Marketing Social Justice

What is social justice? Quite simply, it is “justice exercised within a society, particularly as it is exercised by and among the various social classes of that society. A socially just society is based on the principles of equality and solidarity, understands and values human rights, and recognizes the dignity of every human being.”

So you see this within civil rights, LGBTQ activism, issues of poverty and class, race, religious tolerance, prison reform, and disability rights activism and also issues surrounding ageism and sizeism.

So it was mixed feelings that I read this article about a model (who by the way calls herself normal sized rather than the “plus” label so many others would, and check out her cool blog on food and pleasure) who is modeling larger sized lingerie. The article called this move for larger representation a “total game changer.”

I’m not sure what game this changes. First of all, she’s a UK 16/US 12. Which like…lots of people are size 12 and the average American dress size for women is actually a 16, so her “plus” is actually smaller than most women in the US. Also, she’s super tall and long at 6’2″. I mean, maybe it if was also a woman of average height (5’4″) and a size 16 we’d have a more accurate mirror and representation.

Also…if the game is that more women can be photographed in their undies I guess that’s a game changer? And I’m all for sexy people at all sizes, but the feminist in me is a little discombobulated at the the messaging. Which is good in a way, like…hey go feel sexy! Go wear sexy knickers! But also is like BUY STUFF!

And I feel weird being complaining about sexuality, given that I am supportive of people being fully educated about sex, enjoying sex (and wearing sexy things is a way to do that) and celebrating pleasure, but to be like…here is a slightly larger version of sexy that does not represent the people looking at it and you larger people now have permission to buy things to be sexy in….is weird to me.

We have enough eating issues, food issues, weight issues, health issues and insurance issues in this country to worry about without trying to figure out how to put lingerie on people and acting like it’s some social justice movement. It can have elements of that sure, cause as I said, it’s important to be able to feel sexual and sensual and love your body, but I don’t think buying overpriced bits of satin is the end all way to do that. Perhaps I am being cynical

Maybe that’s the only way we do social justice movements anymore, is through marketing and purchasing? Or perhaps the marketing is just catching on the social justice movements around the Health At Any Size movement and deciding that if getting people to slim down isn’t gonna happen, then hey! It’s a new demographic to sell to!

And this perhaps is the place that I am cynical. It’s not that feeling sexy at any size isn’t a wonderful radical thing to celebrate, it’s that why is the only way to see that celebrated is in the purchasing of product? On the internet of course, wink wink, where I found it on Facebook. Sigh.

It’s good timing though, these questions as I just received a copy of the book, “Compassion, Inc; How Corporate America Blurs the Line Between What We Buy, Who We Are and Those We Help.” I can’t say enough about this book or the site. It confirms something for me I’ve been struggling with for years as a person who works around the field of philanthropy and has seen a huge increase in marketing “giving” with pink topped yogurts and major corporate brands attaching “green” labeling onto themselves.

The act of giving is akin to sacrifice. Service is well, serving others. How is buying and eating yogurt philanthropy? It might be for the corporation, but even so they probably make up for in market share and new customers what they lose in gifting money to cancer research. And the corporation is the “citizen” that is being credited for the gift, not the individual purchaser of the food item.

This is one of those posts that doesn’t really have any answers, only that if the end goal is getting people to buy things, I’m not sure I trust it, and sense some kind of fatalistic sadness about it all. It’s the way it is and I don’t see the trend changing. In fact, with the ease of “giving” by consuming corporate goods and with new technological methods such as texting a number during a crisis, giving is as easy as shopping. And perhaps if the end game is help during hurricanes and an end of breast cancer, it might be worth it? Still, something seems very self focused about it all.

I’m not sure whether activism and social justice lead to more regular sized models being hired to sell panties, or whether selling panties with bigger models is a form of corporate activism, but I do suspect either way, there is $ as a bottom line.

And I’m not sure I like that.


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