When Will "Real Bodies" Mean All Bodies?: A Critical Look at the #AerieREAL Ad Campaign
Dr. Kendra Parker, Women’s and Gender Studies
Amidst our society’s overt sexualization of women’s bodies, especially in the media and advertising industries, some brands are fighting back. American Eagle’s intimates brand, Aerie, is one of them. In 2014 Aerie launched their #AerieREAL campaign, pledging not to retouch the models in their ads, breaking norms and portraying “real” bodies. In this research I explore the areas in which this campaign succeeds and in which it falls short. While the #AerieREAL campaign does some things well, and is in fact making progress for body positivity in its industry, it still perpetuates mainstream beauty standards, portrays overt femininity, reinforces an able-bodied view of the world, is inherently consumerist, and supports the sexualization of female identities. Using feminist perspectives, I analyze the campaign's choice of models and use of an overtly feminine color palette, calling attention to the inherent consumerism behind these ads- the sale of goods through the sexualization of women’s bodies. Meanwhile, feminist disability theory brings to light the ableism present behind the portrayal of bodies in the campaign. With these diverse lenses in mind, I pose the question- how do we as consumers approach this campaign?
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