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Never Did I Think I Would Be Standing on the Street Half-Naked: A recap of About-Face’s most recent and gutsiest action yet

Date: June 18, 2013 | Posted By: Jennifer

A shout-out to all of the lovely volunteers who helped make this action possible: Tovae, Fallon, me (co-organizer), Vera (co-organizer), Jennifer Berger (About-Face’s Executive Director), Virgie Tovar, Kendra, Julie, Chelsea (co-organizer), and Glen. Not pictured: Marilyn Wann.

On Saturday, June 15th, 2013, I was with About-Face and supporters as we stood scantily clad in front of Victoria’s Secret on Powell in San Francisco for our latest action, called Operation Real Bodies Real Love.

Wearing only our bras and underwear, we were making a statement about what real bodies look like (and how much we love them) in the face of the violently unrealistic, Photoshopped images we see in the media every day – Victoria’s Secret models included. These images can be extremely harmful to young and old minds alike, causing issues such as negative body image, low self-esteem, lowered or negative moods, dieting, and eating disorders.

We wanted to represent the public and fight for more accurate representations of bodies in the media, so we were hoping for people of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, abilities, genders, and gender expressions to join us.

From the outset, the action received a lot of positive attention as passers-by cheered and shouted comments such as, “YES! This is so great!” and “I’m so glad that you’re doing this!” The Powell Street Cable Car even stopped so that the conductor and passengers could give us cheers of encouragement and praise! Then, of course, there were lots and lots of pictures taken, as people wanted to pose with us as we held up signs with statements like “I Pledge to Love My Body” and “Fat and Fabulous!”

Our main goal was to bring light to the fact that all bodies are beautiful (yes, and also the thin ones!) and ask people to sign a Body Acceptance Pledge (you can take it online here!) that read:

  • I pledge to love my body, inside and out, with every dimple, scar, freckle, lump, roll and curve I have.
  • I pledge to try to start loving my body however I am feeling, however I look, and wherever I am.
  • I pledge to stop negative self-talk and to fight back against those negative thoughts with new, positive ones.
  • I pledge to resist the messages of the media telling me that I must change my body to be happier.
  • I pledge to keep my body healthy by feeding it when it’s hungry and refrain from hurting my body by committing violence against it and not taking care of it.
  • I pledge to appreciate what makes my body different from anyone else’s.
  • I pledge to remember that my self-worth is not determined by my appearance.
  • I pledge to accept the changes my body goes through.
  • I pledge to accept and love the skin I’m in.

Once signed, they were given a reminder of the pledge they took and tips on how to follow through with their pledge:

  • Give myself confirmations about how great I am to myself in the mirror.
  • Concentrate on the things that I do well.
  • Remind myself that bodies are always changing and that every body is different.
  • Voice my opinion on the practices of advertisers, media outlets, the fashion industry, and diet companies.

By the end of the action, we had received 66 signed body pledges, and many people talked of how they were going to pass the tips along to others! Even so, we were surprised at how many people didn’t sign the pledge, making comments such as, “I already love my body!” You can take the pledge online by clicking here.

After they signed the pledge, we asked people if they had any demands for companies such as Victoria’s Secret, known for their stick-thin (but somehow buxom), unrealistically Photoshopped models, and Abercrombie & Fitch, which has refused to make clothing for larger bodies.

We received statements such as:

  1. “Hire real people to show your products and act in your movies.”
  2. “Stop Photoshopping everything and let us see what real beauty is.”
  3. “Stop the negative and self-hating articles and start writing about people who are doing good things in the world – no matter how small as that is what really changes the world.”
  4. “I want to see more people of color in advertisements/fashion.”

Once a large list has been compiled, we will be sending this list of demands to various advertisers.

Tasha and Vanessa were here visiting from Florida and were two of our most enthusiastic fans – they were so excited to happen upon our action.

Since the day of the event, About-Face as a whole has received an overwhelming response from people who are happy, shocked, proud, and amazed at our bravery to stand half-naked in public as a sort of protest to companies who refuse to show or accommodate real bodies. We have also made appearances on Jezebel, The Huffington Post, ABC 7/KGO-TV, KRON 4 News, and various other sites. Success!

