Activewear brand Lorna Jane has dismissed suggestion that a promotional postcard issued in its stores is “body shaming”, by saying critics of the image are simply “looking to create drama”.
Fiona Sutherland, Non-Diet Dietitian and Co-Director of Body Positive Australia, came across the postcard shortly after Christmas while in one of the company’s retail outlets.
The cartoon image features two snowmen side by side; one labelled December is smiling and wearing a Lorna Jane tank top around its slim, triangular torso. The other – labelled January – has a sad expression, and (and presumably because) its body is round.
The caption above the picture reads, “It’s all fun and games until your jeans don’t fit.”
When she saw the postcard, Sutherland says she felt a mixture of frustration and sadness.
“This time of year is difficult for many people, and the [Lorna Jane] marketing team would be well aware of it. But instead of bolstering peoples sense of worth by reminding them that they don’t need to make up for ‘fun and games’, they chose the gaslighting route, which can lead people to feel like their body is at fault,” she told Mamamia.
The cartoon, she argues, sends a damaging message that there are ‘good’ bodies and ‘bad’ bodies, and that changes to them should only occur in a certain way.
“Bodies do change throughout life – particularly a woman’s body,” she said, “but the fear itself around that is hugely problematic for many people, perpetuating disordered eating behaviours and a life that revolves around controlling or fixing their body.”
Determined to call out what she argues is “shame-based marketing”, Sutherland shared an image of the postcard via Body Positive Australia’s Facebook page, where it has been amassed hundreds of reactions and dozens of comments.
Among them: “And the view that your happiness is determined by the size of your clothes continues…”
And, “As if I didn’t already feel bad enough that my work pants don’t fit this week.”
In a statement issued to Mamamia, a spokesperson for Lorna Jane said the postcard was created as a “lighthearted gesture” over the festive period.
“It is about embracing the Holiday spirit and then getting back on the healthy bandwagon afterwards – it’s as simple as that. And anyone that sees anything else in it is looking to create drama.
“Lorna Jane has promoted the empowerment of women for 29 years and will continue to encourage all women to Move, Nourish and Believe in themselves.”
The juggernaut Australian company, which in 2016 had an estimated valued of $500 million, has been criticised in the past for the lack of body diversity in its advertising and for not stocking clothing above a size 16.
Defending the decision during an interview with News.com.au last year, founder Lorna Jane Clarkson said there simply wasn’t demand for anything beyond what they label XL: “If we were going to try a larger size we would sell them in a store that demanded larger sizes, but that hasn’t resulted in sales for us.”
LISTEN: The Mamamia Out Loud ladies talk through the idea of a ‘Summer body’. (Post continues below.)
Fiona Sutherland would like to see the postcards removed from Lorna Jane stores, but in the meantime she hopes that by speaking up she can help women appreciate that their body is not the enemy and does not need to be ‘fixed’.
“By drawing back the veil on body and shame-based marketing, we hope women are able to view these messages for what they are – attempts to capitalise on insecurity to sell a product,” she said.
“They are sadly taking advantage of people’s vulnerabilities at a difficult time of year to perpetuate the most common cultural narrative of the festive season: you’ve stuffed up, it’s your fault, you need to fix it. Women are wising up, and this is an outdated message that alienates rather than motivates.
“We’re definitely not snowmen, and our worth is not defined by fitting into our jeans.”