The entire Aerie Real Campaign made a big impact on me when I first heard of it. It seems to be summed up nicely in this little video, though as a disclaimer, can I just say that I was quite anxious to curate this specific piece since it DOES show a scantily clad young lady. However, this hesitancy itself is part of why I think this campaign is valuable and sociologically relevant.
For the most obvious reason, I think that this advertisement is valuable because it redefines beauty, to a large degree. Beauty in the eyes of Aerie is not goddess-gorgeous anymore. But beauty is also not exactly about “loving your body just as it is.” These models are healthy and glowing–they are not re-touched to look impossibly thin and blemish-free, but it DOES look like they are active and healthy. If you know that you are healthy, no matter if you are carrying a few extra pounds or a few too few pounds, then yes, you are beautiful, and I think Aerie is celebrating that. The pressure seems to be off for young girls to always be wishing they looked like models, because suddenly, they do look like models.
For a less obvious reason (and the reason that I decided to use this despite my hesitancy) I think that these sorts of real-life, unapologetic advertisements could help reduce the oversexualization of women’s bodies. When I was in France, I went to a beach where topless sunbathing was allowed. I was struck by how this did not seem super scandalous and sexy, but rather, everyday and ordinary, like watching a guy jog by without a shirt on. Women (most women…) don’t ogle every shirtless jogger because the chest is part of the human body, and the male chest is something we’re used to seeing–it’s not forbidden, and thus not as sexualized. The Aerie ad with it’s total acceptance of and pride in the normalcy of a healthy woman’s body seems like a very empowering step for which Aerie should be commended. As a huge company–being part of American Eagle as well–Aerie was taking a lot of risks in running this campaign, but I think that they knew that it could spark wonderful changes in society as a whole, by changing people’s individual thoughts about women’s bodies.
Submitted by Laura Seabourne