Part 2 of Chapter 8 in the book Looks
How about women of color?
The ideal of feminine beauty on TV is being blue-eyed and thin. Dr. Carolyn Stroman says that an overwhelming number of models are white. A small number are black, and almost none are Asian. How does this make African American women feel, knowing that they can never look like Britney Spears?
I remember the L’oreal scandal. People were saying that L’Oreal photoshopped Beyonce to make her whiter and thus more like the ideal.
However, L’Oreal maintained there has been no lightening of the singer’s complexion in the ads.
“We highly value our relationship with Ms Knowles. It is categorically untrue that L’Oreal Paris altered Ms Knowles’ features or skin tone in the campaign for Feria hair color,” the company said in a statement.
Beyonce: lightened or not?
Researcher Karen Perkins says that these African American women “are immediately excluded from what is considered to be ‘beautiful.'” Her studies show that these women have been affected by this standard. Many of them have warped feelings about beauty and their physical attractiveness. A study of 66 college-aged black women found that 76% wanted a lighter skin color.
Perkins suggests that parents of young black girls sit down and discuss media messages with their children after watching TV. Dr. Patzer commends this advice, and emphasizes that this is good advice for ALL parents, and not just parents of black girls or women of color. I agree.
Beautiful models are used to advertise enhancing products, like this expensive ring.
Two professors, Martin and Gentry (I don’t remember their first names), did a complex study to see what happens when both adolescents and younger girls are exposed to beautiful women in ads. They had two products, an enhancing product and a problem solving product. Martin and Gentry wanted to find out whether a beautiful model really affects how a product is sold in advertising. It’s kind of a bit complicated to say here, but what they found suggests that there may be a link with beliefs about a model’s expertise with a particular problem — i.e., a problem solving product like detergent, or acne concealer. Also, impressions they had of beauty had little relation to how much they trusted the model. Meanwhile, beautiful models were useful with enhancing products like lipstick or earrings.
These two professors did a second study to validate the results of the first study. The enhancing product this time was perfume. The problem-solving product they used was dandruff shampoo. For some reason, although the average looking model was perceived as having a more normal life than the attractive one, the highly attractive model was perceived as more trustworthy. Maybe because people think that an attractive person acts because he/she wants to, whereas the unattractive is seen as more easily coerced and manipulated? Who knows?
The researchers then concluded that while very attractive models are effective in selling selling products like perfume or jewelry, they were no better than the average looking model when it came to selling products like acne concealer or dandruff shampoo. Marketers need to consider the type of product carefully when selecting their models. They also concluded, unsurprisingly, that more research was needed.
Another study was done by Hilda Dittmar and Sarah Howard of the University of Sussex. They wanted to refute a claim by Premier Model Management which stated that “if you stick a beautiful skinny girl on the cover of a magazine you sell more copies.”
So the two women recruited 75 women from a fashion advertising company and 75 secondary school teachers. Within each group, one-third was shown images of thin models, another one-third was shown images of average size models, and the last third was the control and shown ads without models.
The study was quite interesting, but I can’t relate it in much detail. It involved photoshop and body manipulation, which is stretching out a thin model’s body to make her appear average size. Several conclusions were drawn.
First, the ads with attractive but average size models were seen to be equally persuasive as the ads with the skinny models. This was the same for the teachers and the fashion advertising workers.
Second, although the ladies in advertising were slightly more critical of ads, this had no linkage to the models’ sizes. Maybe it had something to do with the ladies’ jobs.
Next, only the women who believed in the ideal “thin” body felt anxious at seeing the images. It’s what you might expect. They felt less anxiety after seeing the average size models.
Another thing. The anxiety effect was far more extreme in teachers than in advertising workers. Maybe it’s because they’re immune to a certain extent after working in the advertising business for so long. But still, there was anxiety, though to a lesser extent. The advertising workers felt no anxiety at seeing the average sized models.
These researchers concluded that it’s the thinness of models and not their attractiveness that makes people worry.
Dr. Patzer states that these are not the only studies, and that other researchers suspect that many women now resent ads that insist on promoting unattainable beauty, as well as the media and advertisers.