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Just one post ago, I raved about how awesome Converse's marketing is, with its slogan "Shoes are boring. Wear sneakers." I was pretty worried after writing that post. I thought I wasn't going to find anything to top that. I was wrong. Meet Jessica Rey.
Jessica Rey was a bonafide Power Ranger in the early 2000s (It's morphin' time!), and she's now selling and marketing swimwear.
She differentiates herself, though, with the most genius copy I've seen in a while:
"Modesty isn't about covering up our bodies because they're bad, modesty isn't about hiding ourselves… it's about revealing our dignity." - Jessica Rey.
This is some powerful synthesis, folks. The dichotomy that women were forced to choose from used to be "Reveal your bodies!" or "Cover up!". Both options can be undesirable in their own way, and both involve the policing of women's bodies:
Jessica's stroke of genius is the "middle way" she presents in her narrative, allowing girls to feel daring and "revealing", while dressing "modestly". (I use quotes because modesty itself is a subjective socio-cultural construct.)
Don't like itsy bitsy bikinis and the culture surrounding them? You now have an alternative, thanks to Jessica. You can buy into a sophisticated ideology that gracefully straddles both worlds.
Here's Jessica's incredibly powerful narrative:
- Raise questions. Why are swimsuits so tiny? And why is that okay? Are you okay with that? (She creates a gap in the listener's mind that needs filling, which is one of the best ways to earn attention.)
- Introduce anxiety. The woman in "Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" was afraid, because she had a "natural sense of modesty" that was "stripped away" by today's culture. It's indirectly suggested that wearing an itsy bitsy bikini is "unnatural". It makes men view you as an object, rather than a person. Do you want to be viewed as an object? Of course not.
- Resolve anxiety. Reveal your dignity, not your body! You have a choice!
- Assuage any additional fears. Like the idea, but afraid that you'll be reduced to being frumpy and dumpy, and that you'll never get a date ever again? Don't worry. I felt the same way too. When I took matters into my own hands, though, I got compliments and even orders for my swimsuits. Consider Audrey Hepburn, she was modest and stylish, and you can be too.
You can indeed have it all!
Jessica has very successfully identified a niche market that's surely been craving her point of view for some time. She hints at her faith in her speech ("We were made in His image and likeness"). She clearly knows what her target market is, and like Converse, is willing to risk alienating those who don't relate to her perspective.
You might not agree with Jessica's perspective.
I'm not a woman, so my opinion doesn't really count here. But there are some pretty valid criticisms of her position. Here's one:
"While I appreciate what the speaker is trying to accomplish, there are a few key points I think she missed, and they are important concepts.
1: "She is still ultimately making this an issue of female subjugation -- ie, women should do X because men do Y. This is precisely the same argument used in defense of rapists - "he couldn't help it, she was wearing a short skirt/revealing top/ etc."
2: I also find it highly ironic that during her talk about redefining beauty standards for the benefit of women based on research, that she is wearing shoes that have been shown in multiple studies to do physical damage to women, and primarily exist due to their perceived sex appeal.
3: I applaud her for her ability to see and take advantage of an open niche market in the fashion world, but the introduction of her swimwear line into this discussion ultimately derails her message. Not only is she trying to sell something, she essentially is saying "see, you can still bow to the unrealistic demands of fashion while doing this other thing that a segment of society is trying to force upon you! Be modest (according to my specific definition), but remember to still fit a narrowly defined societal standard of fashion and attractiveness!
4: In the end, her message that appears to empower women is deceptive -- she only offers to trade one form of enslavement for another."
Some ladies might remain completely satisfied with their itsy bitsy bikinis. But that's not who Jessica's appealing to. That's not her target audience.
"Reveal Your Dignity" does become just another expectation that women have weighing down on them. I imagine the sex-positive, body-positive feminists and humanists will argue that Jessica's perspective, while good-intentioned, creates a division that shames and blames the women it indirectly labels as "immodest".
Jessica is a compelling storyteller.
She's especially compelling because it's pretty clear that she believes in what she's talking about. Even if you don't like what Jessica is doing, you would do well to learn from the effectiveness of her compelling storytelling. It's a free world, and you're welcome to present your own ideas. I'd argue that everybody is better off for it.
And when it comes to crafting or co-opting a compelling narrative... who says it has to be itsy bitsy?
1: Here's a link to the original study cited by Jessica. It turns out that she did oversimplify its findings: She implied that all men treat women in bikinis the same way, when it's really just some men- specifically those who scored higher as "hostile sexists".
2: Here's an interview with Jessica about her views on chastity and modesty. I get the sense that she's doing this because she genuinely finds this meaningful.
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