Participating in this event was a huge moment of empowerment and confidence for me and others who were with me or have seen the event. We at About-Face want you to know that we love your bodies just as they are, and you should too.

Operation Real Bodies Real Love: Complete.

Annika Branson is an undergraduate student at University of California, Berkeley majoring in Sociology and Media Studies. An advocate for media and eating disorder awareness for more than seven years, she is currently an intern at About-Face.




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9 Responses to Never Did I Think I Would Be Standing on the Street Half-Naked: A recap of About-Face’s most recent and gutsiest action yet

  1. Stacey on 06-18-2013

    YAY! I'm so bummed I missed this but SO happy it was such a success. :D
  2. Reply
  3. Kay on 06-19-2013

    Why don't you spend your time counseling and helping people with illness instead of insulting those who work hard for their tight, toned bodies? There's research that support how daily exercise and a healthy diet reduce the risk of "negative body image, low self-esteem, lowered or negative moods, dieting, and eating disorders."
  4. Reply
    • jenjennijennifer on 06-19-2013

      It's funny you say that, because our entire organization is focused on preventing issues like eating disorders and body image problems. We work with about 1,300 7th-12th graders per year (more info here http://www.about-face.org/educate-yourself/for-adult-advocates/our-workshops/) to teach them to think critically about media messages. This is one of the most commonly recommended ways of helping prevent these issues. We strongly recommend healthy behaviors, always, including moderate exercise and intuitive eating (eating healthy food when you're hungry, stopping when you're full).

      Our action was definitely not against certain body types at all. The people who showed up wanted to show that they love their bodies as they are, even in the face of a media that uses the "tight, toned bodies" as the gold standard.

      Thanks for your comment, Kay.
    • Reply
      • Kay on 06-20-2013

        Thank you for your response, Jen. Protests like this discourages people from making healthy lifestyle choices. It takes extremely hard work and dedication to train everyday and be conscious of daily calorie/protein/fat intake. Media is not necessarily defining beauty by showcasing lean, muscle toned people. They are celebrating the people who worked so hard to achieve the bodies they have. For people who have never spent hours at the gym or limited their daily fat intake to less than 10g will NEVER appreciate this. We admire athletes not because they're beautiful, but for training harder than anybody else to become the best. Models work hard for what they have. You don't have the right to discount the hard work of these people. It's an insult to everybody who are sweating and grunting at the gym right now.
      • Reply
        • kathy on 06-20-2013

          Kay most women and girls will never look like those models no matter how hard they work out at the gym.
        • Reply
  5. Esther on 06-19-2013

    Ms.Berger, that's awesome! I'm so glad you're enlightening other people along the way. By the way, i'm one of Taube's students and I did a 10 pg paper and presentation on Media and Teenagers my psychology class. I got a 92/100!! Your presentation helped me acquire knowledge of women objectification.. thank you!! Keep being awesome!
  6. Reply
    • Jennifer on 06-27-2013

      Esther, that is SO great to hear! I'm really glad you learned something and that you came to the About-Face web site later on. I loved talking with your class and I hope to come back again next year.
    • Reply
  7. Trevor on 07-02-2013

    This whole site is a strange concept - if you're all so happy with the bodies that you all have, why do you have to effectively bash the fact that companies use people in the best possible shape and the most aesthetically desirable?

    A car dealership wouldn't sell a car that had a scratch here or there, or needed a wash or was in any way less than factory PERFECT. Yet, we all know once you buy a perfect car, it picks up wear and tear, the odd knock or whatever - and we totally accept that we'll never maintain that showroom perfect look.

    Yet somehow, translated to people, you think it's unacceptable for a company like Victoria's Secret to use the most desirable and aesthetically pleasing women as models? It's ridiculous!

    So I'm categorically NOT saying that if you aren't a model, you aren't good looking or even beautiful to somebody, but equally what VS was doing was so out there, unorthodox and wrong, they wouldn't be doing so well now, would they?

    Face it, you're the naggy majority. You think it's great to flaunt your untoned and overweight bodies (they are btw, medical fact) in order to make a point - yet slam people that are actually in incredibly good shape! Odd.
  8. Reply
    • Stacey on 07-09-2013

      I didn't see any "slamming" of any body types in this, or on this website.
    • Reply