Virtual Models – Friend or Foe to Female Pressures?

It’s official –  supermodels may comprise the next wave of people standing in the unemployment line.

H&M, the mega retailer, which was once exclusive to the northeast and has recently climbed across the map, uses virtual models to showcase their clothing to the masses. The move is stirring up a bit of controversy – not only on the battlefield of the declining job market, but among those who fear this will exacerbate additional pressure on women to live up to unrealistic expectations.

The story was covered by the Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch yesterday, titled: 5 Computer-generated Sales PitchesThe story covers not only the switch from supermodels, but several other jobs – or product depictions – that have been replaced by computers.

H&M is not the only company to use virtual models, another French flash-sale site, known as Vente-privee is also using the same method to save money. Experts, such as Earl Spurgin, professor of philosophy and director of Applied Ethics at John Carroll University told MarketWatch, “I worry that it will create an unrealistic picture that customers will not be able to copy. It’s airbrushing on steroids.”

Social media lit up with comments with opinions from both sides. Interesting enough, after perusing the comments, I noticed that most men took sides with critics – stating concerns about what these virtual models will do to the esteem and pressure placed on women. The female majority, on the other hand, sided in favor of the virtual models.

One commenter even said, “It’s not possible to compete with something that’s not real. What is there to feel bad about? When I am comparing myself to real women – super models – who have been secretly airbrushed, well, I think, why can’t I look like that? If you ask me, it is something that should have been done a long time ago….of course, with the knowledge that they’re not real.”

I can’t decide how I feel about it. After reading the entire article, I fear for the jobs of photographers and young women, who may have their hearts set on modeling – it may become the next lost art. As for the female self-esteem, well, I think many commenters have a point – it’s not real – so, what’s to compare?

Honestly, I think Dove has a smart campaign, “real beauty,” featuring real women. Women come in all sizes, shapes and colors, all women wear clothes and make-up – why shouldn’t all forms of diversity be well represented in ads? Would companies sell more products, if, like books and movies, there was a model they could relate to, rather than a photo-shopped stick figure, who represents only a small fraction of the population?

Share your opinion in the comments below – would you prefer to see more virtual models? Or a “real beauty” campaign? Or, do you like things just the way they are?




  1. I agree with you, body types are a reality and we should be inspired by the Dove women. Healthy should be our goal not someone else’s idea of perfection!

    1. Thanks for weighing in with your comment!

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