TIME Body Image

Thousands of People Want Victoria’s Secret to Apologize for ‘Perfect Body’ Ad

But can it make a difference?

More than 16,000 people have signed a U.K. petition asking Victoria’s Secret to apologize for an “irresponsible,” “body-shaming” ad.

The lingerie company sparked outrage for a new campaign celebrating “The Perfect ‘Body.'” The ad copy is a riff on the brand’s “Body” lingerie line, but since the slogan hovers above the supermodels’ bodies, people say it sends the wrong message.

Dear Kate, an underwear company “made by women for women,” insists that the lingerie industry as a whole can and should do better. “As if women need a reminder of our society’s homogenous definition of beauty, the ad features ten models with almost identical body shapes,” its website reads. “The creators of the ad probably didn’t think twice about the message it is sending, and to us, it’s irresponsible marketing.”

Here is Dear Kate’s alternative:

But can the petition incite change? Petition writers Frances Black, Gabriella Kountourides and Laura Ferris note that “we have yet to hear a single word from Victoria’s Secret! It can’t be much longer until they listen up and realise that they have some apologising to do.”

Victoria’s Secret did not reply to TIME’s request for comment.

But the “Perfect Body” campaign is in line with past marketing efforts. Victoria Secret’s previous “Love Your Body” campaign (which also incited backlash) provides a stark contrast to companies like Dove’s take on promoting an ideal body image.

Some companies just prefer companies opt to promote “perfect bodies” rather than “real beauty.”

TIME society

How the Average American Man’s Body Compares to Others Around The World

"When you look at the images side-by-side, you can really see the differences"

Pittsburgh-based digital artist Nickolay Lamm was on vacation in Catalonia, Spain, last year when he noticed something. “I think I’m being objective when I say that a lot of the people were just very fit,” he says. At least more fit than what he saw back home. And so Lamm decided to dive into body measurement statistics collected by organizations like the CDC to create models that represent the physique of the average man from different countries.

“Basically, I wanted to represent how we as a country are a little overweight when it comes to other countries,” he says. “Obesity is a huge issue, it costs our health care industry so much money, so I just wanted to create a simple way to illustrate something people probably know in the back of their minds, they just haven’t seen it all laid out so clearly.”

Nickolay Lamm

While the images first went public last year, they are making their rounds online again — right in time for Halloween. (A time when body image is at the back of people’s minds.)

Nickolay Lamm

“When you look at the images side-by-side, you can really see the differences,” Lamm says.

Nickolay Lamm
Nickolay Lamm
Nickolay Lamm

Lamm doesn’t know why exactly these images resonate with an audience, but people always seem surprised. “We see all these numbers and statistics,” he says, “but sometimes we just want to see it laid out.”

Nickolay Lamm

The artist is perhaps best known for creating the anti-Barbie. The soon-be-released Lammily doll is based on the average American woman’s proportions, rather than unattainable measurements that would make it hard for a real woman to walk or even just exist. He also hopes to create a male version of the doll after the product goes to market.

Lamm does note that scrutiny regarding body image is often directed toward women rather than men. “It’s interesting, I remember I was at a bar once and guys were comparing all the other women, but they kind of look like the images I made,” he says. “Who are we to judge when we aren’t looking perfect either.”

TIME Advertising

Here’s How Women Respond to All Those ‘Female Empowerment’ Ads

SheKnows

52% of those surveyed said they'd buy a product based on the company's portrayal of women

Dove’s Real Beauty campaign paved what is now a very well traveled road of female empowerment-focused advertising. It’s a special genre of content (slogans and short doc-style videos) in which the messaging (you are more beautiful than you think you are! stop using gendered double-standards in the workplace!) takes center stage while the company name appears as an afterthought; products sold often go unmentioned.

But does this kind of advertising actual increase brand recognition and sales? According to lifestyle site SheKnows, it does. After surveying 628 women about the “fem-vertising” phenomenon, 52% of respondents said that they had bought a product specifically because they liked the way the company portrayed women in the ads, and 56% of those respondents were in the key millennial demographic. Adweek reports that 46% of those polled then followed a brand on social media because of that messaging. (Yes, people do follow advertisers by choice.)

