If, like me, you’re a female at or near the 50 year mark, you remember the 1980s saw the emergence of teen girls with eating disorders that seemingly reached epidemic proportions. For you, these statistics gathered from studies conducted over the last 20 years are, unfortunately, nothing new:
- 42% of girls in 1st-3rd grade want to be thinner
- 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of becoming fat
- 51% of 9 and 10 year old girls feel better about themselves if they’re on a diet
We also know the chances of growing out of these beliefs and attitudes is a toss-up, at best:
- 50% of those with diagnosed eating disorders will fully recover; 30% will partially recover; 20% will realize zero improvement
- 3% of adolescent and adult females and 1% of adolescent and adult males have a diagnosed eating disorder
- 15% of young females exhibit substantial disordered eating behaviors and attitudes
- A college campus survey revealed 91% of females attempt to control their weight by dieting on any given day
- 45% of American women and 25% of men are dieting on any given day
And here are fashion and beauty industry marketing facts that haven’t changed over the last 40 years:
- The average American woman is 5’4″ and 140 lbs (size 12); the average American model is 5’11” and 117 lbs (size 2)
- Female models are thinner than 98% of the American female population
- Non-Caucasian and older women (both 35-65 and 65+ age ranges) are vastly under-represented in fashion and beauty ads
The apparent reason the fashion marketing industry is so slow to change is the unsubstantiated belief among industry players that women are more likely to purchase if they see the product displayed in an idealistic manner. And, conventional wisdom in the industry states that using models that more closely represent the average population would equate to lower revenues.
That is, until now. Thanks to studies conducted more recently, the truth is women are 200-300% more likely to purchase clothing if they see it displayed on a model similar to their body type and non-Caucasian women are 150% more likely to purchase if the item is modeled by someone of their race. Which means, the industry would likely profit from changing the model paradigm despite the industry’s long belief the opposite would occur.
And a few companies have done just that. Some have adopted a more inclusive marketing approach out of principle, others have done it in an attempt to increase market share at the expense of their short-sighted competitors.
I don’t care about the reasons. I want my dollars to send the message to the entire industry that the old way is just that – old, outdated, so yesterday. Only then will they all be persuaded to make serious changes, if only to improve their bottom lines.
Be a hero and support these forward-thinking companies that promote a positive body image for all.
- Modcloth, Seventeen Magazine, Aerie and Darling Magazine: made the pledge to refrain from photoshopping in their ads and publications and to use models of diverse body types and races.
A few companies directly countered this insulting ad from Victoria’s Secret:
Others have simply incorporated previously under-represented women into their campaigns:
And, my personal favorite, Athleta. A company that has long quietly celebrated fitness and strength with women of every body type, at every age and in every skin color:
The tide is finally turning. The more we all support these early adopters, the greater their profits, the more others will follow. It’s a win-win for everyone.