I think it's more fair to say that different men (and women) like different types of bodies, and it certainly depends on who that body belongs to! There are a lot of naturally skinny women who read this blog. It's all about health -- naturally/healthily skinny is OK, naturally/healthily fat is OK. We are trying to widen the definition of beauty. Skinny women are included.

    -Jennifer
  8. nevena on 07-31-2007

    okay now, the size of the sharon stone in the picture, i wouldnt say is naturally/healthy fat, but that doesnt mean that she shouldnt be confident. i think that unhealthy women SHOULD work to getting themselves to a healthy weight, whether meaning gaining or losing, but i think they should strive for confidence and contentness regardless of their weight OR health, because i think that happiness comes first, and perfection could mean to them super-thin or super-healthy, both of which can deem impossible to achieve. Also, since these images are not found on this yoghurts page, maybe the ads were created by a university advertising/marketing student and they are actually fake trying to send the mssg that either this yogurts ads are either subniminally sending this type of mssg...or something else. im not sure but that was my 2 cents. peaceee
  9. Jennifer on 07-31-2007

    Well, only a woman herself (and her doctor) knows whether she's healthy. It's very easy for us to say "she's not healthy" when we really don't know. The Sharon Stone photo could be of a healthy woman, so I challenge us all to start thinking that way.

    And being "super-healthy" often isn't exactly healthy.

    It is possible these are fake, but they certainly do stimulate discussion!

    Jennifer
  10. Wesley on 07-31-2007

    wow... the first thing I noticed when I saw the photos was that the lady looked fantastic. I hope that I'm not the only one, as some would lead us to think.
  11. Miranda on 08-04-2007

    "i think that unhealthy women SHOULD work to getting themselves to a healthy weight, whether meaning gaining or losing, but i think they should strive for confidence and contentness regardless of their weight OR health, because i think that happiness comes first, and perfection could mean to them super-thin or super-healthy, both of which can deem impossible to achieve."

    I agree. Everyone should seek to be healthy with the help of their doctor. Whether this means gaining or losing weight is irrelevant. Regardless of their health status, women should be happy and confident! You wouldn't tell a cancer patient to postpone any happiness until their illness is cured, just as you shouldn't give an anorexic or obese person reason to believe that they should not live life to the fullest until they are healthy.
  12. Em on 08-30-2007

    These ads are almost too stupid to be offensive.

    Everyone seems to be forgetting the very positive milk ad in the states featuring Sara Ramirez ("Grey's Anatomy", original Broadway cast of "Spamalot"), a fabulously curvaceous woman, featuring the caption "Great Anatomy". It's easy to get upset with ignorance, but I prefer to reserve some energy to point out the positive examples.
  13. Kevin on 09-03-2007

    I am married to an overweight woman and I think it's bloody awful.
    I can't be exited by her anymore because she is so disgustingly fat. Since we married, she gained 30 kilos and is giving me nonsense about inner beauty, former beauty ideals and everybody is beautiful.
    I will divorce her soon since the fat seems to have affected her brains and she's becoming an eyesore more and more every day.
    Stop fooling yourselves, lasses. those ads are very right.
  14. speakingupgirl713 on 09-07-2007

    Hey I would like to say, I may be almost 200 lbs at age 14 but I love who I am.I know some people aren't comfotable in their own skin but lighten up! I know they were saying 'eat this become slim'...but do we really stoop that low to the media? Do we really have that much self doubt? If you plan on setting a positive role-model for kids think about how YOU think of yourself..it shows. So think of what I've said and Real Women Are Curvy!!!

    speakingupgirl713
  15. karin Drucker on 09-13-2007

    I love your critique. This kind of confidence-busting attack comes from every direction.
  16. Margot Brooks on 09-19-2007

    Kevin, bummer you feel that way. You say "those ads are very right," but I've got a hunch Itamé (or any company) is not out to spread awareness of unequivocal and essential truths through their ads, but to sell a product. Then again, I'm no advertising CEO - perhaps it is the ad industry's humanitarian duty to enlighten strong, confident, and self-respecting women that inner beauty is 'nonsense.' Thank goodness the media extends us the enormous courtesy of letting us know the 'truth' about how the world works - just think of the horrors that might occur if women went around feeling comfortable with themsevles.

