Just after Halloween, this Ashley Madison ad, originally published in the New York Metro, appeared all over the Internet. And while body-positive bloggers around the country (including here on our site) immediately stepped up to decry the horrible image as hurtful, fat-shaming bile, few of us asked what now feels like kind of an obvious question: who was the woman in the ad? Had she willingly participated in a photo shoot, knowing that she’d be portrayed as “scary”? According to an article by the model on Jezebel today, the answer is no.
The model, who gives her name as simply “Jacqueline,” is a BBW model and owner of her own fetish website. Which means that not only are people not afraid of Jacqueline’s appearance, as is indicated in the ad–they actually pay to see it. However, that particular image isn’t one from Jacqueline’s site–it’s one from her past.
In the article for Jezebel, she describes an “informal” photography session with a friend, early on in her career. The photos were then later sold to various stock photography websites, where they could be used for just about anything.
Unfortunately, Ashley Madison decided to use the image in one of the most hurtful and damaging ways they possibly could have, by using Jacqueline’s likeness to sell fat-shaming, infidelity, and crappy self-esteem to wives across the city.
And, as if the company’s awful, horrible, offensive use of the image (which perpetuates too many ridiculous myths to count, on top of labeling obese women as “scary”) couldn’t be made worse, Ashley Madison responded to the Jezebel post with the following public statement, proving that not only do they have terrible taste and no class, they also have no soul:
The best thing that could’ve happened to this woman is that we used her in our ad. Despite what she may want you to think, she is reaping the press for her own pornography website. She took these pictures and signed the release knowing that they were not just for ‘personal use.’ However, if she can get great publicity from this, all the power to her.
It’s truly upsetting that Ashley Madison feels the need to defend what was widely regarded as a tasteless and offensive ad, and the kind of imagery that is hurtful to women. It’s even more upsetting that plus-sized models have to be hyper-vigilant about signing releases, because their likeness is more likely to be used in a fat-shaming manner than their “standard” sized counterparts. As Jacqueline puts it,
I am a size 32. I am beautiful. I think women of all sizes are beautiful. Beauty is not and has never been one-size-fits-all. I do not appreciate my image being used, without notice or permission, to tell women I have never met otherwise.
Fat-shaming isn’t going to reduce obesity-related health-care costs, and it’s not going to make the market for BBW and plus-sized models go away. Regardless of what you think about the fat-admirer movement, (and there are arguments about the health risks, but that’s another topic), there are models of all sizes, because there’s a market for models of all sizes. And those who participate in that market shouldn’t have to live in mortal fear that their images may be used in such a contrary and damaging way.