But, it doesn’t have to — and shouldn't — be like this. Jes, the blogger behind The Militant Baker, and photographer Liora K recently produced a faux campaign that challenges our expectations for the body types featured in a high-end ad. After the enormous success of Jes’ first thought-provoking photo shoot (remember the Attractive & Fat spread she created as a response to Abercrombie & Fitch’s CEO’s resurfaced negative comments about carrying plus-size clothing?), it's no surprise that she’s once again causing a ruckus with her latest shoot, “Lustworthy.”
Completely enthralled, we had to sit down and speak to Jes about her inspiration, her feelings about body diversity, and what the future of advertising holds.
What drove you to create this faux ad?
"Liora and I are often scheming new, innovative ways to challenge social norms through photography. The most powerful way to shift the way we view these cultural rules is to repeatedly counter exclusionary imagery with positive, inclusive imagery. Liora and I decided that an entire series was in order, and a sexy shoot with my body seemed like the logical first step.
I’ve been conceptualizing this series for the past six months (since the Attractive & Fat campaign), and I remember the waves that the simple No Limits ad caused in October and thinking, 'Okay, it’s high time we countered our standardized advertisements with unapologetic full-body shots.' I’m so happy to be providing something that doesn’t exist elsewhere. There is such a need."
Have you seen any improvements with the inclusion of diverse bodies in ads in the last few years?
"Yes. We are finally having conversations about what body acceptance and love really means. We are atop a rumbling body-positive movement right now, and it’s growing daily. Although, nearly all of it leaves out the 'lust-worthy' factor. We see different types of bodies here and there, but it’s still too progressive to attach sex appeal. While the No Limits ad gives us a tiny peephole into what this may look like, we don’t currently see any difference in mainstream media — and that’s why Lustworthy is critical for forward movement. It’s bold, unapologetic, and steamy. We need more blatant body love in this world."
"It isn’t lucrative. Exclusion is the highest paying gimmick out there, and so, from a business standpoint, it’s brilliant. Ninety-five percent of women will never have what is portrayed as 'ideal' in our culture, and so, when you market this perfection, you have the world beneath your thumb. It’s genius. But, when you step back and look at the negative repercussions that this causes (low self-esteem, eating disorders, suicide, etc.), it’s not worth it, and so we must actively challenge our beauty standards."
Do you think it's done as a gimmick or to seem "daring" when they include diverse bodies?
"We are seeing somewhat of an influx of 'body-positive' advertising currently, because companies are hearing the rumblings mentioned above and know that this is an up-and-coming revolution. But, for the most part, it’s still advertising, and because it is so, it’s dishonest with its intentions. Dove and Kellogg’s may 'play nice' through their new campaigns, but ultimately they are selling you inadequacy. There is no money to be found in contentment, and so I am wary of all large corporations that sell 'personal betterment' products while telling you that you’re perfect. It’s the beauty and diet industry that are showing up as wolves in sheep’s clothing, and we must use critical thinking to decipher these situations."
Is there any brand/company that you feel is doing a good job with this?
"For the most part, I think that advocates have been the only ones with true empowerment as their intention. So, this makes it complicated; companies will need to find a way to sell products while not damaging women’s (and men’s) self-esteem, which is what we’ve been perfecting since the late 1800s. It may be impossible, but that’s a chance I want to see them take.
I’m not concerned about their bottom line; I’m concerned about the false expectations we see as women in this culture! This is why I spend my time creating alternative campaigns to offer a counter perspective, so that we can all embrace our body as is and live a happy and fulfilling life!"