TIME feminism

Former Harvard Sex Blogger: My Ex-Boyfriend Leaking Nude Pictures of Me Changed Who I Am—Forever

Person using a laptop in the dark
Getty Images

The nonconsensual posting of my photos was a terrorizing invasion of privacy that altered my reality and irrevocably changed the way I live, think and write

In 2008, there were no words for what happened to me. Today we call what happened to Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities—the public nonconsensual distribution of sexually explicit photos—revenge porn or cyber bullying or online harassment. I wasn’t naive. I’d been slut-shamed before. But I never considered that people would think my willingness to talk about sexuality precluded me from the expectation of privacy.

I was in my third year at Harvard, when an ex-boyfriend posted a gallery of nude photos he had taken of me eight months earlier. IvyGate, “an Ivy League blog covering news, gossip, sex, and sports,” picked up the story first, which would later become one of the site’s most popular posts. At the time, I was already in the press for writing what some described as a “sex blog” and it made me well known enough within a certain community—overachieving teenage girls, other Ivy Leaguers and sexually adventurous young women—that media outlets picked up the “story” of my nude photos. Now celebrities such as Kate Upton, Kirsten Dunst, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and others whose photos were allegedly hacked and leaked to the Internet, are being subjected to the same thing.

The public response was harder to stomach than the publication of the photos themselves. I was 20 and not actually in any position of power to protect myself. Unlike actual celebrities, I didn’t have public defenders or managers or lawyers with an interest in defending my reputation. The Harvard administration was not going to stop my peers from passing around my photos, and my classmates couldn’t be expected to be respectful. Because of the violation’s anonymous nature, I felt intensely socially ostracized, isolated and suspicious. There were entire forum threads discussing my body and appearance, and I could never know who had seen or disseminated the photos, so I lived with a constant feeling of being under surveillance. There was not even yet a vocabulary to describe the situation. I knew absolutely no one else that this had happened to.

I stopped living on campus. I stopped blogging about sex and started a Tumblr dedicated to discussing broader feminist/gender issues. Within six months, I picked up a particularly determined online stalker, who, I believe, wouldn’t have fixated on me had my nude photos not been published. The stalker (I never found out who it was, whether it was man or woman or possibly even multiple people) set up countless mirror blogs to harass my readers, posted my new boyfriend’s name, commented on articles I wrote with links to the photos and sent emails to Harvard faculty and administrators about my personal life. Both the stalker and the ex-boyfriend were fueled by the public reaction they received and motivated by the same urge to humiliate a strong, opinionated and otherwise unattainable woman. Eventually, because I didn’t turn in a final paper and therefore didn’t pass a required class, Harvard required that I go on a year-long academic leave.

When I returned, I wrote a senior thesis about sex education and the abstinence movement. I organized a conference reframing the notion of virginity, which received minor press coverage. I started to speak and write about sexual health and empowerment, gaining visibility in the feminist community. Perhaps because of my persistence, my stalker redoubled his efforts to sabotage my career and relationships by posting the names and personal details of my friends, family members, colleagues and readers on smear blogs and forums. He didn’t just want me to suffer; he wanted to discredit the work and reputation of anyone associated with me. By 2012, I had significantly scaled back my involvement in feminism, despite being offered increasingly lucrative opportunities, because the harassment had escalated to such an extent that I simply couldn’t be effective as an activist anymore.

I found myself unable to write, sleep, eat or socialize outside my home. I was not simply having an emotional breakdown but a physical one. I moved to Berlin in 2013, essentially because I lived in constant terror and couldn’t keep up the pretense of being healthy in front of friends, family, colleagues or the readers who had been following my work since I was 20. It felt inauthentic to be espousing sexual and gender liberation when I felt trapped in my own home.

I have experienced the full spectrum of online misogyny: the vengeful violation by someone I once trusted and the invasion of privacy by an obsessed but unknown stalker. In both cases, the perpetrators solicited the approval and attention of strangers and could not have succeeded if their efforts weren’t legitimized by mainstream media and public opinion. It is only now, with a public discussion about cyber harassment and online misogyny, that everyone else is learning what I realized six years ago: that we live in a sick society and the sick people are not young women like me. I was just collateral damage, and so is any woman whose freedom to exist is threatened because she happened to trust or get targeted by someone who couldn’t stand to let her live her life.

I am not the person I used to be before this ordeal. It left me mentally unstable, physically debilitated and socially isolated. I still get extremely anxious in particular social situations. Despite the outward facade of a busy and active social life, I am actually distrustful of others and fearful of intimacy. I interpret benign gestures and comments as hostile, make excuses to not go out and wonder too often what my neighbors think of me. I haven’t been able to keep up with email, and my social media presence has dwindled down to the sporadic Facebook photo of my dogs.

