The London-based Advertising Standards Authority, an independent regulator, has taken up a new battle against Urban Outfitters for a lingerie shot on their website and in their catalog in which a model had a significant “thigh gap,” which the ASA called “unhealthily thin” and “irresponsible.” The clothing company removed the image from their website, but similar ones remain, and Urban Outfitters has made it plain that they disagree with the ASA’s assessment, insisting in a statement that their model was not underweight but naturally slim and that it’s “common practice to use slim models in the underwear industry.” (Way to win everyone over, guys!)
British advertisements are policed a lot more stringently than ones in the United States (multiple mascara ads in which a model was clearly wearing false lashes or had computer-enhanced ones have been pulled over the years, for example). But this latest scandal is more interesting because it’s not about making a false product promise or altered images (like a previously banned anti-aging ad in which Rachel Weisz’s skin had been smoothed), but rather a real human body being used to sell an irresponsible standard. Begging the question: Is it OK for an ad group to theoretically ban a body type?
No offense to the model in this ad, but to me, the answer is a resounding yes. Without some protest and industry standards, it’s impossible to encourage the model diversity customers want or ensure the safety of working models and impressionable customers. (A few months back, NBC News ran a special segment on teenagers who used social media to obsess over images of thigh gaps, many of which weren’t even real.)
A real thigh gap is largely genetic, and this underwear gal may well have very thin thighs naturally—a high-school friend of mine with a similar body type constantly fought rumors that she had an eating disorder; that totally sucked for her and was unfair—so I don’t think an analysis of this model’s particular body is part of the solution here. Proud2bme.org, the U.S. National Eating Disorders Association’s body-positive website, agrees. There, a post by Amanda Jones helpfully suggests that instead of analyzing the Urban Outfitters pic for signs that the model herself has an eating disorder, young women can choose to boycott the brand and shop other brands that use a more diverse array of models.
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