Recently Victoria Beckham came under fire for using models that were too thin or the fat word for thin—skinny. I clicked on the pictures and video expecting to see walking skeletons and well I didn’t. Some of the models were thinner then others with their upper arms as thin as their lower arms, and this can make someone look very thin. Although that said, there are a lot of people out there (guys too) who have builds like this, especially when they are young, but they are not sickly or starving. They generally fill out as they get older, but some people are naturally thin and this is just their build and body type.
When it comes to fashion, thin models are used because basically they want walking hangers—they want the viewer to notice the clothes and not the person in the clothes which is why the models that walk in fashion shows all have the same body type and are in and around the same height. This creates a uniform look, essentially a walking clothes rack. And today buying clothes “off the rack” is the way everyone shops, we no longer go to a store and see clothes on a live person and then have clothes ordered to fit the way women often did in the pre war days. And since we are so used to seeing clothes hanging on hangers when we buy them, this is kind of reproduced on the runway and in editorials—hangers with pretty faces. The camera can also make people appear to be heavier then they are, so with the rise of the use of photography in fashion after World War II models got thinner.
There certainly have been cases where this was taken to an extreme and models were used that looked like they had just been rescued from a concentration camp but often they are just naturally skinny girls. Again it is fashion and not “reality” and I don’t think fashion shows are nessisarily representing reality. But for the most part, most of the women who like fashion, read fashion magazines, and buy fashionable clothes do not have eating disorders.
And if fat shaming is seen as bad or negative, then why is skinny shaming OK? Isn’t this just the other side of the same coin?
The percentages are actually quite low. Eating disorders are a very serious disorder and are not caused by fashion, however the images of thin women often used in fashion can act as a trigger, these type of images do not cause eating disorders but they can according to Eonline and Lorna Garner, chief operating officer of the eating disorder charity b-eat, escalate and exacerbate existing conditions. She states “There is overwhelming evidence that points to these images having a very negative and damaging effect.” But statistically the percentages are still fairly low when compared to the public at large of women who read and or look at fashion images and have an actual eating disorder. And sadly the bigger health issue is obesity and majority of the public being over weight, with many healthcare professionals referring to this problem as an epidemic. And this has to do with the American food industry (don’t get me started) the average American diet, and the over-sized portions and servings, because seriously folks, if you have to hold your beverage with two hands—it’s too big.
I have only known two people with eating disorders, one of which was a guy, a guy who had zero interest in fashion. And when I say zero, I mean zero, he wore a uniform of black or gray jeans and black or gray short or long sleeved tees, yet he had an eating disorder complete with making himself throw up. My friend had this disorder due to growing up in an extreme authortian household with a strict demanding father. The other person I knew was a women and she was even hospitalized because of her eating disorder, in her case she had been sexually molested by a female family member and the eating disorder was a manifestation of that abuse and the loss of control. Which is generally why eating disorders develope, it is a response to a lack of control or a perceived lack of control. So to blame an entire industry for a complex emotional disorder which effects a rather small part of the general population is a bit misguided.
But it is not surprising, it seems anything that is mainly targeted to women is held up for scrutiny. And if fat shaming is seen as bad or negative, then why is skinny shaming OK? Isn’t this just the other side of the same coin? The anger and animosity aimed at thin women is exceptional. It is assumed that all thin women are intentionally starving themselves and are vapid self absorbed superficial drama queens. I have a friend who lost a fair amount of weight and went from a size 14 to a size 4 in about 20 months. She did it in a healthy gradual way, eating healthy food and working out. But told me she experienced open hostility from her fellow coworkers who appeared resentful of her successful weight loss. And another time when I was at an event at for Lucky Magazine and was speaking with one of the editors who had an athletic build she spoke about how she gained weight when she was pregnant and show she was treated differently. I fully expected her to say that people were not as nice to her when she gained weight, but nope, she said the opposite—people were nicer to her when she was heavier and she too was quite surprised by this reaction. Not that obese people and women in particular do not experience open ridicule, they do. Which makes this reaction so surprising. What is it about the female body in all it’s shapes and sizes that our society (and others) find so threatening?
And this coveting of the ultra thin is a fairly recent development. Historically, being stick thin and flat chested was not considered attractive for women and if you go back a hundred years or more it was associated with poverty. In recent history and before the 1970’s the ideal as was the curvy bombshell aesthetic, think Joan of Mad Men fame. But how many women look like that? That is even more of an unattainable ideal. I personal know very few women that have figures like Joan.
So what exactly is this about? And this does seem to be something specific to the American pschye. I think part of the problem is because the gap between the general public and the images we see in the media of actors, celebrities and models is so wide. With much of the population being over weight and out of shape and a majority (though not all) of celebrities being fit and thin and models being very young and thin. Which in a way is kind of a reflection of American society in general with our wide discrepancies in wealth and political and religious beliefs. And it seems women’s bodies are somehow always used as metaphors for all of societies ills. And I made the same observation that Rowena did, I meant to address it in the post, but yes the models in Victoria Beckham’s shows were thin, but they were not any thinner then the models used in dozens upon dozens of shows this past Fashion Week, yet only she was singled out for criticism. Could it be that she herself is quite thin? I think this is exactly the reason, what say you?
And a very sad commentary on our society was the existence of a Facebook page and Instagram account called Project Harpoon. This group photoshopped photos of heavier celebrities to make them look thinner as a way (so they say) to call attention to what they claim is a climbing trend of “fat acceptance” which is then used as an excuse to not exercise and not take responsibility for personal healthcare, along with the issue of skinny shaming. And it is interesting to note, the images are mostly female celebrities. What, there are no less then svelte male celebrities? Hmm. Yes being overweight can cause some unwanted heath issues, and yes skinny shaming is not OK, but this is NOT the way. Wow. And again it is all aimed at women. Both accounts have since been deleted. But there are still the haters judging women’s bodies which was sadly brought in to focus by the recent negative comments on social media regarding Gigi Hadid. I mean really? Really? Sad to say that I am sure a fair among of those comments came from other women, and I am sure the majority of it is plain old jealousy. But still, how sad is this. What does this all mean?
So what do think? Do you think it is ok to shame skinny um I mean thin women? And why do you think this happens? And why do think obviously beautiful women are also body shamed?