When I turn on my old cell phone the few months a year I am in the U.S., I get phone calls from publicists and producers, and I wonder fleetingly at the life I am missing. But to be honest, I don’t want to be on TV explaining why young men today can be driven by romantic rejection to kill, why women are afraid to use the Internet, why I no longer feel safe in America. What happened to me was not an occupational hazard of feminism. It’s an occupational hazard of being a woman. Men’s bodies are not used as weapons against them, and shame is a language that women have learned from birth. We are told that sex is something that can hurt us, that we have to constantly be on the defensive lest we attract negative attention. If we are criticized or attacked, we are asked what we did to deserve it.

What does it mean that we live in a world where this kind of thing not only happens to people, but also that there is no shortage of spectators happy to gawk and cheer on the perpetrators? Neither the law nor public opinion has been on our side. Women like me, who try to fight back, only turn themselves into bigger targets. We are blamed for not silencing ourselves and not learning our lesson the first time around.

This was a terrorizing invasion of privacy that altered my reality and irrevocably changed the way I live, think and write. It’s hard not to be resentful, but I have found a certain peace in censoring myself, leaving the country and reassessing my relationships. I have noticed also that times are changing. People are beginning to recognize the ugliness around us and the hatred that we carry inside ourselves.

I don’t feel the problem is me anymore, and despite how much this experience has made me and those I love suffer, I now have a far better sense of who I am than when I first started on this path. I can only hope the same for all those who watched me walk it.

Lena Chen is the activist and writer who authored Sex and the Ivy as an undergraduate at Harvard.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: September 2

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Teacher Standing in Front of a Class of Raised Hands Digital Vision.—Getty Images

1. As we approach the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps, President Obama should make good on his promise to expand this vital program.

By the Editorial Board of the New York Times

2. Journalists still believe they’re writing for the same old reasons, but the data shows they’re chasing clicks, changing the nature of their work.

By Angèle Christin at the Nieman Journalism Lab

3. A dangerous new trend of policing faculty speech at American universities is threatening academic freedom.

By David M. Perry in the Chronicle of Higher Education

4. “Infoladies” bring digital services – from filling online forms to collecting health data – to the people of Bangladesh, and could be expanded to serve many more.

By Syed Tashfin Chowdhury in Al Jazeera English

5. The new batteries coming from Tesla’s “Gigafactory” should remove the final barrier to mass-produced electric cars.

By Daniel Sparks in The Motley Fool

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Sexual Assault

3 Apps That Will Help Women Stay Safe on Campus

Circle 6

It’s back-to-school time for college students. Yet with all of the stresses of college life piling on — class, extracurricular activities, internships and active social schedules — most students aren’t thinking about how to protect themselves from sexual assault, even though they’re at a greater risk. That’s why the first six weeks of school, when freshmen are getting acclimated with campus life, including partying and being away from home for the first time, is often called the “Red Zone.”

And even as institutions — often with the help of the federal governmentroll out regulations aimed at combatting the issue of sexual assault on campus, a lot of power still rests in the hands of students. But thanks to the following apps, that power can be supported by technology and smartphone applications.

Though they aren’t perfect — because let’s face it, applications alone likely will not prevent terrible things from happening — the following tools were clearly created with modern women in mind.

Circle of 6

Circle of 6 can be a young person’s first line of defense against an assault. The application — one of two winners of 2011 White House challenge — allows users to let a select group of people know they are in trouble so they can get help right away, whether they need advice on health relationships, a ride home or a call to interrupt a risky situation. Through the application, users can even send directions to their exact location to provide for a seamless pick up. The application can also connect users to hotlines and emergency numbers if they’re ever in a bind. This application is likely best used if and when a person feels like he or she is heading into a risky situation— although it’s easy to use, who knows how much time you’ll have to access your phone if and when things go awry. The application is free and available on both iPhone and Android devices.

Bsafe

BSafe isn’t just an application: this all-in-one safety tool essentially creates a community of people working together to keep each other safe. It allows any user to have a group of guardians tagging along with them everywhere they go. It’s all encompassing, too. From the application you can share your location with friends, activate a fake phone call to break up an awkward (or potentially dangerous) moment and send alerts to your safety network if you need immediate assistance. It even has a flashlight. Bsafe is a free application available for both iPhone and Android devices.