While some critics oppose using half-hearted tales of “empowerment” or pseudo-feminism to get women to buy more soap and beauty products, SheKnows found that most women it surveyed praised the strategy. But other than Dove, what brands do women remember as being “pro-female?” (92% were aware of at least one pro-female ad campaign.) When SheKnows asked what brands women think are “doing it right,” the top ten included: Nike, Hanes, Olay, Dove, Always, Pantene, Playtex, Covergirl, Underarmour, and Sears.

Here are full results from the survey, which SheKnows noted prompted comments from three-fourths of those polled — a higher than average figure:

SheKnows
TIME Opinion

IKEA Made A Talking Mirror That Basically Just Tells You You’re Pretty All Day

Stick to the Swedish meatballs?

Meet IKEA’s “Motivational Mirror” — a wall accessory whose only job is to deliver effusive, 100% genuine compliments like “Magnificent beard!” and “Your eyes are mesmerizing!” and “Darling, your dress looks amazing!” (Even though it kind of looks like a shirt… but it’s the thought that counts.)

IKEA

The Swedish furniture retailer put the promotional mirror in a British store last week, “bestowing personalised compliments to provide the nation with a much needed morale boost,” according to a statement.

IKEA-commissioned research found 44% of people in the UK are critical of their appearance and 26% say they feel uncomfortable looking in a mirror. BUT 26% also said that “a kind word” makes them like themselves more. And thus, a Dove-esque empowerment stunt was born.

Except, instead of having consumers come to the conclusion that they are really more beautiful than they think they are on their own, IKEA has a far more reliable source — a mirror programmed with audio — do it for them.

This is actually a familiar trope. Adweek notes, “the inspirational talking mirror idea has been done before—most notably by the all-female Austin band The Mrs., but also by other marketers.

Sure, compliments can be nice, but it is a tad on the creepy side — particularly when a man in a blue button down, showing just enough chest hair, is stopped by the mirror … whistling at him.

IKEA

(Yes, that is an animation of a cat calling wolf).

It’s an odd choice to make unsolicited whistling — street harassment is a very real issue women face on a daily basis— look cutesy, but at least the customer doesn’t seem to mind.

“It was great for me because I never get compliments,” the man recalls, wistfully. “I could have stood there all day, to be honest.”

Still, maybe IKEA should stick to its specialty: flat-pack furniture, ball pits and Swedish meatballs.

TIME Opinion

Subway Wants Women to Stay Skinny So They Can Wear Sexy Halloween Costumes

This new ad reminds you that it's never time to stop dieting

You thought it was over. You thought it was finally safe to sit down at lunch and eat one, just one, burger. Subway wants you to know that YOU THOUGHT WRONG.

Thank your lucky thigh gap the sandwich chain, which recent research asserts is just as unhealthy as McDonald’s, is here to remind you that it’s your moral obligation to stay skinny. Because “bikini season may be over” — that’s an actual quote from the company’s YouTube page — “but there’s more reasons right around the corner to stay fit.”

Namely: To wear skimpy Halloween costumes. Cue a video montage set to the tune of waiting room music where an excessively perky woman models an array of sexy costumes.

Except, Subway clearly isn’t allowed to say sexy. Rather, it’s a “hot devil” (too literal), “sassy teacher” (literally smacking a ruler against her hand), “foxy fullback” (please, let’s get into how women feel about the NFL right now), and our personal favorite, “attractive nurse.”

Luckily for Subway, there’s an emerging sexy (albeit bizarre) Christmas costume market, so that they can keep their “it’s never ok to break a diet” campaign going.

Your skinny coworker lunch buddy will be watching you!

TIME women

I Wrote an Article About Marriage, and All Anyone Noticed Is That I’m Fat

Galit Breen Wedding
Courtesy of Galit Breen

When I wrote my article, I included wedding photos that I had never shared online before, because of the way my body looked in them

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

My husband and I celebrated our 12th anniversary this June. We’ve had a good run despite my over-thinking and his over-scheduling, so I did what we writers do: I wrote a neat and tidy article titled “12 Secrets Happily Married Women Know.”

