On Hollister, the "Thigh Gap" and How We Think About Body Image
Earlier this week, I wrote about a questionable photo that fashion brand Hollister used to promote their spring line. After a considerable amount of backlash, the company had taken the image down, apologized to their customers about their choice and how it didn’t comply with the overall company motto (they weren’t the first: Target experienced a similar “thigh-gap” scandal just a few weeks ago). When I saw the Hollister photo, I wasn’t sure how to react. The model looked like a typical teenager spending the day at the beach. She looked happy. But when I looked closer, what stood out to me were her legs: they were extremely thin. I then researched other models Hollister has used for past campaigns, and, from this research, determined that, at least until now, the ideal body that sells Hollister products is a very skinny body.
Before I go on about Hollister and their ideology, I want to apologize. HelloGiggles received a number of negative comments on my story and when I read through them, I think a lot of the opinions were right (not a surprise, HelloGiggles readers are smart and vocal!) The way I presented the issue wasn’t the most tactful, though I never meant to make anyone feel alienated or attacked. I think thin-shaming is just as damaging as fat-shaming. Your body is your body and no one should make you feel badly about it. A size zero body can be just as healthy as a size fourteen body. A thigh gap does not necessarily mean you have anorexia. These generalizations (that I was quick and wrong to lean on) destroy the confidence of men and women every single day, no matter how big, small, old, or young they are.
I have a pretty average body. I usually go with “medium” sizes because I have wide hips and thighs, but a small waist. This is how my body is, and this is how every woman’s body is in my family. I’ve been told to “eat more” and I’ve been told I need to go to the gym. There is no happy medium with medium.
I’m not the only one who feels the pressure to be the “perfect size.” But what IS the perfect size? Is it a size zero? Is it a slightly curvy size five? Is being tall especially attractive, or is it cuter to be shorter? Would a high-waist skirt look good on me, or will people think my ass looks huge? Is a huge ass a good thing or bad thing? I’m 23 and I’m still not completely happy with my body, and I’m not sure why. I’m at a healthy weight, I eat proteins and produce and I exercise. Is it because of the media, or is it because as young girls we are taught by people we know that we need to look a certain way? Did our parents pressure us to eat less? Did bullies call us names and ostracize us on the playground? Body image is a complex subject, and simply saying “all women want to be thin” is not a universal truth, and it’s a brash conclusion.
When I said Hollister was wrong for choosing an extremely thin model, I should have explained myself better. I should have stated that Hollister was wrong for doing this because they’ve ONLY promoted very thin models, not women with diverse body shapes. I’m standing by my opinion that clothing companies should encourage women of all sizes to shop at their store. This means thin women as well as “plus size” women. This particular Hollister model has done nothing wrong, and I feel badly that she was exposed to such negative reactions from Hollister’s customers, the media, and my little article.
I think it’s important to have this conversation, because issues about weight and body image are clearly not going away. I was too hasty to criticize Hollister without explaining myself properly, and that wasn’t cool. But I know I’ll have more chances to make this right. I’m sure another brand will release a photo soon that will anger the community, and another heated discussion will occur. Thin-shaming and fat-shaming will continue because people feel insecure, or at the very least, misguided. And I hope that, in the face of this, we can teach each other how to be open-minded and positive. That we never call a girl “fat,” nor criticize a woman for her “thigh gap.” We should keep promoting health and happiness, but also become more aware that health and happiness means something different for everyone.
Images via Hollister’s Facebook