No One Wants to Look at Plus Size Models

Cynthia Dermody
6

Dove soapRemember a few years ago when Dove dared to go against the grain and featured plus-size models in their "Real Beauty" soap ads for the first time? All the women's groups and medical associations hailed this as a major victory. Finally, real women. To the end of the rein of stick-thin waifs! they cheered.

All this for the belief that bigger women felt really crappy about themselves after seeing images of pretty thin women, women they would likely never be.

Well, a few years later, I'm still not seeing too many big chicks on the covers of magazines, or even tucked into the middle fold, or even hidden way back yonder in the rarely read well.

Nope, just lots and lots of skinny ones.

The rest of the industry just didn't hop on that bandwagon. They probably knew all along what some researchers at Arizona State University recently discovered: Fat women in ads don't make people feel better and want to buy products after all.

The researchers showed women of various Body Mass Indexes (BMI) ads of models of various sizes -- slim, normal, and overweight. Yeah, the self esteem of heavy ladies looking at slim models was pretty crappy, but they didn't feel a whole lot better seeing the bigger ones, either, because they felt like they were looking in a mirror.

The findings from Arizona State University News:

  • Low-BMI, thinner women tended to experience a boost in self-esteem when they viewed all models because they identified positively with the thinner models and saw themselves as different from the heavier models.
  • Higher-BMI, heavier women dropped in self-esteem when looking at all models because they saw themselves as different from the thinner, idealized ones and similar to the overweight models.
  • Normal-BMI women had the most shifts in self-esteem, depending on what types of images they saw and could therefore be the most influenced by pictures in ads. For example, if they viewed a moderately thin model, they felt similar and good; if they saw a moderately heavy model, they worried they were similar and overweight.

I'm all for thin models on magazine covers. Thin and healthy, mind you. The kind of thin that comes from working your @ss off at the gym and eating in moderation kind of thin. It's good to have a goal.

Because in a way, it's giving attention to a minority group. Isn't that what we're always told we should do? It's shocking but true that 70 percent of our adult population is overweight, leaving only 30 percent qualifying as thin, and growing smaller all the time.

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