The post holi-daze body hangover is really no fun, I must say. Too many sweets, too much booze, and too little self-discipline is not a recipe for success of any kind. But you know what? #NoRegrets. Life is short, and eating butter cookies all day for 2 weeks straight is only acceptable during the most wonderful time of the year.
When we leave the holidays behind, we are, without fail, welcomed into the New Year with the annual Month of Body-Shaming, in which we are inundated with diet commercials, green juice cleanses, and gym membership specials. I would seriously like to hear just one new years resolution that doesn’t sneak in some kind of weight loss goal. The supposed perpetual 10 pounds you (slash everyone ever) have to lose does not a New Year's resolution make. Honestly. Get deeper, people!
Of course, 2014 would be remiss to not include an onslaught of body-shaming commercials from our greatest frenemies in advertising: Weight Watchers and Special K.
Take a look:
Cute, right? Innocent, right?
Uhm, no. Am I missing the post-sexist irony here, Weight Watchers? A little girl is dreaming of “anything being possible” and she dreams about lollipop rain? What about being president, or becoming a scientist, or an astronaut, or a doctor? I mean, if we’re really talking anything, what about world peace? Nah, Weight Watchers is just confirming that women--for their entire lives—dream about one thing: shrinking their bodies to a socially accepted norm so they can feel pretty (read: acceptable).
The campaign, which includes Jessica Simpson as a spoke person, and other similar versions of the same basic commercial, is about possibilities and reaching your fullest potential. It is nothing less than absurdly insulting to insinuate that a woman’s fullest potential has anything to do with losing 20 pounds or going down a jean size.
Ok, so this commercial is really well done. It has the inspirational music, the emotional voiceover, the shots of culturally and racially diverse women, and it really feels like a pretty feel-good moment. They're right, women are tired of being defined by a number on the scale!
But let's be real. The commercial is STILL selling the correlation between weight loss and beauty, between loving yourself and being smaller. Nothing new is being done here.
I know that losing weight does feel good. You do gain confidence, and for some people with certain health-related circumstances it’s actually life saving, but let’s be really honest with ourselves about why we feel good/beautiful when we lose weight (hint: it’s the intense pressure from unrealistic societal ideals that are totally unachievable and designed to make you feel perpetually unworthy, and that equate women's worth with body image).
Special K is not your best bud cheering you on to be a better you, they’re leeching off of the body-shaming women have internalized from sexist cultural expectation their entire lives (which even the commercial owns up to!). These campaigns are not coincidentally taking on a new life during the most vulnerable time of the year, when we are encouraged to look at our lives and undoubtedly, our bodies, and bring attention to where we fall short (a.k.a make a New Year's resolution). They’re kicking you while you’re down, like a wolf in a sheep's skin, pretending to be boosting your confidence while simultaneously undermining it with the message that you are not good enough as you are.
Believe me, you are good enough as you are. Just keep reading that until you believe it, because it's true.
Could you imagine the time and energy women would save if they stopped worrying about dieting? Could you imagine the room we would have for knowledge in our brains if they weren’t being crowded with insecurities and information about how to change our bodies? I know for sure that my brain is way too full of that shit. I can not off-hand name all of the countries in which we are currently at war, but I can tell you all about why avocados will help you get thin (which I recognize as a totally gross problem). What about you?
The reason these ads have me so angry, is because it’s that all-too-familiar incognito, underground sexism. On the surface, these commercials look like they are carrying banners for women's personal empowerment, but they are as oppressive as ever. Do yourself a favor and don’t fall for it. Instead of sorting through thinspo pins (except maybe these) or researching a Dr. Oz cleanse, cruise some body-positive blogs, and re-imagine your New Years resolutions into something truly fulfilling, something that is honestly and unabashedly reflective of your fullest potential, and give Weight Watchers and Special K the finger.