Weighing in on the model weight controversy
In case you haven't heard (ha!), there's been a bit of discussion over models and how much they weigh. To bring you up to speed, it all started back in September, when organizers of the Madrid Fashion Week announced that it would be weighing in all models; those with a BMI of under 18 would not be allowed to work. Fashion designers, casting directors, and editors then denied widespread eating disorders in the industry, saying that Madrid was overreacting, and that, as arbiters of taste, they should be able to hire whomever they want. The death of Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston from anorexia, in November, drew even more attention to the debate. With New York Fashion Week looming on the horizon, the CFDA finally stepped up to the plate last week, releasing a "health initiative" to ensure the health and safety of all working models. As my idol, the Washington Post's Robin Givhan notes in her spot-on analysis of the debate, it's basically the equivalent of tobacco companies giving tips on how to quit smoking. The reigning supe, Giselle Bundchen, who obviously knows where her paychecks come from, then added more fuel to the fire by stating that we should blame families, not the fashion industry. I don't think that's necessarily the right answer either.

Yes, most models are naturally thin; as I have said before, this is because they're all, like, 17 years old. (Case in point: When I was 17 years old, I thought I was fat, but I wore a size 6 and ate the chicken fingers dinner--that's chicken fingers and fries--at Baker's Square roughly twice a week, in addition to basically whatever else I wanted to eat.) Keep in mind, too, that most models are over the hill by the time they're 25--the age at which I discovered that I could no longer subsist on shmears, pizza, and macaroni and cheese. At the same time, Givhan has a point: Sample sizes have shrunk dramatically in the last 15 years (for a good time, check out pictures of Cindy Crawford circa 1992--she seems almost portly in comparison to today's standard), and models have shrunk in response. But while they may be naturally thin, models do diet for runway work. In the meantime, the average American woman is 5'4" and 145 pounds; to meet Spain's BMI standard, a 5'9" model would have to weigh 126 pounds. I think the only models nowadays who weigh that much are either over 6 feet tall or are "swimsuit" models, i.e. girls too "curvy" to do fashion work. I saw a news clip on CNN last week of models being weighed, and while most were meeting their target weight, they were wearing sweaters, jeans, boots, jackets...in other words, nothing the average woman would be wearing at, say, her Weight Watchers weigh-in.

The media is jumping all over this story, of course, because it's sensational. Eating disorders equal drama equals ratings and sales. And while eating disorders are serious, they are mental--not societal--illnesses. If young women were becoming anorexic in droves from reading Vogue, trust me, it would be much more of an epidemic. I'm not trying to make light of the situation, however; while we can't blame the fashion industry for eating disorders per se, we can blame them for low self-esteem. I get that they're selling fashion as fantasy, but being a size 0 is so far past attainable for so many women (like 99.5% of the population), it's downright ridiculous. I'm not suggesting that fashion designers send out "average" or even "real" women on the runways--after all, where's the fantasy in that?--but considering the rising obesity rates in the world, even a size 4 would be a step in the right direction. The CFDA has the power to make that step. Hell, even Anna Wintour has the power. It's not going to happen overnight, but it can happen. All they have to do is take a stand, one that's in the best interests of not only models but of all women.

1 comment

Anonymous said...

i wholeheartedly agree with you its not just the fashion industries fault but they dont help. and the funny thing i noticed while reading what you wrote was the irony of the ads on the page from google they range from advertising americas next top model to diet pills stating "I Was Sick Of My Fat". so its not just the fashion industry pushing for weight loss its also society in general, look around on most web pages and the ads all have the same theme anymore. until society quits pushing thin,thin,thin, the attitudes on weight wont change for the better it will just get worse instead of better.