Ads throw women a curve, but no way will fat fad last

August 30, 2005|By SUSAN REIMER

I DON'T KNOW about you, but sometimes I walk down the street looking at other women and think:

"Fatter than me. Thinner than me. Fatter than me."

And I occasionally also think: "Pass the french fries."

That's when I spot a woman so fat or so thin I know one more, or one less, french fry is not going to deliver me to either extreme.

Nike, Dove and, for heaven's sake, Chicken of the Sea, are taking all the fun out of this game by using female models who are supposed to be, well, as fat as me.

Nike is promoting big butts and big thighs in its current ad campaign for women's gear. The catch is, the body parts belong to powerfully built female athletes.

The Nike women aren't overweight. They are strong and toned and muscular, and this ad does not represent a sea change from the cultural norm. It is just another Nike pep talk. Same as "Just do it."

Dove is using five plump women posing in their underwear to promote a cream to diminish cellulite dimples.

This ad campaign is a little skewed, if you ask me. Imperfect women using a cream to perfect their bodies. And the self-esteem message is, what?

The disconnect goes further. If, by using semi-unattractive women, Dove expects me to feel better about myself and, therefore, more inclined to purchase its product, why not use genuinely hideous models and cement my relationship with the company for all time?

The only clear message I am getting from Dove is that real women wear cotton underwear.

The Chicken of the Sea ad shows an overstuffed woman letting out her tummy when finally alone on an elevator.

Apparently, real women are athletic; real women have cellulite; and real women eat too much at lunch.

Remember the ad where the supermodel said, "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful"? These new ads with real women - and apparently "real" has become a synonym for chubby - are supposed to challenge the tyranny of that supermodel.

Again.

The anti-Barbie movement is as old as I am. We have tried this switch to Betty Crocker before, and it didn't last.

In the end, perhaps I am a baby boomer learning to age with dignity and stretch fabrics, or maybe I enjoy my distractions and escapes.

After all, I don't wear what supermodels wear, so a coat-hanger body wouldn't be very useful. I can look at the pictures of them with wolfhounds or on the beach or the cathedral steps and be entertained without wishing I owned a wolfhound.

Soon enough, we will get bored with the images of "real" women, and the rail-thin supermodels will return. I predict it will be sooner than later.

We are entitled to our fantasies, after all. And our french fries.

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