by Marisa Nobs
This month, popular networks such as ABC and NBC denied a 30-second ad for Lane Bryant featuring plus-size models in lingerie. Why? That’s a great question. Apparently, it did not comply with “broadcast indecency guidelines” and was asked by the networks to make some changes (which haven’t been released), according to NBC. If the ad were so “indecent”, NBC would have a completely valid reason for the rejection, but it’s not.
The ad is relatively mild compared to the oiled-up Victoria’s Secret models strutting around and running their hands over their perfectly airbrushed bodies, while almost always featuring a seductive facial expression. The un-aired Lane Bryant commercial repeats their campaign slogan “this body was made for” and adds on empowering concepts such as “love” or “proving them wrong.” Visually, the ad begins with close ups of body rolls from women sitting, then moves on to shots of women performing various activities such as kickboxing, dancing, and breast-feeding. It is an inspiring 30 seconds that highlights real women acting… real.
I watched the advertisement several times, trying to pinpoint a moment that may be flagged as particularly indecent. Additionally, I looked up what the law defines as broadcast indecency: “language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory organs or activities,” according to the FCC. The body shots were less explicit than other lingerie commercials, so it couldn’t be that. The two-second breastfeeding scene did not expose any of the mother’s chest. In fact, it was significantly more conservative than other commercials, such as one created by Luvs, that portrayed a breastfeeding woman’s cleavage and a man staring at it. Also, let’s remember breastfeeding is natural (not sexual or excretory) and should never be viewed as gross or shameful in public.
So, what’s left? Without any logical basis for claiming “indecency”, the only other explanation is that these networks were made uncomfortable by the portrayal of less-than-flawless body forms. This just in: most women do not maintain a flat stomach when sitting down or even when standing up. Plus-size women deserve to be represented in the media just as much as women with every other body shape. Lane Bryant created a commercial that would promote body positivity and help the majority of women who don’t look like Victoria’s Secret Angels be more comfortable with who they are. Now, if you do happen to look like all the other models on television, that’s fantastic. Work what you got. However, there is something seriously wrong with rejecting an ad simply because the models are nonconventional.
So, NBC and ABC, I’m disappointed that you found the commercial “offensive as measured by contemporary community standards”. I’m offended by your lack of acceptance for diversity. By rejecting this ad, you are upholding the unattainable beauty standards women feel constantly bombarded with everyday. You are claiming that body fat is somehow unseemly and should be covered up rather than exposed. And that, not Lane Bryant’s commercial, is what needs to change.
Marisa Nobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org