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.