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Aerie Introduces New Body Positivity Campaign for Men…But is it For Real?

The headlines are currently dominated by talk of gender equality, with a widespread focus on the empowerment of females in everything from their earning potential to their appearance.

Accompanying this, we’ve seen a growing body positivity movement on behalf of females, fuelled by a newfound embrace of diverse models – everything from ‘plus-size’ models in Sports Illustrated to anti-retouching policies like those practiced by American Eagle’s Aerie underwear brand.

The thing is, until very recently in the female-centric body positivity movement, men have been overlooked (i.e. left out entirely). And when it comes to gender equality, the only way it’s equal is if it applies to both sexes.

A few weeks back, we told you that IMG Models had just launched ‘Brawn,’ a brand-new division for ‘plus-size’ men. Now, marking another step in the right direction (we hope…read on), Aerie has just launched #AerieMAN, a forward-thinking campaign to accompany the apparent upcoming release of a men’s line.

The campaign features four diverse looking men in a series of videos on the company’s website along with the tagline: “The real you is sexy.” The videos show the men sharing their thoughts on their bodies and being comfortable in their own skin, even if things like washboard abs, a hairless chest, and chiseled cheekbones are absent. That is, absent from all expect for one: the Ken doll-esque Matt. In the ad, Matt says that he doesn’t mind that he won’t be retouched. You later get a glimpse of his perfectly sculpted abs as he takes out the trash before hanging and admiring a photo of himself on a wall inside.

For that reason, and others (we’re looking at you, ass shot) there’s been speculation as to whether the whole thing is nothing more than an early April Fool’s Day spoof.

If it actually is for real, the campaign marks what will hopefully be part of a growing movement to include men in the body positivity dialogue. After all, it represents the first time we see a mainstream brand include men in such a bold, body positivity-focused ad.

But if it turns out to be a spoof (further supporting this argument is the fact that none of the “Aerie Man” products are available anywhere online), then the usually progressive brand totally missed the mark, April Fool’s Day joke or not. Some may take offence with the whole “haha, men don’t really have body issues” angle, and miss the “joke” entirely, despite the key messaging communicated. Personally, I know more than one male who has battled body issues (including bulimia, typically a female-focused disease).

And on that note (well, kind of), a lingering problem is the double standard that continues to exist when it comes to body “images” – literally. As we told you back in January, while Facebook (and they’re not the only culprits) allows images of scantily clad females in provocative poses to flood newsfeeds, they apparently don’t have as much love for the men when they do it.

All I’m saying is that “equal rights” mean equal rights between the sexes, even when it comes to those racy underwear shots. And if the Aerie thing is a joke, I’m definitely missing the punchline.


Erin Davis

Erin is a Toronto-based actor, writer and queen of the side hustle. When she’s not writing the day away in a face mask, she’s taking in the city’s vibrant arts scene, doing a red carpet interview or brunching with her leading ladies. Follow me: @erinnicoledavis