Why Is Everyone Ignoring The Unempowered Language In Target’s Supposedly “Empowering” Swimsuit Campaign?

AdvertisingBody ImageFashionSocial Media 5 Comments

“Game changer.” “Empowering.” “Refreshing.” Body-Positive.” “Innovative.” These are just a few of the buzzwords a number of media outlets have used to describe the new ‘Target Loves Every Body’ swimsuit campaign, which launched last week. Taken at its surface – using four everyday women of varying shapes and sizes to show Target’s diverse range of swimwear – it seems to be most of those things. But when you take 2 minutes to actually listen to the language the mega-retailer uses in the promo video we find it to be everything but.

The social media campaign centers entirely on a 2-minute branding video created with the sole purpose of positioning Target as having “a suit for every body type, every style, and every size.” It features stylist Zanna Roberts Rassi working with four bloggers – Nashelly Messina of Fabulatina, Chante Burkett of Everything and Chic, Sarah Boyd of Simply Digital Network’s Simply Stylist, and Nikki Minton of My Style Diaries – to find a swimsuit that “fits and flatters” their unique frames.

Sounds good, right? Sure, until you watch the video (below) and REALLY pay attention to the language that Target, via Zanna, is using under the auspices of how to “embrace your body” when shopping for swimwear. It’s expected, at its best, and counter-empowered, at its worst.

It goes like this… after asking the women to name their favorite body parts, Zanna then asks them to identify their “challenging areas” (strike 1). She then proceeds to find them swimsuits that speak more to “fixing” (strike 2) and “hiding” (strike 3) certain parts of their bodies, in order to make a celebration of the entire package possible.

The Language Breakdown

Target_Swim_chanteMeet Chante…

Zanna says she has “the perfect hourglass figure” with “equally proportioned chest and hips… not something one should take for granted.”

So she picks Chante a swimsuit that targets her “challenge areas” (“tummy” and “up top”) and accentuates “the smallest part of her body.”

The Unempowered Translation: Don’t ever take your perfection for granted Chante, but just know that you’d be even more perfect if you bind your belly and harness your breasts, so that the tiniest part of you can visually burst forth in all of its exceptionally diminutive glory.

Target_Swim_nashMeet Nashelly…

Zanna says, “Like most of us, Nash thinks she ate too much and didn’t work out enough over the winter.”

So to fix what is presented as a problem, she selects a suit for Nash that makes her waist look “super narrow.”

The Unempowered Translation: Yes Nash, embrace all of you, but be sure to hide the parts that show how you totally let yourself go while hibernating.

Target_Swim_nikkiMeet Nikki…

Zanna says, “most of us would KILL for her bust.”

The description of the swimsuit choice was ok in this case, but is she kidding with that lead in?

The Unempowered Translation: We had no idea that so many women are plagued with “large breast” envy. Target/Zanna, an epidemic like this is going to take lots of “empowerment” work if you’re going to get us jealous gals to put our claws away, and embrace our own unique, individual body types.

Target_Swim_sarahMeet Sarah…

Zanna says she’s got “this amazing athletic body.”

The suit she then picks for Sarah has triangle tops, specifically because they “add the illusion of more curves… they work miracles.”

The Unempowered Translation: Dear Sarah, despite your “amazing athletic body” it will still take a miracle to give you those curves that women so desperately covet and that some would even “kill” for (see Nikki above). So can we get a Hallelujah for this swimsuit that will not only amplify your amazing, but will keep you from committing a heinous crime?

We’re just calling it like we hear it, but have a watch for yourself…

  • Alexa Lunsford

    I can’t help liking the ad. I think it trumps LB’s “I’m No Angel” campaign by leaps and bounds, and while it’s not perfect, it occurs to me that there is a bit of danger in criticizing each allegedly “body positive” ad that comes out attempting to include plus-sized women in the fashion discussion. We all know that such aggressive advertising campaigns directed at multiple body types is a brand new thing. I think retailers, both large and small, are entitled to test the waters and see where they fit into this new market. I understand that rhetoric is a huge, load-bearing column in the massive infrastructure that is capitalist advertising, so please do analyze the language. I heartily encourage it. However, I think policing the word choice can ultimately do more harm than good by discouraging retailers from even trying to produce effective body-positive ads.

    • Alex

      But how about making retailers work harder to do both in advertising? Body positive imagery with body positive language. Why do they get a pass just for trying, and simply doing one thing better than other marketers have?

      • Alexa Lunsford

        Agreed. They should certainly continue working on the writing because it’s not perfect. What I liked about the ad was each woman’s involvement and ownership of the conversation about her own body. I felt like that helped it relate to other women. Comparison is the theif of joy, and some people may watch this ad and feel compelled to compare themselves to the women in the ad. In that case, it doesn’t matter how it’s written. The problem is a skewed perception, and advertising, no matter how positive, can’t change that.

    • KAT64

      Perfectly stated Alexa. We will get farther with positive reinforcement than knee-jerk criticism.
      Funny how we can watch the same thing & see different things. For example, the way this article interprets the breast issue. It is true some of us would like breasts like Nikki’s. And it’s true that Nikki might find her breasts difficult to wrangle into a comfortable, supportive yet attractive swimsuit. That’s all I saw in this ad. I doesn’t make me hate the boobs I have or make me feel less about myself.
      Not many of us are so enlightened that we love our bodies perfectly & feel our bodies are perfect just the way they are. And looks DO matter, otherwise we’d all wear potato sacks & not worry about it. Some days I wish we were all either nudists or burqa wearers!

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