The first day of summer doesn’t arrive until June 20th, but here in New Jersey the temperatures are already soaring past 80° F. Even before the mercury began to rise, certain signs of summer were already prominently front and center. Not blooming flowers, not lush green grass, not clear skies with the sun shining bright. No, these signs of summer were in advertisements- the warnings that “swimsuit season” is approaching. Without fail, each year these ads begin to pop up with messages that summer requires a specific type of body that can only be achieved with their products.
One of the worst offenders of this is the cereal brand Special K, which has managed to push a dieting agenda in ads all year round. However, the ads leading up to summer are particularly egregious. This year, the ads feature a woman walking on a beach and wearing a cover-up; suddenly, the wind whips the cover-up off her. Her expression is first one of shock and horror, then contentment. The voice-over states “When is it ok to lose the cover-up? When you can. Take the Special K challenge… lose the cover-up and show off your confidence.”
The message of the ad clearly articulates that the only time that it is socially acceptable to not be shrouded in a cover-up at the beach (or pool or wherever) is if the body meets the standards of society, i.e. one that has lost weight by using these diet products. The message itself is even somewhat misleading because if the part about taking the Special K challenge is removed, the message has a positive spin: “When is it ok to lose the cover-up? When you can…lose the cover-up and show off your confidence.”
Not everyone has the confidence to lose the cover-up, regardless of their size or shape. Perhaps the message should be “When is it ok to lose the cover-up? When you want to.” It’s not about whether others approve of your size and body in a swimsuit, it’s about your own perspective on your body. Maybe one day you will want to lose the cover-up, maybe other days you won’t. Let’s leave that up to ourselves and not Special K to determine that.