I was feeling especially comfortable in my skin at the time. I’ve been running and lifting and eating (mostly) well, and I’m healthy. The warmth of summer — the rays that hit me in slices throughout the day, the constant comfort of my family around me, the looseness that comes with a lack of a schedule — all wore me down, softened my edges, sent me out of my comfort zone and for one teeny tiny moment, I set aside my deeply ingrained defense mechanisms.

I had met a friend for lunch the week before. She faced me across fresh shrimp and cold beer and we talked about our children and our writing, the threads that hold us together. “I never see candid photos of you,” she mused. The hair on my arms, my shoulders, and the back of my neck stood on end. “I’m not judging,” she added, “But I noticed that you like to have control over that.”

She was absolutely right in the non-annoying way that only heart-deep friends can be.

I do like to have control over photos that are taken — and shown — of me. I’m a selfie re-taker, a Facebook un-tagger, a strategic chin-hand-child placer, and I’m (almost) always the person behind the camera, rather than the one in front of it. When you’re fat, and you don’t want to be, you memorize these tricks of the trade.

So yes, my friend was right. I am normally so very careful about the photos I share, not necessarily for privacy, but definitely for vanity.

But this summer, I was softened. And when I wrote my article, I included wedding photos that I had never shared online before.

I used to hide them because of the way parts of my body looked in them. My chin (double), my waist (wide), my arms (thick). But I included them because, without my armor, I could see what had always been there — my husband and I look so happy in them. Joyful, really, and truly in love. And that’s what my article was about, so I embedded the photos, sent my article into my editor, and really and truly didn’t think about them again.

In the body image wars that women, that I, have with ourselves — this was a win.

When my article got some traction, I decided to take a peek at the comments it was getting. This is a cardinal rule never-ever meant to be broken. But I was curious and I (quite naively) thought, Bring it. I could take whatever commenters could possibly dish about my thoughts on marriage. And this is still true. What I couldn’t take, however, is what commenters — people, human beings — said about my body.

Here are a few screen shots I captured that day, or one of the days after that I went back and looked again (and again).

I peered at comments like these through splayed fingers, counted how many “Likes” these got as opposed to how many readers told these people to stop being like “that” — whatever “that” might be. Cruel, unnecessary, fat-focused. Behind the safety of my screen, I was keeping score — for my article or against my body. Because these are the two camps that the commenters joined.

I couldn’t stop looking. “Cut it out,” my husband said, shaking his head, desperate to help. But what could he possibly do or say to soften this, or to soften me again?

I kept going back to check on it — like a tended fire that I needed to know if it would be smothered or fanned.

On good days, I started dialogue about internet comments, misogyny, and body image. On better days I began writing this article. But on hard days, which was most of them, I cried.

I cried for the words flashing through my mind — Fat. Ugly. Heifer. — and I cried for the way that I averted my eyes whenever I passed a mirror. I cried trying to figure out what my husband thought reading, seeing, feeling those words and how they would make him read, see, and feel about me. I cried for my daughters seeing those words said about their mom or ever hearing them, or even worse thinking them, about themselves.

And I cried for the desire that I had to show photos of myself today — Look! I’m “better” now! Not perfect, but not as fat as that! My self worth suddenly became entrenched in those words. I was tethered. I was also perpetuating the exact same thing those commenters were — fat is bad, body commenting is normal, and valid. I cried a lot about that.

Our society’s incessant focus on women’s bodies and the way we deem it necessary and appropriate to comment on them is, at best, misguided, and at worst, damaging.

There are very few times that I think it’s okay to comment on a woman’s body — in a complimentary or in a negative way. As a mother and as a woman, I think we all need to stop that conversation, to consider it taboo.

People say that the way we’re spoken to becomes our self-talk. In my experience this is very true. And as much as we’re loved, it’s incredibly difficult to undo this.

I can’t tell you how body talk makes every woman feel, but I can tell you that staying away from body compliments and body bashing, body noticing and body commentary leaves room for the kinds of words that we want the women — and the girls — in our lives to hear, to repeat, to have written to them by the typewriters in their own minds. And that, can’t hurt.

