Photo: Matalan
Photo: Matalan

OPINION

Don’t use body positivity to sell clothes unless you’re actually being body positive

Matalan declares they’re making swimsuits for “everybody”, then uses one slim, conventionally beautiful woman to model them

Added on

By Amy Jones on

I am really glad that brands are starting to recognise that there’s more than one body shape. I’m glad we’re getting bikinis in separate top and bottom sizes because they’ve realised that not everyone with big boobs also has wide hips. I am glad that they’re designing jeans which look nice on people with small bums and big bums, lovely on long thighs and short thighs, and even jeans that don’t look nice on anyone, so you might as well wear them and not care how your thighs look. Making clothes for the actual women who will wear them is a very good thing and I am very pleased it’s happening more and more.

Still not feeling great about how they’re being advertised, though.

Let’s take Matalan’s new summer swimsuit marketing. As Kirsty pointed out on Twitter, they declared they’re making “swimsuits for everybody”. The email reads: “We know we’re all very different and swimsuits are not a one-size fits all affair. Here’s what we offer – bikinis and swimsuits in your size and for your shape, so you can feel really good when you hit the water.”

You cannot use body diversity to sell swimsuits when you don’t actually have body diversity

Great! OK, it’s not ideal that we live in a world where women are made to feel bad about their bodies, and Matalan is playing into that a bit, and they’ve also used that irritating “women’s bodies are like fruit” thing to illustrate it, but it’s not Matalan’s fault that that’s what our society is like. I am overall very pleased that women who feel self-conscious on a beach are going to be able to wear something that they feel good in. But then I scrolled down to check out the photos of these amazing, varied swimsuits and… oh.

Oh, dear. 

So, they’ve made swimsuits for “every body” – from “apple” to “pear” to “athletic” to “hourglass”  – but they’ve chosen to market them using one body. One body, which is young, slim, white and not exactly going to be causing controversy when it’s on the beach. One body to model swimsuits supposedly designed for four different body types. You cannot use body diversity to sell swimsuits when you don’t actually have body diversity. You just can’t. Well, clearly you can, because Matalan is, but it’s a dick move and I’m getting really tired of it.

It feels like brands have realised that body positivity is A Thing and they want a slice of that sweet, socially aware marketing pie, but they’re too scared to actually be body positive. Or maybe I’m giving them too much credit – perhaps it’s not fear, but rather disgust. They are happy to talk about being representative, but actually looking at bodies that are fat, hairy, any colour apart from white-but-tanned, disabled? “Ewwwwww, get them away from my precious ad campaign – I’ve got clothes to sell!”

It’s getting old, guys. You want to talk about body diversity? You want to be representative? Great! But actually do it. Otherwise people are going to buy their swimsuits somewhere else – somewhere where they can look at the adverts and the posters on the wall and see themselves, rather than the same tired old beauty standards we get everywhere from everyone else.

@jimsyjampots

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