In early April, Lane Bryant, a popular clothing retailer for women who are “plus-size,” launched a lingerie campaign called #ImNoAngel. By design, this line of bras and panties contrasts with Victoria’s Secret’s infamous Angel Collection which has, for years, featured very thin and fit women with (mostly) very large breasts. But #ImNoAngel was highlighting that most women don’t actually look like Victoria’s Secret models. It’s main point: without being an “angel,” women of all shapes and sizes are sexy.
This campaign was very well received among most; writers and social media aficionados applauded the campaign for being more representative of women in our society, for being body-positive, for enabling women to feel sexy in their own skin. I agree with all of that. But no ad campaign is perfect, and I would like to point out a few flaws with this progressive campaign. Admittedly, most of these issues were brought to my attention when reading media responses to Lane Bryant’s release, so I cannot take credit for being the first to recognize the downsides. But I will summarize them here, doing this with the hope that in the future, we keep pushing ourselves to be more inclusive and more aware of the impact these campaigns can have on women.
As Amanda Richards points out in her response article in xojane, #ImNoAngel is not truly representative of the women who shop at Lane Bryant or plus-size women in our society. She points out that all of the non-angels are around a size 12 or 14 with “proportionate” bodies, whereas the majority of Lane Bryant customers are actually a size 20 or above. Richards refers to herself as plus-size, and mentions that she has never seen a Lane Bryant advertisement that features a women whose body looks like hers. A big problem, right?! And so, Richards takes things into her own hands, encouraging women to post their own photos on instagram, using the hashtag #ImNoAngel and #ImNoModelEither. She’s hoping that this will allow women to see real pictures of real women, who are proud of their bodies — whether or not their proportions are “plus-size model perfect.”
Richards also takes issue with the premise of the campaign. She states that the #ImNoAngel hashtag is explicitly pitting larger-bodies women against smaller-bodied women. It’s not a competition. Just because one group of women is sexy does not mean the other is not. Sexiness is not a zero sum game.
I couldn’t agree more. Sexiness comes in all shapes and sizes and is ultimately a state of mind. But this point — making sure that all women know they are sexy — this brings me to the third downside of the campaign. I can’t help but be rubbed the wrong way by this advertisement: another commercial, telling me to be sexy. In my opinion, and perhaps it is mine alone, this campaign is still unnecessarily objectifying and sexualizing women. Granted, in the video above the models do speak about what makes them feel sexy, rather than look sexy to observing eyes. But, what if I don’t feel sexy? What if I don’t want to feel sexy? Should I, must I always want to be sexy? According to the media, I should. I get it, they’re trying to sell lingerie, and lingerie is designed to “be sexy.” But if we’re talking about promoting body diversity, if we’re talking about women feeling good about themselves, maybe we should stop pushing sexy, and start pushing other characteristics. #ImNoAngel could mean that I’m a free-thinker. It could mean that I embrace a different kind of femininity. It could mean that I do what I want. There are all sorts of ways for women to feel good about their bodies. Sometimes, it doesn’t have to be about sex.