Franklin S. sent in a link to a story at Mashable about how American Apparel has partnered with a website called Chictopia to use “real girls” in a new ad campaign. Chictopia is a site where people upload photos of their outfits and other users comment on them; you can also search for looks that might work for you.

From a press release quoted at Chictopia (brackets and grammar errors in the original):

[This campaign] rebels the notion that fashion is dominated by models held to unobtainable body standards. Chictopia’s tools give girls with no access to agents or expensive makeup and clothes the ability to segue into modeling for a major fashion company within just a few months. American Apparel, who is well known for refusing to use airbrushing in their advertisements, and Chictopia are showing that traditional media beauty standards are obsolete and inefficient.

Here is a feature from the American Apparel online store about one of the women chosen from Chictopia:

Here’s a second one:

Tatiana at Jezebel takes a dim view of this ad campaign:

…I object mightily to the notion that American Apparel is selling the experience of becoming one of their online banner girls as “modeling for a major fashion company.”…It’s unethical to paint this experience as some kind of entrée into fashion modeling.

There are some interesting things going on here. On the one hand, it’s always nice to see clothing companies using “real girls” in their ads (or “real boys,” for that matter). But…are these particular women that much of a deviation from the usual beauty standards? They’re quite thin, though not as thin as models usually are. If I saw these ads, I’m not sure it would have occurred to me that they aren’t professional models.

What about Tatiana’s concerns? Is American Apparel taking advantage of these women (or the women who will come to their website to look at the clothes in the photo shoots) by implying they’re providing a way to become a professional model? Is that any worse than the many other companies that promise people help becoming an actor/model, etc., such as those “model searches” malls often host that seem to mostly be about getting young people to pay for photo shoots to put together a portfolio?

Tatiana points out that American Apparel also unveiled a set of ads on certain websites that are even more sexual than their usual ads, some using porn stars. They are Not Safe for Work.

Debauchette, who has some of the sexy ads on her site, says,

…I like the candor.  I’m a little tired of the coy push-and-pull that we teach young women, as if they should play up their sexuality but ultimately recoil from sexual activity, resulting in our classically conflicted nympho-puritanical views: we’re sex-saturated (advertising, porn) yet we’re also sex-avoidant (MPAA, morality laws). If we’re talking about depictions of women, I want to see more of this, of women looking you in the eye and fucking owning their sex.

Tatiana takes exception with this, arguing that this is simply more commodification of women’s bodies and sex, not a step forward in how female sexuality is portrayed.

What do you make of all this?

Thanks for the tip, Franklin!

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