Kitestring

Kitestring is probably the most practical tool for young women, though using it will require some advance planning. It’s not an application, but a web-based tool that you set to check-in on you over a certain period of time. Walking home alone from a bar? Meeting a new guy for the first time? Go online, tell Kitestring how long you’re going to be out (or how often you want to be checked up on) and the site will text you to make sure you’re safe. If you don’t respond in a timely manner, an alert is sent to your designated emergency contacts letting them know to reach out. Kitestring is available here; sign up is free, but free users can only designate one emergency contact and are only allowed to activate the service eight times per month. Unlimited usage is $3 per month.

 

 

 

 

TIME republicans

Women Find GOP ‘Intolerant,’ Report Says

The Republican Party's elephant symbol is seen on display on October 24, 2000 at the Republican campaign headquarters in El Paso, Texas.
The Republican Party's elephant symbol is seen on display on October 24, 2000 at the Republican campaign headquarters in El Paso, Texas. Joe Raedle—Getty Images

A gender gap persists

Female voters have sharply negative views of the Republican Party, according to a new report of internal polling done by major GOP groups, the latest sign of the gender gap facing the party as it tries to recapture the White House in 2016.

Politico, which obtained a copy of the Republican polling, reports it found that many women consider the GOP “intolerant” and “stuck in the past.” The Republican groups that commissioned the polling, the Karl Rove-led Crossroads GPS and the American Action Network, hosted eight focus groups over the summer and survey about 800 registered women voters. Pollsters found that 49% of women have an unfavorable view of Republicans, while just 39% feel the same about Democrats, Politico reports. The establishment-friendly GOP groups are warning that Republican elected officials “fail to speak to women in the different circumstances in which they live” They’re advising officials to champion equal pay policies, and suggesting Republicans change the way they handle the issue of abortion: “Deal honestly with any disagreement on abortion, then move to other issues,” the report says.

Republicans are expected to easily keep their majority in the House and may even recapture the majority in the Senate during the coming midterm elections. But the gender gap will be more troublesome in the 2016 presidential election, especially if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee.

[Politico]

TIME Congress

Senator Says Male Colleague Told Her ‘You’re Even Pretty When You’re Fat’

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY attends a press conference calling for the creation of an independent military justice system to deal with sexual harassment and assault in the military, in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on Feb. 6, 2014.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY attends a press conference calling for the creation of an independent military justice system to deal with sexual harassment and assault in the military, in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on Feb. 6, 2014. Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images

"Good thing you're working out because you wouldn't want to get porky," Kirsten Gillibrand recalls one fellow senator saying

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) says in a new book that she has faced several sexist encounters with her male colleagues, being nicknamed everything from “Honey Badger” to “hottest member of the Senate.”

“Good thing you’re working out because you wouldn’t want to get porky,” Gillibrand says one colleague told her in the congressional gym, according to an excerpt of her book Off The Sidelines published by People.

After she lost weight following a pregnancy, Gillibrand writes that one male colleague squeezed her waist and implored: “Don’t lose too much weight now, I like my girls chubby.”

And she says one southern congressman told her, “You know, Kirsten, you’re even pretty when you’re fat.”

“I believed his intentions were sweet, even if he was being an idiot,” Gillibrand writes.

But Gillibrand told People she hasn’t been fazed by these incidents, and said she’s using the sexism she’s faced working in Congress as motivation to take on issues like military and campus sexual assault. In the book, which is being released in September, she calls on other women to “speak up, gather strength” and “support one another.”

“If we do, women will sit at every table of power making decisions,” Gillibrand writes.

The first-term senator also told People she isn’t deterred by the gridlock plaguing Congress.

“If I can work an issue like sexual assault on college campuses and drive a national narrative and know I’m making a difference,” Gillibrand said, “then whether or not we pass another bill in Congress, there’s still good things I can do.”

Read the rest of the story at People

TIME 2016 Election

Pro-Clinton Group Touts Her Record on Women

Celebrity Sightings In New York City - July 30, 2014
Hillary Clinton is seen arriving at The Carlyle Hotel on July 30, 2014 in New York City. Alessio Botticelli—GC Images/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton’s shadow campaign emphasizes her empowerment of women

A group dedicated to defending and promoting Hillary Clinton’s record ahead of a possible 2016 presidential bid used Women’s Equality Day to tout her record of promoting women Tuesday.

The group Correct the Record released a two-page document entitled “Breaking Glass: Women’s Economic Empowerment.” The document, given exclusively to TIME, looks at Clinton’s work to promote women’s and girls’ issues as Secretary of State. The issue was Clinton’s top policy priority. The push came after her failed 2008 presidential bid, during which she didn’t highlight the historic nature of her candidacy until the end of the campaign, famously saying only in her concession speech that her bid to be the first female president represented “18 million cracks in the glass ceiling” for the 18 million votes she’d received in the primaries.

