Cross-posted at Jezebel.
At least that’s what Skinny Water is promising in their latest advertisement. The ad shows a woman facing a throng of cameramen snapping her picture, elegant earrings dropping to the top of the headline which says: “Skinny Always Gets the Attention.” Take a look:
Below the headline and photo of the various flavors, it also says “Zero calories, Zero sugar, Zero Carbs, Zero Guilt.” With all that’s not in this water, you might wonder what it does offer. The website tells me that depending on the flavor of water, they’ve added vitamins B3, B5, B6, B12, C, A, and E. They’ve also thrown in magnesium, folic acid, calcium and/or potassium.
Despite paltry efforts to market itself as healthy, Skinny Water is instead perpetrating the cultural message that the best — or only — way to ensure that women get attention is by being skinny. This of course positions them well to try to push their product on those women who have been pulled into this lie.
In fact, Skinny Water is doing precisely the opposite of what a health-conscious company and product should be doing. Promoting the idea that those who are skinny deserve attention more than others creates communities that support harmful diet-related behaviors and disordered eating for the goal of a wispy appearance. Not to mention reinforcing the ever-present undercurrent of bias against the overweight — or even normal weight! — it reinforces the idea that women’s size and appearance is the most important thing about them.
In defiance of that, let’s remind ourselves why Skinny Water is wrong. While the website details the added vitamins and dietary minerals of each drink, it’s far better to get your needed supplements through a healthy diet rich in cruciferous and dark and leafy vegetables, fruits, whole grain and lean proteins. Washed down, in fact, by regular old water that keeps you hydrated and helps your body process and absorb nutrients. Skinny Water is telling its buyers that by adding these vitamins and minerals to their product, one can, perhaps, eschew a calorie-free but vitamin-rich manipulated water diet. For example, the “Power,” “Sport” and “Fit” drinks are all fortified with calcium, magnesium, and potassium – to help activate metabolic enzymes, keep your blood regulated, and support strong bones and teeth. Do you know what else can do that? Bananas, yogurt, kale, almonds and cashews, and quinoa.
These are madly marketed products that don’t substitute for a healthy, well-rounded diet. Instead, they capitalize on the now-entrenched notion that women care more about being skinny than anything else.
UPDATE: Jezebel reports that this advertisement has been retired by Skinny Water, thanks to objections from consumers.
Larkin Callaghan is a doctoral student at Columbia University studying health behavior and education. She is particularly concerned with gender disparities in access to healthcare and prevention services, and has done research on adolescent female sexual health, how social media operate as an educational platform, and differences by gender in the effectiveness of brief health interventions. You can follow her on Twitter, Tumblr, and at her blog.
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Andrew — October 13, 2011
Other than the creepy fixation on weight and the implicit gendering of the product, I can't see the slightest difference between Skinny Water and Vitaminwater, and the whole range of similar products.
What they all have in common is that they're basically liquid marketing. Any potential health benefit or potable pleasure that they might produce was most likely conceived well after the tropes and gimmicks that would be used to sell them. If it's not the notion that the drink will melt pounds off your body, then it's the rainbow of improbably flashy artificial colors, the seductive allure of "easy" nutrition, the word-magic of terms like "antioxidants" (which occur naturally in food that is of great nutritious benefit but have not been proven to have any effect when chemically isolated in pills or soft drinks), celebrity tie-ins (anyone remember 50 Cent flavored VitaminWater?), and competitively phallic single-serve bottle designs. I've even seen a pink-ribbon-branded Breast Cancer Awareness Water before.
And as long as we can countenance a regulatory climate in which corporations are free to outrageously tout any cheap and profitable ad-in-a-bottle as healthy dietary supplements, we'll get more of this. These companies couldn't possibly sell their product in bulk, unbranded containers, or without eye-popping colors, because they have almost no value beyond what the ads artificially give them. Like all bottled waters and soft drinks, and so much of the rest of consumer culture, they're a giant swindle hitched on to an ecological disaster.
And if making you feel bad about your weight doesn't work out, they can always rebrand the same crap as energy supplements or orgasmic aphrodesiacs or hangover cures. Unless consumers can get either more skeptical about what they buy and put into their bodies, or more aggressive about fighting for tougher restrictions on food labeling and marketing, expect to see ever more crass brands for useless stuff like this as time goes by.
Charlie Marks — October 14, 2011
Disclaimer: I happen to agree with the content of the
original blog post and apologise if this muddies the waters and don't want to
turn it into a fat bashing thread, but I was struck with this train of thought.
1) Posts on Sociological Images have been critical about the connection of
"fat = unhealthy".
2) There is scientific evidence to suggest that carrying excess weight can have
negative effects of health.
3) There is scientific evidence to suggest a balanced a varied diet getting
your nutrients from a variety of sources can have positive effects on health.
4) You have said that "balanced diet = healthy".
Given this, why is 1) voraciously argued against by the sociological community
and 4) given legitimacy (The moderators have ascribed this view with legitimacy
by agreeing to post it.)
Korean Sociological Image #64: Hourglass-shaped Drink Bottles « The Grand Narrative — October 21, 2011
[...] Of course, caveats abound. For starters, by no means are all or even most drinks aimed at women hourglass-shaped, and indeed in this image of the drinks section of what looks like a small supermarket, actually only those aimed at children have anything that even remotely resembles an hourglass shape. Also, there is possibly just as strong or even stronger a trend to make women’s drink bottles skinny, as explained here. [...]