The following vintage ad marks on a specific time in history. Advertising for Jantzen swim suits in 1943… This was the WWII era and these ads encouraged people to be patriotic and support the troops. This is all very respectable.
… But I can’t help but notice something in the ad message that rubs me the wrong way…
The ad reads ”thrilling with new Jantzen swim suits to make a girl lovely for a man on leave…to give a man something to remember.” This is forgivable enough considering the era… but today this wouldn’t fly.
What do Swimwear Ads Say to Women Then and Now
Phrases like the above suggest that a woman’s main concern (at least regarding swimwear) should be her physical impression on a man. And that’s why they should want to buy this product. Not because it is a comfortable fit or because it’s somehow a functional product to help them do the things they love.
But some swimwear/beach ads do celebrate women and their talents and abilities. So, I would like to highlight them and applaud them for their positive portrayal of women.
In the Ripcurl ad displayed here, women are shown as powerful and capable!
This female surfer is showing off some amazing skill in the first ad. She looks strong and tough and incredibly impressive to me.
She also looks real… Like the type of person you might see at the grocery store. Which is in contrast to the highly photoshopped, unrealistic standards often set by mainstream media.
And she looks really good while looking real.
Also, she is fully covered. Maybe the water is really cold, but still… It’s rare to see swimwear/beach ads where women are over 20% clothed. So this is refreshing!
The following Roxy ads are really empowering to women, in my opinion. They show women in action. Women that are doing things and kicking butt! The following ads portray women in the these ways:
I mean for crying out loud, a handstand on a surf board? The lady in the first photo is awesome! How cool is she?
It takes one cool woman to jump off a cliff and approach an enormous elephant. I want to be friends with someone that awesome! Or at least ask them a few questions. You get a sense of personality from these ads. You get a sense for what these women might be like in real life.
These women are more than physically beautiful. They’re not just laying down in a seduction manner.
They are taking life by storm! They’re real.
In the photo on the bottom, the woman is looking very empowered! She looks like someone you would not want to mess with. Like someone who could totally beat you in a race.
Underwater Audio is known to work with and support female Olympic and Pro athletes. They like to portray women in an honorable light as role models.
None of the Underwater Audio ads rely on the women’s skin or bare bodies to sell their Waterproof iPod Shuffle. They show women as accomplished people/not as objects.
They are respectful.
Are today’s ads much different then 75 years ago?
In many ways, sadly.. no. The message in the text isn’t our only problem now. More often, it’s the visual aspect of the ad that misrepresents women. There are too many ads that are supposed to be selling clothing or products when what they are really selling is nudity… (literally, where are the clothes?… all I see is skin)
Let’s portray women as people, not objects. People who possess, not just beauty, but skills, intellect and talents. To add to the trending hashtag, I’d like to say, #YesAllWomen are exposed to over-sexualized depictions of women in ads on a regular basis. Which is sad to me.
Moral of the Story
I can’t speak for any brand as a whole. I have no idea what the marketing angles or strategies are of other people’s companies. These things are subjective and nobody is ever perfect. But in the above examples, I think these ads got it right. All we can ask is that people try to change towards a more positive media portrayal of women. One ad at a time. And if we encourage it enough, at least we’ll see improvement!
Let’s encourage and celebrate that as often as possible!
Have you seen any inspiring swim ads that empower women lately? If so, share the link below. Let’s support those ads together and show the media how we actually want to see women portrayed.