Ralph Lauren Ad: Wrong on So Many Levels

Greetings to the Ladies Jane!

Today I've stubled upon an odd intersection of feminism and digital rights to share with all of you. My two favorite subjects, rolled into an unlikely bitter pill. This doesn't happen often, so I'm going to enjoy it!

The Ralph Lauren Blue Label ad to the right was originally posted (and commented upon) at the PhotoShop Disasters blog. Apparently, Ralph Lauren objected to said activities and issued a bogus DMCA takedown notice ("bogus" because Fair Use includes criticism).

Since Blogger's policies include automatic removal of content subject to any in/valid DMCA takedown notice, the PhotoShop Disasters post disappeared.

The Streisand Effect immediately came into play, and that's how the outraged feminist in me stumbled upon this advertisement glorifying a soul-crushingly unobtainable female body shape. Thank God for the Streisand Effect, otherwise I would have missed my weekly dose of self-righteous indignation! >only slight hyperbole<
Yes, Blogger also happens to host TJP. As a result, the picture you see to the right is actually residing on a TechDirt server. In fact, because of Blogger's policy to remove any subject of an in/valid DMCA takedown request, all pictures in this post are actually links to files residing on servers that in no way belong to me. I hope those server owners will forgive my poor digital manners because I'm doing this to both prove a point and keep this post alive, not to suck their bandwith.

As for the myriad issues with the advertisement itself, suffice it to say that this is a knuckle-dragging step backwards from the news of recent years that indicates a glacially changing (but changing!) international perspective among swimwear designers, magazine editors, runway model organizers, clothing designers, and a portion of the French fashion industry in the unconscionably thin body types displayed by these industries during the entirety of my lifetime.

Of particular interest is the case of Crystal Renn. In her book Hungry: A Young Model's Story of Appetite, Ambition, and The Ultimate Embrace of Curves, she discusses the experience of having lost 70 lbs to land a $250K modeling contract while still in high school. Suffice it to say that while she had that $250K contract, she looked like this:

Eventually, surviving on "lettuce with a side of batshit" caused a break. One day, "something snapped," leading her to quit her agency and move to the Plus Size division of Ford Models. She now shoots fashion campaigns for the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier, Dolce & Gabbana, and UK clothing chain Evans. This is what Renn looks like today -- Healthy, happy, and the most successful American plus-sized model:

You can read more about Renn's experience and book here and here.

Posting this recent picture of Renn brings into focus the sharp contrast between it and the monstrous Ralph Lauren ad above. I've studied design at an undergrad level, so I can usually figure out what ads that fail were trying to accomplish, who their target market was, even if they missed that target. This ad that someone intentionally altered to glorify an impossible-to-achieve crack-whore/cancer-patient silhouette simply baffles me from a design perspective. I can't figure out their target market except to know with utter conviction that I was not part of it. Because of this atrocious ad, I will never, ever purchase anything from the label, even as a gift.

Note to Ralph Lauren: When your model's head appears larger than her pelvis, you have created a side-show freak, not an attractive living mannequin for your clothes, so you might want to reconsider the message your freak is sending about your product.

Renn is a realistically-shaped, realistically beautiful woman. She looks like someone that I might befriend, someone that high school girls who aspire to be models (like she once was) might one day become. The fact that this woman is considered "plus size" (just look at her!) astounds me.

Renn is the archetypal beautiful, healthy woman. She is what we need to be portraying as beautiful and glamorous to not only our girls but to the never-good-enough half of the adult population that is female. If we're to ever win the fight for the hearts, minds, and souls of our females, we have to practice what we preach, live what we speak, and further what we write.

That we cannot discuss an advertisement (with legal digital supporting material) that doesn't further a corporation's monetary aims without legal bullying (I am looking at you, Ralph Lauren) and without the recourse the law provides (I'm looking at you, Blogger) is a powerful statement about who has the power in this country.

I, for one, do not generally believe that just because Big Money always has the power that it is always right. I, in fact, believe that in the vast majority of cases, the power that Big Money wields is morally (if not legally) wrong. In this case, it is both. Releasing that ad was morally wrong, and submitting a bogus DMCA takedown notice was legally wrong. Since Blogger is complicit in the injustice, PhotoShopDisasters cannot fight back.

We can. Just a little, but we can.

Comment on this post. Tell us how you feel. Drive traffic to this post. E-mail it to everyone you know. Post about it in other blogs that have audiences that care either about women's issues or digital rights, or both. Write a letter to Ralph Lauren, include a copy of the ad. Write about how their ad affects you, personally; women, as a group; and us, as a culture. Write about how their ad is a throwback to an earlier time, and how shamed they should feel. Talk to people: About Crystal Renn, about the small changes we've been seeing in the perspective in the fasion world, about the importance of actual humans as the people we see, not painted stick figures that couldn't possibly be alive. Demand that companies that sell the products you buy use advertising that features people who look like people who could actually exist.

Read. Write. Talk. Demand. Change begins with us.


Ralph Lauren ad: TechDirt
Crystal Renn then:
The Sun
Crystal Renn now:
The Sun

CVS Pharmacy WIN!

