Virtual Insanity


Come on, H&M. Don’t do me like that. My favorite discount retailer has outdone themselves with douchery (yes, douchery — a new word). H&M now has “virtual models,” computer-made bodies and faces, to model their lingerie and bathing suits. Oh, right. Because women’s bodies are imperfect and curvy, and you want an androgynous stick figure to model your $14.99 string bikini bottoms. Has there ever been a more convincing argument that our society’s ideal body image is, in fact, impossible?

Take a look at these pictures. A really close look. Yup, that’s the same exact “body” with two different computer-generated faces. H&M press officer Hacan Andersson proudly proclaims that “it’s not a real body; it is completely virtual and made by the computer…We take pictures of the clothes on a doll that stands in the shop, and then create the human appearance with a program on [a] computer.” Totes! Obvi! Why didn’t anyone think of that before? So much easier than dealing with a real woman’s body, which you’re going to airbrush anyway. No airbrushing necessary, since you can literally construct this body from nothing to fit your bull shit version of ideal.
They maintain that it keeps the focus on the garment, but that could not be a weaker excuse. The whole appeal of lingerie is to imagine yourself in it. When you see a woman walking sexily down the catwalk with her stick figure body and overflowing boobs, you aren’t meant to “focus on the garment.” You’re meant to believe that if you put on the same bra and panties, that you will magically turn into Giselle. Apparently, Giselle isn’t even ideal enough for H&M.
I am 5’1″ and weigh around 125 pounds. I am easily in the healthy BMI range for my height and in addition to eating healthily, I practice yoga 4-5 times a week. And yet, in spite of all that, I still can’t help but defeatedly wish that my body looked more like these fake women who, in fact, DO NOT EXIST. How warped are we? We can’t even find a woman to fit our perverted standard of bodily beauty anymore. I’m not a fan of cookie cutter anything — houses, personalities, and certainly not bodies. I understand the appeal of conformity; there is comfort in similarity, in belonging. But no one, and I mean no one, belongs to this body group. And the reason I know that no one has that body is because they had to create it on a damned computer. These computer-generated female images serve a purpose: they implant in women the desire to attain the unattainable, essentially trapping us in the hamster wheel of self-loathing that runs the advertising and clothing agencies.
Shame on you, H&M. I’m done with you guys. Top Shop, don’t let me down now.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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