Many Clinton advisers who’d worked on the campaign have said in retrospect that they wished they’d emphasized the historic opportunity she had to be the first female president earlier. Clinton lost the women’s vote in 16 state and territorial primaries to Barack Obama. Already this time, Ready for Hillary, another arm of Clinton’s shadow campaign, has focused on outreach to female voters as a priority.

Correct the Record’s promotion of Clinton’s record also speaks to that push, highlighting the work that she’s done to further women and children globally. The group notes that Clinton created the office of Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues and raised women’s issues at all international economic forums. She launched the Equal Futures Partnership to advance women in politics and the private sector. Along with Asian Partners she pushed through the San Francisco Declaration, an agreement to realize women’s economic potential. With help from Middle Eastern countries she launched the Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society, which brought together and empowered activists in the region to work on women’s economic and political. In Latin America and the Caribbean she launched WEAmericas to help women grow small businesses. In Africa, she created the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program to help train women qualify for the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a trade agreement that gives privileged trade status to certain African countries and businesses. And she directed the Invest for the Future program in Southern and Eastern Europe and Eurasia to focus on women’s entrepreneurship.

“Hillary Clinton championed such unprecedented and impassioned work at the State Department to advance women’s entrepreneurship and empowerment that it would take an entire book to fully chronicle her efforts,” said Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the group. “Correct The Record put together this ‘Breaking Glass’ record analysis to highlight Clinton’s many successes, including several multilateral partnerships and programs which raised the profile of women’s issues and resulted in greater economic engagement of women around the world.”

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 22

1. A stacked deck: reform the modern fee-based system of criminal justice that has pushed poor communities to the brink.

By Alex Tabarrok in Marginal Revolution

2. Real political change in Iraq – and a strong regional partnership – is the only way to defeat ISIS.

By Michael Breen in US News and World Report

3. To avoid the next Ferguson and address the nation’s systemic racism, America needs black leaders to take a stand together.

By Bob Herbert in Jacobin

4. With their educations on the line, smartphones for teenagers are a critical tool for success.

By John Doerr in the Wall Street Journal

5. To solve the riddle of women turning to extremist violence, we must address the security issues that deeply impact their lives.

By Jane Harman in CNN

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

MONEY

Millennials Love This Old-Fashioned Company

The 2014 Ford Escape.
As millennials get older, they're more interested in SUVs and crossovers, like the 2014 Ford Escape. courtesy of Ford

You might think of Ford as the automaker your grandpa stubbornly stuck with for decades. Millennials think of Ford as something else—the auto brand they're most likely to buy right now.

It’s a common belief that millennials are indifferent to car ownership. They aren’t buying cars anywhere near the percentage rates of previous generations, and fewer young adults even bother to get drivers’ licenses. However, none of these factoids has stopped automakers from trying to win over the business of this huge demographic—which might not be flush with cash now but will surely represent a gigantic chunk of car buyers down the road.

A new study from Maritz Research shows that one automaker has been particularly successful over the past few years in appealing to millennials, and the name may come as a bit of a surprise: It’s Ford, the staid, century-old, all-American company from Michigan. According to Maritz surveys—which have been pumped up in a Ford press release—in 2008, Ford ranked fourth among millennials as the brand they’d most likely consider buying. (Honda and Toyota held the top two spots.) By 2012, however, Ford leapfrogged over the competition to grab the No. 1 ranking.

“The jump was really at the expense of the Asian-based manufacturers,” said Maritz Research vice president Chris Travell, who pointed out that General Motors has also improved in the eyes of would-be millennial car buyers. “The North American manufacturers are making better product than they ever have. You can’t say that they’re not reliable and aren’t good quality anymore.”

Millennials have taken notice. They also aren’t likely to have much memory of the auto world of decades ago, when the perception was that American cars were overpriced and would break down quicker and more often than many imports. “Millennials don’t remember the bad stuff,” said Travell. “They’re coming in as mostly clean slates. Ford is not considered the ‘old Ford’ to this generation.”

The automaker has been catching the eye of younger buyers with its focus on techie features (admittedly, not always successfully), and, most important, a lineup of vehicles and price points that appeal to their needs right now. From 2008 to 2013, more millennials became interested in crossovers and SUVs, and fewer wanted compacts and other small vehicles, which is the strength of Asian car manufacturers like Hyundai, Honda, and Toyota. “The trend of millennials starting families comes at the same time Ford is updating or replacing nearly its entire product lineup,” Amy Marentic, Ford global car and crossover marketing manager, said via press release. “These fastest-growing segments—like small utilities—coincide with Ford’s product strengths.”

