On Monday Lane Bryant launched a campaign to challenge the women's beauty standards put forward by the industry bulwarks, specifically, it seems, Victoria's Secret. The campaign, entitled #ImNoAngel, features "plus-sized" models offering their interpretations of the word 'sexy.' The advertisements publicize Cacique, Lane Bryant's line of plus-sized lingerie. So these advertisements, along with a social media campaign, are launched and we laud Lane Bryant as championing diverse beauty standards and taking a step in the direction of freeing women from the oppressive standards set forth by the big names of the industry. I'm unimpressed.
Not everyone is 'sexy.' No matter how many campaigns are launched, no matter the rhetoric surrounding it, it will never be true. Now if you haven't taken offense and closed this tab already, here's my point. Not everyone has to be 'sexy.' The fact that we feel such a campaign needs to be launched speaks to a deeper problem with how we as a society view women. The real problem, which Lane Bryant leaves completely unaddressed in their campaign, is that we still use a woman's physical beauty as the definitive measure of her worth. Even now, as inadvertently evidenced by this campaign, a woman's value is irrevocably tied to her physical appearance. This is not the case with men and this disparity reveals a significant inequality in our perception of the sexes.
You see, man's value has long been determined by deeper elements of his person; his intelligence, his articulateness, his cleverness and so on. This isn't to say that we don't all possess an affinity for handsome men, we do. We likewise have an affinity for beautiful women. The difference, though, is that while a man might be less than handsome we recognize that he has more to offer than the appearance of his face and rarely is his body considered unless it is of an extreme. Unfortunately our estimation of a woman tends to begin and end with her outward appearance. Subsequently, a woman's worth becomes so lamentably dependent on her face and figure that a campaign such as #ImNoAngel becomes, well, necessary in order to help every woman find value within themselves. In order to make significant steps towards true equality, though, we needn't claim that every woman is sexy but rather place an emphasis on women's inner qualities.
And in any event we cannot depend on advertisements to shape our self-perception, no matter how well intentioned they might be. Coincidentally that is the message of my first article and the same holds true now. In spite Lane Bryant's best intentions, the women featured in their advertisements are still models and, as such, prettier than most. They are held to a standard of beauty that most cannot and needn't try to attain. After all, they look good for a living. That said, being good looking, in and of itself, cannot exactly be qualified as a talent and shouldn't be regarded as one. A talent requires cultivation and effort. Being born attractive is the epitome of chance. It has absolutely nothing to do with the individual and in this way is unimpressive. Everyone, though, has the capacity to attain a healthier physique through diet and exercise and as we go about assuming a broader view of what constitutes beauty this should not be neglected.
Recently, for my writing class, I read Walker Percy's essay, "The Loss of the Creature." In the essay Percy insists that we must reclaim our sovereignty over how we perceive our experiences. It did not occur to Percy that we would have to reclaim our sovereignty over how we perceive ourselves. People will not be happy until they assign themselves a worth independent of factors existing outside the self. Admittedly this is not easy, as many are prone to consider others' opinions concerning them. However, as we go about recovering our self-perception let us primarily concern ourselves not with our outward appearances, but the content of our characters and more importantly, how we can use our respective talents to help others.