Uniting women should not require dividing them

Brooke Frenkel / Contributing Writer

opinion@fiusm.com


 

I think that it would be fair to conclude that our generation has developed the largest feminist movement in American history. But sometimes, I wonder if the mass media has truly understood this shift in consciousness or if they are still trying to appeal to older mentalities. The recent campaign launched by the plus-size retailer Lane Bryant truly attacks this question at its core. Lane Bryant originally began designing maternity clothes in the early 1900s. In its beginning stages, Lane Bryant was an innovator in the media; the company made a name for itself in the New York Herald by being the first company to convince a newspaper to publish a racy topic like – gasp – pregnancy.  Right before the First World War, the company noticed a need in the market for “stout figured” women. Today, Lane Bryant is arguably the most recognized name in plus-size retail. In April, the company launched the “I’m No Angel” campaign, a quip targeted at the smaller-framed Victoria’s Secret Angels.

The campaign was both widely praised and criticized, and it undoubtedly received the attention it deserved. The ad is beautifully shot, but I think the message it sends to the masses is discouraging. Instead of empowering women of all shapes, it highlighted the differences in body perception and acceptance in our culture, which demands the realization that the media should recognize the need for unity of women in our society.

Feminism is, by definition, the advocacy of women’s rights on social, economic and political grounds. But feminism is also, in a sense, the liberation of women through the breakdown of old thought processes and beliefs. How can all women truly be liberated if we are always pitted against each other by the mass media? We cannot enforce ideals that women are not beautiful because they “look anorexic” or “fat is ugly” and expect to one day live in a gender-equal society. How can we demand respect when we put each other down for physical appearances? And most importantly, why are we criticizing people with eating disorders, whether it be anorexia or compulsive eating, instead of calling it what it is: a mental illness?

I see pictures on Instagram floating around saying, “Real women have curves; not bones” and “Meat is for men. Bones are for dogs.” And on the fat shaming spectrum, most everyone on social media has seen, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”

This is absolutely wrong – not only can I easily think of at least three things right now, but this type of attitude is reinforcing the problem. Women should be able to have a healthy relationship with food and their bodies without being subject to the input of society. By liking and sharing these posts, we are accepting the status quo that we are on this planet for the sole purpose of providing visual entertainment to the dominating male culture.

By releasing the “I’m No Angel” campaign, Lane Bryant consciously put a wedge of bitterness between skinny and fat women by creating an ingroup and an outgroup. Psychologists refer to this theory as the “us” versus “them.” Arguably, it could be said that Victoria’s Secret created this by not including plus-size models in their “Angel” campaign, in which case, I digress, but who I put the blame on is irrelevant. Rather, it is important to acknowledge the social stratifications of our society and the impact that the mass media has on our subconscious.

As young women working our butts off to obtain a degree that says we are good enough to work in the real world, it is essential that we unite in our diversity.

Miami is populated with successful women, but it is important for us to remember that we can maintain status without knocking each other down. We are stronger as a whole than we are as individuals.

As educated women, we need to make a conscious effort to present ourselves as intellects. Gone are the days where we are viewed as accessories to our male population. We must support one another; our fight towards equality needs to be a gratifying, unified victory.

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