Dear Aerie, all women are REAL.
Hello from finals week, ya’ll. I’m taking a study break to write to you all about something very unsettling I saw on social media tonght.
So most of you probably know that tonight the Victoria Secret Fashion Show aired on TV. And i’m sure most you have also heard some pretty strong support and criticism of the show. But what I saw tonight that was unsettling was not actually from the show…It was from Aerie, American Eagle’s brand for women’s intimate wear and arguably one of Victoria Secret’s top competitors.
Let me give you some back story: This past year Aerie started a campaign called Aerie Real. The brand decided it was no longer going to retouch their models or hire girls that only look like supermodels. They have branded this campaign with the tag lines “Love me, don’t retouch me” and “The real you is sexy.” For this I support them 100%. I was so impressed when this came out last spring. Aerie chose to model girls of all different shapes and sizes in order to showcase the variety that beauty demands. They decided to be a beacon of light in a world that tells women they need to look a very certain way in order to be beautiful.
Naturally, everyone looks to Victoria Secret as the opposite of this campaign. Victoria Secret has been widely and horrifically known as a company that appreciates only one (and many claim, unrealistic) body type. They have had countless advertisements of women with thin frames, long legs and large busts, often with the tag line “The Perfect Body.”
So tonight, when the Victoria Secret Fashion Show aired, Aerie decided to Instagram some words of encouragement for their female followers:
These were great. While girls watched the Victoria Secret “Angels” strut down the runway and many probably became discouraged, thinking to themselves “I could never look like that”, Aerie attempted to remind them that they are beautifully unique. Who doesn’t want to be encouraged in this way? I appreciated Aerie’s attempt to remind women that those models on the runway do not represent all girls, and that there are women who look nothing like them that are beautiful and sexy and real.
However, then Aerie posted this…
And I immediately took back every good thought I had just had. In the midst of reminding their followers that those models on the runway do not represent all girls they decided those models on the runway are not actually girls. They were suddenly somehow less than human… I was utterly shocked and disgusted. I thought that the whole “Aerie Real” campaign was supposed to validate the variety of girl’s bodies. Yet these words (“Real girls don’t wear wings”) in no way validate the real women who were walking on that runway tonight. While much (if not all) of Victoria Secret’s advertisements are retouched, the bodies of those women were not. Those are real women, who work hard for their bodies. Yes, most likely almost all of them have flawed conceptions of what makes a woman beautiful, but that does not lessen their value as a woman.
Aerie Real, which began as a voice of encouragement and empowerment, has suddenly took a sharp turn for the worse. Instead of uplifting women, tonight the brand stooped so slow as to actually attack women. True women’s empowerment is about appreciating all women. It is not about holding one class of women above another. Up until tonight, Aerie had done a remarkable job at valuing all women equally. Tonight, it attacked the women who actually do have the body type of the Victoria Secret models, and the models themselves, and told them “You aren’t a real woman.” They were previously trying to tell girls that you don’t have to look like a victoria secret angel to be beautiful. Now, they have told girls that if you do look like this, you are not beautiful.
Somehow in Aerie’s hope of showcasing the beauty of the female figure in its variety and reality, they have disrespected and devalued an entire body type and every single one of the women on that runway tonight. And i’m not the only one who is upset about it, you need only to scroll through the comments on the instagram picture to see the unrest. Hundreds of women are disagreeing with the campaign that they had previously supported.
When we will see a media campaign that tells us that all women are beautiful? and that all women are real? No matter the body type. All women have worth and value…because they are a woman… because they are a human being with innate dignity.
I hope it is one day soon.