Galit Breen is a Minnesota writer. She has had essays published in several magazines and anthologies, co-directs the Listen to Your Mother Show in the Twin Cities, and writes for allParenting, Everyday Family, Mamalode Magazine, and The Huffington Post blogs.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Opinion

Scooby Doo and the Unfortunate Case of Fat Shaming

The latest Scooby Doo film "curses" Daphne by turning her from a size 2 to an 8

Tuesday marked the release of Frankencreepy, Warner Bros.’s latest straight-to-video Scooby Doo feature. But it turns out the real villain in the kid’s flick isn’t the monster. It’s Warner Bros. Here’s why.

The movie begins innocently enough. Velma inherits her uncle’s haunted castle, unleashing a curse on the Mystery Gang that makes them lose what they “hold most dear.” Scooby, for example, loses his snacks. And what fate, pray tell, befalls stylish and slender Daphne? She transforms from a size 2 to… a size 8.

That’s right, it is a “curse” to be a size that’s considerably smaller than the national average, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calculates at 5’4″ and 166 pounds. Cue the tears, screams and shattered cartoon mirrors! Because according to this supposedly feel-good-flick, weight gain is the ultimate horror.

This screengrab from the film shows how “cursed” Daphne is portrayed in the film. Which is still below the average size of an American woman:

Scooby Doo: Frankencreepy

Here’s a self-reported actual size 8, exhibited by the beautiful Mariska Hargitay:

Haley & Jason Binn Host A Memorial Day Party
Mariska Hargitay attends Haley & Jason Binn’s Memorial Day party Johnny Nunez—Getty Images

And here’s Christina Hendricks, another redheaded icon who displays her reported size-14 curves with pride:

Cast member Christina Hendricks poses at the premiere for the seventh season of the television series "Mad Men" in Los Angeles, California April 2, 2014.
Cast member Christina Hendricks poses at the premiere for the seventh season of the television series “Mad Men” in Los Angeles, California April 2, 2014. Mario Anzuoni—Reuters

But back to Daphne:

Scooby Doo: Frankencreepy

We don’t need to call the Mystery Gang to figure out where kids pick up unrealistic body expectations and weight stigma.

“It’s sad to think that my daughter can’t even watch a cartoon about a dog solving mysteries without negative body stereotypes being thrown in her face,” blogger Tom Burns wrote. And for a mere $3.99 on Amazon Prime, you too can subject your elementary-school-age daughter to an early dose of fat shaming

In a statement to the Huffington Post, however, Warner Bros. said that while Daphne does lose “her good looks (mainly her figure and her hair)”— implying that an actual realistic figure isn’t, in fact, an attractive one — the message is one of empowerment since Daphne realizes she was being superficial and Fred still thinks she’s hot.

While Daphne is at first upset by the sudden change, there is a touching moment where Fred points out that he didn’t even notice a change and that she always looks great to him.

At the end, when Velma explains how they figured out the mystery, she points out that the curse actually DIDN’T take away what means the most to each of them: their friendship.

The loss of Daphne’s regular appearance is proven to be a superficial thing, and not what actually matters the most to her.

There’s a good message for your 10-year-old. Not having an almost unattainably perfect figure doesn’t matter “the most.” It just matters a lot.

Jeepers.

(Warner Bros is owned by Time Warner, which spun off TIME parent company Time Inc earlier this year.)

TIME Mental health/Psycholog

4 Signs Your Body Image Isn’t Healthy

woman-holding-shoulder
Getty Images

Last week, Tallulah Willis—daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore—bravely shared her struggles with body dysmorphic disorder in a video for StyleLikeU. “I’m diagnosed [with] body dysmorphia,” Willis, 20, told the fashion blog. “[My biggest insecurity] is my face. That’s where my diagnosis came into play. Because of the position I was born into, I would read these things on the Internet and I was like, well, Why would someone write that if there wasn’t some basis for truth out there?”

“It was something I never wanted to say out loud because it was so painful.” Willis goes on to talk about how hearing mean comments about her face drove her to dress provocatively and lose a lot of weight, thinking she could draw the attention to her body instead. “I started starving myself,” she says. “I got down to 95 pounds.”

