What These Hashtag Campaigns Have To Say About The "Right" Plus-Size Body

Photographed by Jade Beall Photography.
Forget picket signs; hashtags are how this generation sends a message. On the heels of Lane Bryant's massively successful #ImNoAngel campaign, some women have taken issue with it — something they see as an exclusive message dressed up as body positivity — and they're fighting back with more hashtags. Last week saw #ImNoModelEither trending, with plus-size women posting photos of themselves in lingere to counter the Lane Bryant campaign. And today, blogger and activist Jes Baker of The Militant Baker published a series of photos under the hashtag #EmpowerAllBodies as an open letter to the plus retailer.

Baker recreated the #ImNoAngel campaign with a diverse group of plus women. Using hashtag #EmpowerALLBodies, she recreated Lane Bryant's black-and-white No Angel images with bodies she feels are more representative: women with small chests and protruding stomachs, women with tattoos, older women, transgender women, women with disabilities, with non-Photoshopped skin that reveals stretch marks and cellulite show. Baker is no stranger to photo protests of body shaming: She's worked on past projects like “Attractive & Fat,” a play on the controversy surrounding Abercrombie & Fitch, and parodied the homogenous models in perfume ads,

Accompany the pics was a letter addressed to Lane Bryant CEO Linda Heasley pleading for her to “widen [her] definition of sexy” and incorporate bodies that don't fit the “ideal” in future advertising. Baker writes about a meeting that took place place between Lane Bryant and her fellow plus-size blogger peers to discuss how the brand could better serve its community. She writes, "Those in attendance openly requested more diversity both on the catwalk and online. That, and less Sharkbite dresses, wink wink. I left the lunch inspired and looking forward to what Lane Bryant would produce next. Truthfully? While it's absolutely gorgeous, I expected more than the #ImNoAngel campaign."
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Photo: Courtesy of Amanda Richards.
This followed last week's hashtag campaign #ImNoModelEither. This one, spearheaded by body-acceptance blogger Amanda Richards, took on what she believes is another example of how plus brands fail to represent their customer base.

“I thought that the campaign was really gorgeous, and I was really pumped that they chose to use women of color,” Richards says of the Lane Bryant ads. “After looking at the photos for awhile, I realized that all of those gorgeous models were relatively the same size and shape, and that in some of the photos, their bodies were configured to hide their tummies.” Richards posted images of her size-18 self in underwear on her blog, and encouraged her followers to do the same, proclaiming #ImNoModelEither. 

Richards also felt that the campaign name, #ImNoAngel, was a direct dig at Lane Bryant competitor Victoria's Secret (though both companies were previously owned by L Brands Inc., Lane Bryant has been owned separately by Charming Shoppes since 2001), and yet another example of an “us versus them” mentality. Cult of California designer Jen Wilder agreed: 
“Taking down other women in order to represent your brand does nothing but turn me off. I think the whole plus industry and Lane Bryant would do well to get their own viewpoints to sell their merchandise instead of co-opting outdated mindsets of body comparison and in general 'othering' people in order to prove that your brand/style/body is worthy.” 
Said a spokesperson from Lane Bryant, “With our '#ImNoAngel' campaign, we intend to empower women of all shapes and sizes. At Lane Bryant, we encourage the embracing of a woman’s natural body and with this slogan we want to let her know that the idealized body type, which she is constantly confronted with in the media, is not realistic for the vast majority of female consumers. While we entirely respect our competitor’s position, we stand in unity with ALL women and encourage them to embrace their bodies because all women are beautiful."

The models in Lane Bryant's campaign aren't shaped like Victoria's Secret's Angels, to be sure, but they are still conventionally beautiful women. “If you are saying that you are diverse, you have to show that diversity in more than skin tone," says Wilder. "The models in the Lane Bryant ad are beautiful, attractive, angel-faced, traditionally 'pretty' models, which is fine, but don't tell me you're being inclusive of all plus women when not ONE fat roll, stretch mark, or cellulite dimple is represented here.”
Photo: Courtesy of Amanda Richards.
However, one side effect of the #ImNoAngel campaign is universally appreciated: A few years ago, the mere sight of an advertisement with a lingerie-clad plus-size body would have been considered obscene — remember Ashley Graham's banned lingerie ad circa 2010? The increase in body-positive bloggers, brands, editorials, and, yes, advertising, has brought on a welcome shift.

Though these counter hashtag campaigns have stayed relatively confined to those within the plus community so far, Richards believe that more women should pay attention: “I want women to see that they don't just have to accept the idea that plus-size fashion works in 'baby steps.' We are allowed to ask for more, to demand more representation from the places where we spend our money. I also want to convey that the body positivity movement in general needs to be — no, has to be — more inclusive. Body positivity is about so much more than being a gorgeous fat woman in her underwear. It's radical self-love that needs to be limitless, less focused on valuing beauty, instead valuing people's inherent worth and completely inclusive...or else what's the point?”

Ed. note: Lane Bryant is currently an advertising partner of Refinery29.


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