Rent the Runway Models: How Selling Images Over Products Hurts Women

Every day, the average American is exposed to over 3,000 ads. Every year, the advertising industry brings in over $200 billion. Despite the startling presence of advertising in our lives, it is remarkable how many of us swear we are not influenced by it.

We are in fact affected by advertisements, although these effects are out of our conscious awareness. It is unfortunate that the general masses fall victim to their influence, considering the bulk of ads pertain to material things like makeup, alcohol, food and drink, but ultimately, beauty.

Ads sell a great deal more than products: they sell values, concepts of success and worth, love and sexuality, images, and "normalcy." Renowned feminist and author Jean Kilbourne argues that ads essentially tell us who we are and who we should be, selling addictions and false realities as they utilize Photoshop programs among many to enhance their photos.

At this point, I think we’re all familiar with the following YouTube video, which highlights photo enhancements.

That being said, I think it is the female population that is hit hardest with such ads. Women feel the need to live up to the Guess Jean model’s flat stomach on the I-95 highway billboards, the impeccably straight hair with zero frizz in Jennifer Aniston’s Pantene commercials, the voluminous eyelashes of Natalie Portman, and the sex appeal of all those cigarette or alcohol commercials. Women strive to be like these models, actors and the like simply because they are the only type of people we are ever exposed to. It is very rare that you see an overweight woman trying to sell beer during the Super Bowl, or even have an unattractive elderly person sell prescription medicine. We wonder why America has the highest rates of eating disorders, as well as disordered eating.

The unfortunate fact of the matter is that major corporations will not suddenly stop using these beautiful people to appeal to their consumers, as consumers tend to buy the image selling the product, not the actual product itself.

The example that most comes to mind is “hot” women selling cars. The auto industry is, admittedly, dominated by the male population. These women probably don’t know a thing about the new Ford Mustang they’re sitting on, but they sure do look good smiling at it, huh? Men and women aren’t surprised when they see such women in commercials, because it is commonplace for them to be in them.

Perhaps that’s why the recent Dove campaign including curvy women selling their soaps and deodorant surprised many, or Rent the Runway using “real women” to show what clothes look like them instead of the size zero (or lower) models. Change in the ad industry may be on the rise, possibly for the better.

As I sit here writing this, with the delicious sandwich and soda sitting next to me, I don’t want to see Megan Fox’s trim abs selling perfume. I want to see Megan Fox post-sandwich, embracing whatever body she naturally has and not the airbrushed body that the rest of the world expected from her.

What always made me sick were my friends (who, might I add, were not in the slightest bit overweight) setting the backgrounds of their phones to celebrities in bathing suits, or pictures of women they saw whose body they wanted. Essentially, their phone background would appear in front of them throughout the day, serving as a reminder that maybe they shouldn’t eat that big sandwich. Were those other 3,000 images not enough?

I truly think that I am not speaking for just myself when I say average women want to see similarly average people in their ads, for the purpose of esteem, honesty and their general impatience with the lies the industry feeds us thousands of times a day. Sure, have a healthy goal to get rid of a few extra pounds. Maybe post a normal woman on your fridge, or keep a food journal. Things like this are bound to happen.

However, the obsession everything from eyelash length to the color of your nails has been catalyzed by the false images the ad industry is feeding us. Why aspire to be a cookie-cutter, robotic, fake woman that is constructed for us to conform to, when a few alterations on billboards, magazines and television can gradually mend the multiple societal issues women have with their external beings?

The worst part is, this could have been avoided from the start.