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A Deadly Standard Of Beauty

By Tal Basis [June 7th, 2012] 

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First it was a ban on airbrushing, then it was a ban of “thinspo”, could the next bad be tan models? Recently Swedish fashion house released a series of swimsuit ads featuring an extremely tan Brazilian model, Isabeli Fontana, in a bright bathing suit faced some harsh criticism from the Swedish Cancer Society.

“Every year, more people die in Sweden of (skin cancer) than in traffic accidents, and the main cause is too much sunning,” the Society wrote in an opinion article in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, according to the AFP.

Prior to the article, H&M defended its ads claiming that Isabeli Fontana is Brazilian, meaning she has a darker skin tone than most Europeans. They explained that they had specifically chosen a model with darker skin in order to best show off the swimsuits bright colors.

However, the fashion retailer quickly changed its stance once the Swedish Cancer Society blamed H&M for what it characterized as creating a “deadly” standard of beauty that unduly influenced young people to tan. The society said images like the swimsuit ad campaign “contribute to more people dying from skin cancer.”

The retailer responded with an apology, “We are sorry if we have upset anyone with our latest swimwear campaign. It was not our intention to show off a specific ideal or to encourage dangerous behaviour…we have taken note of the views and will continue to discuss this internally ahead of future campaigns.”

The Cancer Society is aware that the ads could very well have been digitally altered; however they claim that the effect is nonetheless the same. “The effect is the same: H&M tells us we should be very tan on the beach,” it said. They go on to say, “It is sad to write this, but H&M will through its latest advertising campaign not only sell more bathing suits but also contribute to more people dying from skin cancer.”

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