Wednesday, January 11, 2012

You're Plus-Size or You're Anorexic

You know what's more fun than job hunting? Everything. Especially writing thank you notes, watching obscene hours of "Revenge" (seriously check it out), blogging, flossing, trying to find matching socks...well you get the picture. I am doing it though!!

My Mantra These Days
In other news, I feel like everyday on one fashion site or another I read something about how women feel about their weight in relation to what they see in the media, and the morality of the portrayal of women in fashion ads, magazines, fashion shows etc. Keeping with the promise of featuring more academic and thought provoking content on my blog, I've decided to tackle this subject from a slightly different angle. 

There have been ads and stats coming out recently that highlight the fact that the typical skinny model is too thin, while the plus-sized model is the "everyday woman." Sadly, what I discovered on Wikipedia (now that I've graduated I can shamelessly use it as a resource) reports that the average American woman is a size 14, while the average plus size model is between a size 10 and a 12. So, do we really need to see more "everyday women" in the industry? Some say, yes of course, celebrate all body types! While other people disagree, and argue that by portraying more "full-figured women" in the media, it will send the message that an unhealthier lifestyle is okay. Sure, I see that side of the story, but unhealthier by whose standards? It's no secret that the high number of skinny women saturating our society, who are portrayed as the ideal, are equally as capable of contributing to diseases such as Anorexia and Bulimia. Not to mention that girls with naturally high metabolisms, who are just biologically skinny, are understandably offended by always seeing the skinnier models in magazines being accused of anorexia, while plus-sized women seem critically untouchable.

In my opinion, either claim is rather demeaning to women; the first argument seems to suggest that we should only celebrate larger women, which, let's face it, may not be the best approach in a nation of morbid obesity, while the second argument makes it seem as though it's not okay to embrace whatever size you may be, even if you live a healthy lifestyle with a good diet and exercise. Frankly ladies, where is the middle ground? If we're looking at this objectively, we're definitely still not celebrating all sizes here. I happen to fall somewhere in between a size 00 and a size 10 (and that's all you need to know!!) so where do I fit in to the fashion industry? Where is my representation? I say either represent the same 1% you have been, or represent us ALL!

The argument that fashion models are just "hangers for the clothing" who shouldn't distract from the designer's creations seems well founded, but we also have to keep in mind that we live in a world where models are now celebrities. I mean, really, like anyone at the Louis Vuitton S/S 12 show didn't see Kate Moss coming down the runway and think "Holy cow, it's Kate Moss! Oh and that dress is lovely too..." Get real. Models are plenty distracting, especially when they become household names. 

Ultimately this "she's anorexic" and "she's fat" repertoire is just the next manifestation of the mean girl in high school who is so insecure and jealous that she has to bring everyone down around her. It seems women have always been hard-wired to bring one another down for one physical flaw or another, but why? Why even separate the term "plus-size" from regular modelling? Why not just call it modelling? Men of all builds are represented in the media, big men, skinny men, even men with bellies, but they're ALL CALLED MODELS. Why are women any different? Here is a prime example of the way women exhibit their insecurities when they feel threatened by either the status quo or something different from themselves...

This ad, which I discovered on, was recently published in Plus Model Magazine:
Now besides the fact that the stats in this spread are undoubtedly misleading as Anorexia is not about BMI, but a mental issue related to food, AND it is a magazine for plus size models, the responses from the public really showed what is at the core of this whole debate: larger women feel marginalized, unrepresented and pressured to be skinnier which leads to resentment of the skinnier women, while skinner women feel this resentment is unjustified as they either have high metabolisms or work hard for their figures, which leads to backlash:

"utter bollocks. ever heard of the word metabolism? or genes?"

 "There will never be a happy medium with this topic, people are continuing to become more obese and just bigger in general. Just because the average women is a size 14, that doesn't make it okay. In a few years she'll be even bigger, then what???"

"This emphasis on starvation-skinny figures (because yes, the vast majority of women cannot have these figures without starving themselves!) is incredibly damaging to our society."

"As a young person I do not look at models and say let me skip a meal, why because I have a mind of my own! People need to quit thinking that teen girls are so stupid and impressionable!"

"You do realize that while you might think that stretch marks and cellulite are a 90 year old's issue, a majority of women have them. It's a natural part of growing."
          "yeah its natural for people who dont know how to eat and exercise right..."

I was happy to see some pro-women comments across the board as well: 

"I hate this whole - "Plus-sized women are 'real' women, and thin women aren't" thing; this battle over what size is best. It's ludicrous, and it's just a part of the media's attempt to keep women unsatisfied with their size and jealous of one another no matter what ('cause hey, it sells more fashion and beauty product, ladies!)."

"As long as a person is mentally and physically healthy, I dont see why people care so much about BMI."

"I wish we could stop making broad assumptions one way or the other. Thin does not equal "health" just as fat does not equal "sick"."

I know that this is not all black and white, of course, as there is a very high rate of Anorexia in our country, which can largely be attributed to what we see in the media. Similarly there is a soaring rate of obesity, which needs to be dealt with accordingly. However, we can't let the media dictate how women feel about women. We should be fighting hard to get models of every range into the industry, AND more importantly respecting ALL body types. That means from very skinny to curvy and fuller formed. I'm certainly not saying we should be advertising unhealthy overweight women, but just spread the love around; if you're healthy, you exercise, and you eat right, then what's the problem? Food for thought, I'd love to hear your opinions!! 

Ciao for now xx


  1. Really well-written! I'll have to check in here more often. Anyway, an issue I would have liked to see you address in this article is the issue of airbrushing/editing/photoshop in advertising, etc. and how that ties into the size argument here. I'm no expert, but I always hear about how nothing you see in magazines is purely natural - that aside from makeup there are all kinds of digital touchups to allow the model to appear flawless. It's one thing to be naturally healthily thin - another for editors to make models appear more thin (or more busty, etc.) than they actually are. What does that tendency say about pressure from the industry? I think what I'd like to see more often is models - skinny or fat - who haven't been digitally altered in any way. However, I'm honestly unsure as to what extent such imagery is touched-up, so for all I know, many models do in fact appear pretty much as they are... Anyway, good read!

    1. Thanks Sarah! I'm glad you enjoyed it. I considered talking about airbrushing in this article, but it made the subject feel a bit too large to tackle. I would be interested in doing some research on it though because you definitely have a valid point there--it is all related. I will definitely keep it in mind as a future article. Thanks for reading :)

    2. Food for thought (no pun intended)...while living in Latin America I was routinely asked if I was sick because I was on the thinner side, certainly not significantly underweight. That is because in some communities where food is scarce having a bit of weight on you signifies wealth and health, as it did many years ago across the globe. The overly model-thin stereotype just doesn't look healthy to me, high metabolism or not...and yes I do feel the "high metabolism" excuse is just that in many cases in the fashion industry. I have a high metabolism but I don't look anorexic. The pressures we exert upon women to be thin, pretty, and perfect are a shame.