Health.com: 10 Signs You May Have OCD

This is exactly why body dysmorphic disorder (or BDD) can be so difficult to diagnose, explains Health contributing psychology editor Gail Saltz, MD. “Disordered eating can be a symptom of it, but there is no surefire sign. What body dysmorphic disorder really means is that you are so preoccupied with either a real (but slight) or imagined imperfection that you become consumed by it.”

Plenty of healthy people have a body hang-up or two that makes very little sense (mine’s my fat ankles, full disclosure), so how do you know when someone you love is really struggling? Here are four ways to recognize body dysmorphia.

They always need reassurance about that one thing

“Most people who have body dysmorphia are not going to talk about it openly because they feel a lot of shame,” Dr. Saltz says. “But sometimes, it’s a friend who keeps asking you repeatedly for reassurance about this one body part.” If supportive comments like “No, your arms aren’t fat, really!” or “No, your nose is beautiful” don’t seem to make them feel even a little better, that could be a red flag.

Health.com: 12 Signs You May Have an Anxiety Disorder

They dress in a way that doesn’t make sense

Obviously, you don’t have to agree with every style choice your friends make, but think twice if she’s dressing in a way that suggests she’s trying to compensate for that one thing. “For example, she’s putting on a tent of a dress and saying it’s to hide her belly that doesn’t exist,” Dr. Saltz says. Or in the case of Tallulah Willis, she mentioned that she would wear short-shorts and push-up bras in a bid to shift attention away from her face.

Health.com: 12 Ways We Sabotage Our Mental Health

They go to extremes

“Dysmorphia fits in with this constellation of anxiety disorders like obsessive compulsive disorder,” explains Dr. Saltz. “It’s a compulsion that gets in the way of your life.” So in the same way that no amount of hand washing satisfies a person with OCD, no amount of “fixing” seems to help people with BDD. Some patients may even get plastic surgery, and then still think they need more work done after they’ve healed, while others try a progressively restricted diet to lose, say, an imagined double chin.

Health.com: 7 Strategies to Love the Way You Look

They’re hiding out

“The thing separating a normal insecurity from a problem with body dysmorphia is how much it affects your ability to function,” Dr. Saltz explains. If you notice that that she’s not going out as much, or she doesn’t want to date, or maybe she’s turned down a promotion because she doesn’t want to have to give presentations, those are signs her body issues are getting in the way of her life.

Amelia Harnish is an Associate Editor at Health.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Living

Why Teens Are Turning to Human Growth Hormones for the ‘Perfect’ Body

A generation aware of the risks of eating disorders now has performance-enhancing drugs available at a click--but not much information on their possible side effects.

A new survey from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids found that 11% of the 3,705 high-schoolers surveyed reported “having used” synthetic human growth hormones without a prescription. This reflects that use may have more than doubled from when a similar survey was conducted four years ago. One in five teens even reported knowing at least one friend who uses a performance-enhancing drug (PEDs).

As an educator who works with children and teens around the country and a high school senior, we believe that more young people are turning to steroids and other PEDs for one reason: the constant pressure for both boys and girls to have a “perfect” body.

It’s common knowledge that girls are under tremendous pressure to conform to an unhealthy and unrealistically thin body image. It may seem odd that some girls would look to PEDs to achieve this “perfect” body, but a quick internet search reveals thousands of advertisements for steroids promising weight loss specifically for women. This generation of girls has grown up knowing about eating disorders and their potential health dangers. Is it possible that girls today are now seeking out drugs (that they can instantly buy online) because they think it will give them the edge to achieve the ideal body—without knowing their possible side affects?

For boys, the common assumption is that steroid use is associated with athletes. But there’s increased cultural pressure for all boys, not just athletes, to fit a hyper masculine body image. It begins early (for example, 6-year-old boys commonly believe they should have a six pack) and then intensifies as the boys get older. Combine that with our collective inability or unwillingness to give boys a language, and therefore permission, to talk about the pressure boys feel to conform to an unrealistic image of masculinity (as we regularly do for girls with cultural messages of femininity) and it’s almost impossible for boys to admit their shame and inadequacy. Consequently, they’re driven to solve the “problem” privately, however they can. In that light, taking PEDs for purely aesthetic reasons becomes a logical decision.

