Annalee Newitz on "real women" ads: This Is Not My Body

Ms. Newitz opines:

It all started with those Dove ads that show all the hot, mostly naked girls in weirdly desexualized lingerie with the tagline: "Real women have curves." I can only assume it's from this sentence alone that we are supposed to guess that the women in the ad are fat or have otherwise culturally unacceptable bodies (a few are people of color, one has a large tattoo, another is sort of tomboyish). The ads are part of Dove soap's "campaign for real beauty," another tip-off that we're supposedly looking at women larger than the usual "unreal" models.

And yet if it weren't for Dove's helpfully-condescending slogans for these women, I would never have pegged them for "real." Sure, their underwear is kind of drab, but every model has flawless skin, shiny hair, a radiant smile, and not a dimple of cellulite anywhere on her "real" body. None of them have flab or wrinkles. And their breasts are perfectly perktacular! I'm definitely in the audience of "real-bodied" women the ads are aimed at, but I don't see my body up there. I see the same old airbrushed cuties, except with less makeup, slightly more muscle, and no Victoria's Secret.

In New York, people with magic markers started doctoring the ads with occasionally fat-phobic, occasionally anti-corporate, and occasionally utterly random comments. In Dusseldorf, a local branch of zippy advertising agency Ogilvy took up space on local bus stops with a parodic campaign for real men's bodies.