One of the perks of living in an increasingly interconnected world is that brands are seeing more customer feedback through multiple channels and, sometimes, they actually listen. There has been a trend lately of clothing brands creating more body positive advertising campaigns to demonstrate inclusivity and understanding that the majority of their customers don’t share the body shape or size of their models. But it seems every effort brands make to connect with their customers on body positivity, whether they’re a clothing brand or not, there is backlash.
Sometimes this is about the style of the advertisements, or whether the campaign is truly body-positive, but it’s often about the dangers of “glorifying obesity” through fat acceptance or body positive work. These comments shame the women in the advertisements and the brands that dared to hire them. This kind of backlash runs so deep that Facebook event pages have been pulled because the promotional image was of a fat woman.
I had the opportunity recently to experience this kind of backlash on a personal level. I am a Brand Ambassador for Livi Rae Lingerie, a body positive lingerie boutique in Atlanta. In February, they put up a new storefront window vinyl campaign, but instead of using vinyls provided by the brands and lines they sell, they used photos of their Brand Ambassadors. These ambassadors are women who are real customers at Livi Rae, who wanted to share their stories and the message of body positivity with Molly Hopkins and Cynthia Decker, the owners of Livi Rae. Just a couple of weeks after the new vinyls were up their landlord asked for them to be taken down saying that they were “in poor taste.”
The Livi Rae vinyl campaign is composed of women of all shapes, sizes, ages, colors, and level of ability. The only thing that sets this campaign apart from the myriad of other vinyl campaigns they’ve had in the last seven years is the body diversity. Which means the reason these particular images were “offensive” and “in poor taste” is because they featured women who are fat, black, or in a wheelchair. At which point this goes past the point of body shaming and into discrimination. Hopkins and Decker refused to take down the vinyls and soon after there were articles about the situation in various local press.
I read several of the local articles, but the Atlanta Journal Constitution one linked above brought me up close and personal with backlash against body positivity and the ugliness of online trolls. The main image of the article features Hopkins and Decker in front of one of the window vinyls, the one with my photos.
I can now say that I know what it feels like to have my body compared to that of a whale. And what it feels like to be told women with bodies like mine should have to submit an application to be seen in public in a “skimpy” swimsuit.
The AJC eventually turned off comments on the post, but there were already 80+ comments by the time I read the article and, while some of them were celebratory or attempts to defend the campaign to the trolls, there were so many more that were tearing me and the other Brand Ambassadors down. I mean, it’s not like I didn’t know this behavior existed — I have been on the internet in the past decade. I also follow other fat body positive activists who have dealt with this, but this was the first time I was seeing it for myself. And my reaction surprised me a bit. I felt pity for people who feel the need to share their opinions about other people’s bodies online. I felt angry, mostly on behalf of the other Brand Ambassadors who haven’t been doing body positive work online and might not have anticipated this kind of reaction. But mostly it made the flame inside of me that fights to de-stigmatize any body that deviates from the societal standards of beauty grow bigger and brighter, and made me more determined to advocate for body positivity in every capacity and avenue I can.
By the time I was reading these comments, Livi Rae had already started to fight back with a social media campaign: #NoShameLiviRae. And their firm stance against discrimination and body shaming garnered the attention of several different national publications, not to mention a few international ones as well.
The property management company took note of the numerous articles and social posts applauding the vinyl campaign and issued a statement that they are in favor of diversity and that the vinyls could remain up. Livi Rae celebrated this victory with their fans and continued to make posts highlighting their Brand Ambassadors and their stories as a way to promote body positivity.
The backlash of this campaign shows just how important it is for all kinds of bodies to be represented in advertising. The comments and stories of people relating to the bodies on the Livi Rae window vinyls in ways they have never related to other campaigns also spoke volumes of the need for body diversity in advertising. The fact that people want to fight against the idea that all bodies are beautiful and worthy of love and respect is mind-boggling to me, and I’m going to fight against that attitude and advocate for body positivity in every way I can.
Bubble Bordeaux is a body positive advocate, writer, and burlesque performer on a mission to help people discover the vibrant beauty in their bodies and themselves. When she isn’t focused on body pos and fat acceptance she’s advocating for feminism, polyamory, and bisexual people. She recently became a Brand Ambassador for Livi Rae Lingerie, a body positive lingerie boutique in Atlanta committed to helping every woman find her own sexy.
Photo Credit: @liviraelingerie
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