No more retouching models in #AerieReal ads

1/29/2014 – The Huntington News

By Rowena Lindsay, News Correspondent

Aerie, the lingerie brand owned by American Eagle Outfitters, has recently launched a new ad campaign for its Spring 2014 line, in which they vow not to Photoshop, airbrush nor retouch any of their models.

In an attempt to more properly represent its typical clientele, Aerie’s advertisements also aim to portray a variety of body types under the tagline that “The Real You Is Sexy.” According to a press release that Aerie released earlier this month, the company also aims to start a conversation with its clients about the true meaning of beauty and to empower young women.

Additional features of the campaign include a new bra guide that allows online shoppers to view every product on models with breasts size A-DD, as well as the “Real Girl Talk” hotline, which will provide access to experts on bra fitting 24/7.

“I think Aerie Real shows that Aerie has more respect for the young women who shop there than a lot of other stores do,” Georgeanne Oliver, a freshman journalism major, said. “I think it’s a very positive step.”

This sentiment was shared by others.

“By portraying real girls through their un-photoshopped ads, Aerie is taking a step in the right direction, especially because it is targeted at teenage girls whose self-esteem is already fragile without the unrealistic expectations that retouched photos promote,” Christie Macomber, a sophomore journalism major, said.

Some reactions were a bit more skeptical.

“I think that it’s a great start for getting young girls to see more realistic people in the media. I’m sure that they will keep hiring size 0 girls, and not necessarily ones who are ‘real sized,’ but it’s a start,” Emily Bott, sophomore chemical engineering major, said.

Despite the generally positive reactions from Aerie’s target clientele, girls 15-21, there has been discourse among professionals that express concern about the ads.

“The campaign feels a bit paternal and self-congratulatory,” Kimberly Brown, English professor and Women’s and Gender Studies teacher at Northeastern said. “In my opinion it just isn’t as progressive as it purports itself to be.”

According to Brown, this concern stems primarily from the language used in the ads which can infantilize adult woman using words like “girl.” The ads are paired with photos that have captions such as, “The girl in this photo has not been retouched,” and “Dear Aerie Girls … No more retouching of our girls and no more supermodels.”

“The targeted demographic for this lingerie line is between 15 and 21 years.” Brown said. “So, for me there is this blurring between ‘girls’ and ‘women’ that can only be undermined by the sexualization of the ad.  I don’t do this kind of work in my own research, but I doubt that ads for young men – underwear ads, deodorants, body sprays – constantly refer to them as ‘boys.’”

As for being self-congratulatory, “Does Aerie want to be known for not retouching photographs of their models, or for realizing the actual beauty of all women?” Brown said.

Aerie has also received criticism since their ads still feature skinny and attractive women. While more realistic than their previous ads, people like Brown argue that they are still upholding the current, less-accessible standards of beauty.

“With marketing decisions like these, we should be encouraged but not excited,” Brown said.  “What does this mean for the feminist movement?  It means we have a long way to go.”