Overview: There are several CVS programs/tools that I've become familiar with over the last few years of shopping with them. Over time, I've developed an eye for combining and stacking the benefits of all of them to obtain remarkable savings.

CVS Card: Like a grocery store discount card, the CVS Card allows CVS to track your purchases, but also entitles you to discounts. Such cards enrage privacy advocates, but I think that paying me (in the way of discounts) is fair compensation for using my purchase history as marketing material. The CVS Card comes in key-chain and credit-card sizes, and a telephone number can be tied to it as well (I did not provide mine). I believe only 2 CVS Cards are allowed per household, but different cards can be linked online so that they are treated as the same account (even with different card numbers) so that a household's aggregate spending can be combined.

Extra Bucks: Tied to the use the use of a CVS card and awarded quarterly, these are usable like cash in CVS stores on most products (alcohol, tobacco, and prescriptions excluded). The main source of EBs is a percentage of your purchases, but additional EBs are awarded for filling new prescriptions (or transferring them from other pharmacies), and as after-the-fact discounts on items (buy X, get Y EBs). The EBs are printable online and also print on CVS receipts, so they're easy to cash in once awarded. The trickiest thing about after-the-fact discount EBs is that they aren't always awarded the same way: Some are awarded immediately after a purchase (printing on that receipt), others are held until the quarterly EB award. To be sure of when such EBs will be awarded, the yellow stickers on the shelf underneath the merchandise in question will indicate when the EBs for that purchase will be awarded. EBs do expire, but the expiry date is clearly visible on the EBs (either receipt-prints or online prints).

Circulars, Clip-Free Coupon Books, and In-Store Sales: Like grocery stores, CVS has a weekly circular (available online and in-store) with that week's in-store sales listed, most discounts requiring a CVS card (but no coupon clipping). The clip-free coupon books (also available online and in-store) seem to appear every month or so in addition to the weekly circulars.

Marketing E-mails & CVS Website: Like most other on-line retailers (and make no mistake, CVS is an online retailer as well as brick-and-mortar), you can register on the website to receive weekly marketing e-mail. If you register a CVS Card online as well, you can review/print EBs, weekly circulars, clip-free coupons, and create/print shopping lists. I am on their e-mail marketing list, and I receive printable coupons via these e-mails (my favorites are the $2 off $10, $4 off $20, and $5 off $25, seeming to arrive every 4-to-6 weeks). Product-specific coupons arrive by e-mail as well, and I can't remember receiving more than 1 e-mail in a given week (unless the second e-mail was one of my favorite coupons, that is!). NOTE: The in-store and online discounts are often different. Below is today's in-store WIN, but I've accomplished the same sort of WIN with website orders, too.

CVS Website Edu-Quizes: This seems to happen roughly twice a year. You take a less-than-5-minute quiz on a health topic, and at the end you can print a $5 off $25 coupon. You don't even have to answer the questions correctly! The last two quizzes were about the importance of refilling and taking prescriptions on time and about the flu shot.

In-Store Coupon Kiosks: Like the price-checkers at Target and Wal-Mart, these price-checkers will print coupons if you scan a CVS Card instead of a UPC. I scan mine on every single visit.

Today's Extraordinary CVS WIN:

16.99 OptiFree Express Saline, 2-pk
            (in-store sale 14.99 + 2 Extra Bucks awarded immediately)

4.79 Gold Emblem Roasted Almonds (in-store sale 3/$10)
4.79 Gold Emblem Roasted Almonds (in-store sale 3/$10)
4.79 Gold Emblem Roasted Almonds (in-store sale 3/$10)
12.49 Maxwell House Coffee (in-store sale 6.77)
9.99 Ferreria Hair Color (in-store sale 7.99)
9.99 Ferreria Hair Color (in-store sale 7.99)
7.69 CVS-brand Acetominophen Arthritis (i.e. extended release) (in-store sale $5)
7.69 CVS-brand Acetominophen Arthritis (i.e. extended release) (in-store sale $5)
4.99 Repelle hair-color stain shield

Total, Non-Discount (off-the-street retail): $84.20

-2.00 Extra Bucks from Saline purchase, completed separately first
-2.00 2 off 10 Gold Emblem Nuts coupon printed from in-store kiosk
-2.00 2 off 10 pain reliever coupon printed from in-store kiosk
-2.50 Clip-free manufacturer's coupon for Maxwell House coffee
-5.00 5 off 25 from online flu-Shot edu-quiz, computer-printed
-5.00 5 off 25 coupon from marketing e-mail, computer-printed
-9.00 Extra Bucks from previous purchases, printed on previous receipt

Discount Total, Extra Bucks, Kiosk/E-Mail/Edu-Quiz Coupons: $27.50

-2.00 Saline, CVS Card
-4.37 Nuts, CVS Card
-5.72 Coffee, CVS Card
-4.00 Haircolor, CVS Card
-5.38 Pain reliever, CVS Card

Discount Total, CVS-Card-Required In-Store Sales: $21.47

Total Spent on Today's Discounted Purchase: $35.23

Total Savings: $48.97