Ford has also actively targeted millennials and strategically pursued them as customers now and, ideally, in the future. “One thing we recognized is that millennials don’t want to be just fed information and trust it, necessarily,” said Lisa Schoder, Ford’s global small-car marketing manager, according to Forbes. “So how can we be part of their lives and inform them about our brands and products without overtly advertising to them? That has been our critical differentiator. They need to participate in experiences versus just being spoon-fed something.”

Accordingly, Ford introduced Focus Doug, a “spokespuppet” (a sock puppet, actually) in a series of online videos, and used social media in a variety of other unorthodox, irreverent ways to put vehicles like the Focus, Fiesta, and Escape on the radar of millennials. The Wall Street Journal just reported on Ford’s recent efforts to win over female customers via programs like Live.Drive.Love, which invites women to take Ford cars on 24-hour test drives.

What does reaching out to women have to do with millennials? Well, overall among car buyers, less than 4 in 10 of purchases were made by women in 2013. But among millennials, 53% of buyers are female.

Young women who are starting families or just want more space for mountain bikes and other gear are likely to be intrigued with Ford models like the Escape and Explorer. And those with less need for space, or those with simply smaller budgets will be more likely to go with the subcompact route, via the Fiesta. As Ford crowed last summer, the Fiesta has been a big success in the 18- to 34-year-old demographic, and the Ford brand overall increased retail share among millennials by 80% from 2009 to 2013.

MORE:
10 Things Millennials Won’t Spend Money On
Check Out This Revolutionary Car-Buying Advice—Then Disregard It

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 Advertising

One Fashion Brand Takes the ‘No Photoshop Pledge,’ Who’s Next?

ModCloth is the first retailer to officially promise not to retouch its models, but its not the only company eschewing Photoshop

ModCloth has taken the pledge. The online fashion retailer became the first brand to officially pledge not to retouch its models by signing the Heroes Pledge for Advertisers agreement last week.

The pledge was created by group behind the bipartisan bill called The Truth in Advertising Act, which was introduced in March and asks the Federal Trade Commission to develop regulations regarding retouched advertisements.

By signing the pledge, which is self-regulated, ModCloth has effectively promised three things:

  • To do their best not to change the shape, size, proportion, color or remove or enhance the physical features, of the people in ads in post-production.
  • That if the company does make post-production changes to the people in their ads, they will add a “Truth In Advertising” label.
  • They will not run any ads that include retouched models in media where children under 13 might see them.

It’s not surprising that ModCloth chose to sign the pledge. The San Francisco-based company is known for its vintage-style clothing and accessories marketed to the younger set. “We’ve always believed in celebrating and showing real women in our marketing,” ModCloth chief marketing officer Nancy Ramamurthi told Today, noting that company hasn’t used professional models since its launch in 2002 and has never used Photoshop to retouch them. “It was a no-brainer to sign on and participate.”

Though ModCloth is the first retailer to sign the pledge, thankfully it isn’t alone when it comes to moving away from unrealistic perfection in their catalogues. Earlier this year Aerie, American Eagle’s lingerie brand, released ads that proclaimed, “No more retouching our girls and no more supermodels.” The words went with a series of ads featuring unretouched models complete with tattoos and normal, everyday folds and bulges. (Though they were all slim, young and beautiful…) The brand also redesigned its website to include a bra guide with each product modeled in every size to give the average customer an idea of how the garment would look on them — and not a size zero model.

“This is now our brand,” Aerie’s senior director of marketing Dana Seguin told Fast Company in January. “It’s not a seasonal campaign for us. It is now how we’re talking to our customers.”

And then there’s sportswear company Title Nine, which, unsurprisingly given its name, has a pro-woman outlook. The company uses athletes as their models and, according to the website’s model mission statement: “It’s our models that best represent who we are here at Title Nine. All are ordinary women capable of extraordinary things…. We hope as you look through our online store and our catalog, you’ll see a little bit of yourself in each picture.” Similarly, Betabrand used non-professional models in its spring campaign; instead, online retailer selected women who had PhDs or were doctorial candidates to model the clothes.

Considering that study after study has found that depictions of women in the media have an impact on the way women and girls feel about their own bodies, it’s heartening to know that some companies are taking care about their own portrayals of women’s bodies. But while it would be wonderful to see more companies sign the Heroes Pledge for Advertisers, it would be even more wonderful for such a campaign to be unnecessary.

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