For high school athletes, it’s all about getting bigger and better. Almost every guy wants to gain weight and muscle. Even among non-athletes, many boys get teased for being skinny and small or having “moobs (“man boobs”). But just as constant is boys’ insistence that they can never share these humiliations publicly. In the rare times they do complain, adults hardly give it the serious consideration they do when girls are targeted in the same way.

In the January issue of JAMA Pediatrics, a study (Prospective Associations of Concerns About Physique and the Development of Obesity, Binge Drinking, and Drug Use Among Adolescent Boys and Young Adult Men) reported that 18% of boys are highly concerned about their weight and physique. They’re also at increased risk for a variety of negative outcomes: Boys in the study who were extremely concerned about weight were more likely to be depressed, and more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors such as binge drinking and drug use. Though 18% might be on the low side, between 28% and 68% of young men at a normal weight perceive themselves to be underweight, according to the .

What’s the cost? The common assumption is that boys don’t care about being teased about body image the way girls do. We challenge that assumption and want to shift the conversation about PEDs and body image so we all believe boys have the right to receive the same empowering messages that girls get. We live in a culture that can undermine your sense of self by giving you one, almost impossible, image of an “acceptable” body. Boys, just like girls, have the right to know that. Boys, just like girls, have the right to acknowledge that it affects your sense of self and you have the right to talk about it without being dismissed or ridiculed. And finally, boys, just like girls, have the right to be educated about these issues so they don’t risk their physical health and emotional well being to chase an impossible ideal.

Rosalind Wiseman is the author of Masterminds &Wingmen and Queen Bees & Wannabes. Keo Jamieson is a senior at Boulder High School in Boulder, Colorado.

TIME celebrity

From Kim’s Butt to Angelina’s Lips: The Plastic Surgery Procedures Women Want

Valentino : Front Row  - Paris Fashion Week : Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2014-2015
Jacopo Raule—WireImage/Getty Images

According to data from a popular online cosmetic surgery community

Remember the woman who spent $30,000 to look like Kim Kardashian? Well, she’s certainly not the only person who has spent serious time and money t0 look like a celebrity — and Kim in particular. In fact, for women seeking cosmetic surgery, Kim’s butt is the most requested celebrity feature, according to data from RealSelf.com, an online community where users come together to discuss plastic surgery procedures.

To determine which celebrity features are most popular, RealSelf scanned all its content pages to see which names users are mentioning the most when inquiring about procedures. So in other words, this data is more anecdotal than scientific, says Alicia Nakamoto, vice president of community at RealSelf.

To get a derrière like Kim’s, most women opt for the the Brazilian Butt Lift, which is a procedure that takes fat from one part of the body (like the abdomen, thighs or arms) and transfers it to the buttocks. The average cost is $6,725.

After Kim, here are the other most popular celebrity mentions of 2014, along with the corresponding body part or procedure:

  • Beyoncé – butt
  • Madonna – face and hands (anti-aging)
  • Angelina Jolie – cheeks, lips
  • Rihanna – skin lightening
  • Jennifer Lawrence – nose
  • Jennifer Lopez – butt
  • Kate Middleton – nose, smile
  • Julia Roberts – lips, smile

Every once in a while, a key moment in pop culture will cause a spike in celebrity requests. When Maleficent hit theaters, for example, more women began inquiring about Angelina Jolie’s cheekbones. When Snooki was popular (remember those days?) and got some work done to her teeth, people began asking about getting theirs as white as hers. And when Krista from The Bachelorette underwent a post-natal “mommy makover,” a surge of women began expressing interest in the procedure as well.

But for the most part, the majority of people discussing plastic surgery on RealSelf don’t reference specific famous people at all.

“Ninety-nine percent of the people do not want to look like a celebrity,” Nakamoto says. “They just want to fix something very personal and go on with their lives feeling more confident with themselves.”

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