I was gladdened to hear this past week that the store Aerie is no longer retouching their models. A step in the right direction for dignity and acceptance, right? Well... I would doubtless think so more heartily if I hadn't been told via a large photo of a barely-covered backside hanging above the door of my local branch.
No more retouching! We think the real you is sexy it read. That sign's unfortunate existence got me thinking. So, here are my problems with Aerie's sign, put in an open letter that will probably be bashed by some feminist's Tumblr. Allonsy!
You have most likely received a million and a half complaints in your time- I assume that most stores stocking mainly ladies' undergarments do. I'm guessing, though, that nobody's been complaining much about your new policy. You know, the real-you-is-hot one. I think it's great that you aren't editing photos of your models anymore, but I do have a complaint or two. Just little things.
Please stop calling me sexy.
I know there are many who would consider sexy (i.e, 'sexually appealing') to be a real compliment; some may even think it equivalent- or, God forbid, better- to being called beautiful or pretty. But guess what? There is a very great distance between sexy and beautiful.
Take, for instance, this fact: there are eleven-year-old girls shopping for camisoles. Would you tell an eleven-year-old girl that 'the real her is sexy'? No, because it's more than a little creepy to say that an elementary student is sexually appealing, and also, she would likely be grossed-out/scarred for life. But not only her- all women need to be told that they are beautiful far, far, far more than they need to be told men will enjoy looking at them bend down. Beauty is not solely aesthetic; you can do something beautiful, or say something beautiful, in the same way that you can do something sexy or say something sexy. But beauty goes even beyond that- beauty has something to do with your soul, the way you treat yourself and others, and what your heart contains. An old lady can be beautiful. A tiny baby can be beautiful. Beautiful is not just our bodies, sexy is just our bodies. By placing sexy higher than beautiful, you place the body higher than the whole being (body, mind, and soul).
I don't need to be sexy; in fact, I don't want to be sexy. Because, I don't know, maybe I'm an unmarried teenager, or something? I know- a lot of unmarried teenagers would love to be sexy. But the reason why is probably because they don't get told, without strings attached, for no reason, "You're beautiful."
"You look really pretty today."
"That was a lovely thing to do."
"I admire you for that."
They may be told that by their boyfriends, but it would kind of ruin the effect if the words were followed by a proclamation of her bedability when all the commitment he's made to her body is a dinner at Earl's and a birthday present. And you do have married customers, I know, but back to the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups example- would you hand out Reese's in a class full of kids and just hope that there wouldn't be an allergic reaction from anyone? I have no wish to be referred to as sexy by anyone but the person to whom I am married, and since that term does not apply to y'all, I have no wish to be sexy.
This letter won't change a thing- there are so many who think sexy is good- but I have a proposition for you. Replace the word 'sexy' with the word 'beautiful'. Or 'dazzling'. Or 'pretty'. Or 'gorgeous'. Because it's a sad world if sexy is preferable to any one of those. Girls, young and old, would rather be told that they are valuable than that they make guys want to sleep with them. It seems a little backwards to campaign for the dignity of women and then to call them bedable when the world of compliments is at your feet.
So kindly desist.
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