Michelle Cove
August 3, 2015

Let’s go (skin)deeper than body-positive ads.

by Michelle Cove, Executive Director MEDIAGIRLS

It seems all at once, we collectively said “Enough!” when it comes to seeing the same one body type– long legs, toned abs, big breasts, tiny waist–plastered all over the media.

Just this month we’ve seen women rail against Instagram’s announcement that users are banned from using the hashtag “#Curvy” (as it is frequently used to share porn). Women insist the hashtag is necessary to share body-positive images of plus-size (and regular-size) women, and want it back. A social-media campaign called #DropTheTowel encourages girls and women of all body types to wear their bathing suits with pride, and #RockTheCrop does the same in regards to crop tops. Target just announced “Target Chooses Real Women,” as their new marketing campaign featuring real women with various body shapes wearing their swimwear.

“Isn’t this awesome?!” many have asked me.

Kind of.


It’s true that for far too long, mainstream media has presented us with the one vision of ideal beauty described above, which less than 5% of females possess. Photoshop and airbrushing have made it seem like it’s highly achievable–leaving too many girls feeling insecure at best with their bodies. So, this is good news.

But here’s what worries me. We are still too hyper-focused on girls and women’s bodies. Even if we see a variety of shapes, we are still talking about their bodies. When celebrities show themselves sans Photoshop on magazine covers or ads feature plus-size women…it still keeps us talking about their bodies.

What about focusing on who we are within our bodies, and what we bring to the world?

My favorite campaign this year has been “#DistractinglySexy,” in which women scientists railed against Nobel-prize winning scientist Tim Hunt, who said that women scientists shouldn’t be in labs since they fall in love too easily, or cry too much when criticized. In a glorious act of retailiation, real scientists posted images of themselves on Twitter wearing goggles Hazmat suits, and protective scientific gear, mocking Hunt’s statement with tweets like, “#DistractinglySexy: I took a break from crying and falling in love with my male colleagues to get a few samples done” and “Still #DistractinglySexy after a full day of cell culture.” I loved this campaign because 1) it broke the stereotype that scientists aren’t funny (my daughter and I laughed our butts off), and 2) it focused on women’s intelligence and abilities.

I also loved the #LikeAGirl ad campaign for Always, which challenged the notion that “like a girl” is inherently bad–and sparked a national conversation on the topic. The follow up “Unstoppable” ad challenges the various ways we put girls “in boxes.” Lean Cuisine’s campaign #WeighThis asks how we weigh our value and success.

This is the kind of media content that I get excited about, because it truly changes the way we value ourselves. Yes, let’s keep seeing more versions of external beauty reflected back to us in the media, but let’s not forget that our girls and young women need to know that what makes them worthwhile goes far deeper.