    Ha, ha.

    Speakingupgirl713 - way to go! It truly makes me smile to read that you are able to love and appreciate yourself for the individual you are. I'm not too much older than you (19), but I'm really impressed that at 14 you are able to operate from that perspective - I wish I had that insight and comfort with myself when I was entering my teenage years. Keep it up!

    Karin - thanks! ♥
  17. Brenna Lynn on 10-03-2007

    First of all, i have to agree with speakingupgirl713. i'm 14 too, and it's not that i'm overweight, it's that there are a lot of overweight girls at my school. and every day, i see them get "the look" from all of the skinny and so-called popular girls. Girls now are getting judged left to right. I get judged every day as well because i have acne, and it kills me inside to know how overweight people feel most of the time. You, are really smart though to not care. If everyone could just not let skinny girls and men get to them, would our world be easier?

    Also, I can't help not to think that some of this has to do with the new clothing brands American Eagle, Abercromie, Hollister, ect. How many times a day do you see overweight people wearing that? I don't even think i've been in any of those stores more than once and i don't remember seeing any clothes for people a little heavier. And now it really doesn't help that they have Abercromie for Kids. That will just start the judging even more and cause more problems at younger ages. Imagine if Elementry students decided they were to fat and stopped eating?

    And lastly, Kevin, if you think that, you honestly don't deserve her. If all you care about is that she's gaining weight, so you can't have sex with her, that's just wrong if you ask me. That's exactly why i haven't had a boyfriend yet. Guys around me only want sex and i don't want to give it to them yet. And what the heck do you mean that it's effected her brain? How much more pain can you put into her head after you tell her straight up you're divorcing her because she's too fat? I mean, if i was overweight gaining 30 pounds and what not, I wouldn't want the extra stress of "wasting" a guys time with me. Extra stress causes more eating which causes more weight. So good for you, because you've seen these ads, your mind has become aware to the fact that fat people don't look great on the outside all the time and guys will never look at the inside. whatever you say.



    -brenna
  18. christina n on 10-08-2007

    this ad is hurtful. Women are so caught up by their looks and lack of self esteem now a days. I don't believe these ads will make them feel any better. Probably worst about themselves. Honestly the general doesn't want to see these ads. I am outraged myself. I feel almost sorry for these ladies that are posing.
  19. rebecacaca on 10-10-2007

    I second commenter 5 - I actually thought they were using attactive women, not trying to display "unattractiveness". The point there was lost on me.
  20. A on 10-26-2007

    If the point of the ad is that skinny = good = eat our lowfat yogurt, they've really failed. Especially Marilyn and bed of roses girls are really quite attractive. It's also pretty obvious that they've been airbrushed.
  21. Beauty on 11-09-2007

    I´m from Brazil and here we have the same obsession to be skinny. These adds are like poison, they can destroy your self steem. About 5 years ago, I discovered that I´m a compulsive overeater, and it was a big relief to me. I realized I have a disease and now I know what to do to take care of myself. I don´t read beauty magazines anymore, they make me feel very bad about my body. I´ve lost more than 40 pounds, without being on a diet. If you want more information about compulsive overeating, go to www.oa.org.
  22. Lexie on 07-11-2008

    I think the women on these ads are very beautiful and I'm so glad to see young women fighting against negitive images of us ladies! You go girls! Love each other no matter what! Fat, thin, short, tall, black, white, whatever! We have to stick together and realize that all living things are beautiful.

    Kevin:

    I really hope she realizes what kind of person you really are. If you married her just because of her looks, you married for the wrong reason and obviously didn't love her in the first place. So if you divorce her, it'll be your gift to her, believe me. No woman wants a man that only likes their looks because beauty always fades. I'm sure you're not perfect yourself, sir... take a step back and judge yourself before you judge others and realize what kind of "eye-sore" you actually are.
  23. Tidbits - Living Sexuality on 07-24-2009

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