Along with the media, there are advertisements. I wanted to see what women said about the images they saw to get a better understanding of how they perceived the models.
In the survey, there were three advertisements that were shown to the respondents- one ad of 5 plus-sized models, one of an ad that was shot with one straight-sized model and one plus-sized model and one of Demi Moore in an ad with a picture beside it of her naturally.
The first photograph is below and the question asked with it was “What do you see when you look at this ad?”
With or without an experience with eating disorders, the responses were close to the same. There were two types of comments, ones that said they were beautiful and looked normal so that probably meant they were plus-sized models and ones that commented that they had on too much eye makeup and looked bored, sad, and aloof. I found these comments surprising since I was afraid there could have been a slight bias with the questions that proceeded. We’ve been talking about body image, eating disorders and the media and while some did pick up on the fact that they were plus-sized models without a prompt, most were so concentrated on their eye make-up and how they showed themselves. Many called them “beautiful” and said that they saw themselves being represented which actually made them feel good.
Which leads to the second photograph, which was a set of photographs of Demi Moore. The one on the left was of her airbrushed for an advertisement and the one on the right was her naturally at that photo shoot.
About 75% percent of women said they like Demi Moore naturally (on the right) then her airbrushed. Maybe magazines and ads should use less airbrushing and less fake looking people? I’m not sure what the respondents were thinking since I didn’t get written responses from this question, but it’s clear that people love the natural look which is good for Marie Claire since they recently did a whole spread on Jessica Simpson un-airbrushed this past month.
The last set of photographs was with two models, the one on the left is straight-sized and the one on the right is plus-sized, but to me, this was the most telling.
It was too close to say which photograph was preferred the most or which way the industry should take to advertise to women. Women loved the left (49.9%) just a fraction less than the left (50.1%), which was actually a different of only one person! So while this didn’t make a huge conclusion on the surface, it brought up the fact that whether a company uses a straight-sized model or a plus-sized model, it will give the same reaction- half will love it and half won’t.
This is also telling because a recent study conducted by Arizona State University concluded by saying that plus-size models could be detrimental to female consumers. Quoted from a previous blog post I wrote on this study, “the actual finding showed that women with a low BMI showed a boost in self-esteem when they viewed all advertisements because they identified positively to the thinner models and felt different from the heavier models. On the other hand, high BMI showed a decrease in self-esteem when they viewed the advertisements because they weren’t able to identify with the thinner, “idealized,” models, but could to the overweight models.”
“This study also found that the women within the normal BMI range had the greatest shifts in self-esteem depending on what advertisement they were shown. For example, if they viewed a thin model, they felt similar and good and if they saw a moderately heavy model, they worried they were similar and overweight.”
I don’t discredit this study or say that their findings were wrong, even though I found a few flags in the study write-up itself, but based on my survey, their findings didn’t hold true. Like the previous set of photographs, I do not know the actual feelings of the respondents since it was only a “left” or “right” question, but that also makes the answers more definite.