It’s no surprise that the media and advertisements portray women in an image that is, for most, unattainable. This means they only show very young women, usually without a sign of aging in sight. Only young, spritely women appear in magazines or TV ads, when in reality, this demographic only represents a relatively small percentage of the female population. Young girls are taught to idolize youth, and older women are pressured to reclaim it.
The obsession with staying young is nothing new. Women have been trying to preserve their youth as they are taught that is when they are beautiful, valued and full of life. I even remember in high school girls talking about how to prevent wrinkles!
Girls and women have been taught that they are only valued when they are young.
Through the impossibly youthful models, popularity of plastic surgery and general demonizing of aging in media, women begin to dread each passing year. So many women in their 30’s and 40’s genuinely believe that the best days of their life are behind them, that the prime of their beauty has faded and as a result, the fullest days of their lives have passed them by.
It is because of this notion that I appreciate American Apparel’s new advertisement featuring a 62-year-old woman in lingerie. I am definitely not a general fan of American Apparel’s business, nortorious for oversexualized advertisements and sexual harassment, but I do think this ad is a step in the right direction.
This woman in the ad is not airbrushed into oblivion, her hair is grayed and white, and yet she can still be an attractive, vibrant woman. Her name is Jacky O’Shaughnessy, and she is a working model. However, the comments the ad has received on the popular photo sharing social network, Instagram, had received many negative comments. People were distraught with such an older woman modeling, especially modeling lingerie. The comments included:
People are so accustomed to what they see in the media, they construct it as the norm. Because of this, girls and women see themselves as unattractive if they are anything astray from the mold made by the media, and this idea is perpetuated in the expectations of boys and men as well.
Women of all ages are not represented, and many women do not see people like themselves in the spotlight or celebrated. Because of this, there is a time limit on their beauty and importance.
I strongly believe that this ad and ads like this have the potential to be something powerful, and the media can begin to use its influence to empower women, rather than breeding insecurities.
It’s no secret that the world of advertisements needs serious change. Demonstrating women in such an unattainable image makes for good business. The media has been manipulating women to do whatever and buy whatever in order to fit this dream image, one of the most predominant being cosmetics. The market will sell anything that preserves one’s youth with creams, lotions and injections that are supposed to be “age-defying.” Women are deceived to believe that they can defy the natural, inescapable process of aging. Brands like Olay, Revlon, and Pantene all use this slogan in order to sell their product. By spreading this belief that maintaining youth is possible, they only further women’s resistance and dissent toward growing older.
Aging shouldn’t be something that women are taught to fear. Women shouldn’t have to feel like their lives are behind them and their desirability has vanished with the first sign of crow’s feet and laugh lines.
There are still many hurdles to overcome to have advertisements that truly mirror the people to which they are advertising. However, perhaps this ad is a prelude to something greater. Media has been such a force against women, making them believe that they must fit this narrow form in order to be considered valuable. The media has the untapped potential to become a strong, positive influence on society. Other companies have also been showing greater diversity in models, especially Aerie’s new unretouched ads. This type of advertisements provide a more genuine reflection of their market and helps reduce the extreme expectations put on girls and women.
By supporting these advertisements and marketing, media may begin to celebrate diversity and find the beauty in difference.