Are models too thin? Or are you just too fat?

The Washington Post's Robin Givhan says it's not the fashion world that needs to change. It's us

Topics: Body Image, Broadsheet, Fashion, Washington Post,

In this weekend’s Washington Post, Robin Givhan considers the outcry over the prevalence of extremely thin models on the runways, and comes up with an interesting conclusion: It wouldn’t be a problem if we weren’t all so fat.

The argument is more complex than that, of course. “All those emaciated models have to be seen against the backdrop of a population that is overwhelmingly afflicted with obesity,” she writes. And later: “The fatter the general population, the thinner the idealized woman.”

It’s true that fashion is about fantasy, and that includes the beauty of the models. They’re hired to look better in clothing than most of us ever will. It’s also true that beauty changes in response to cultural norms, and that it’s always been somewhat unattainable. Victorian women who wore corsets or Medieval women who bled themselves white weren’t doing so because they thought all the other women had wasp waists or naturally ghostly skin, but because corsets and paleness both signified a delicate, upper-class femininity. Whatever beauty is, it’s never the norm.

Givhan may also be right that “as a culture, we hate what we are becoming: fat.” There’s a lot of self-loathing out there. But when she writes that skinniness is a “test of willpower and determination,” or seems to approve of women on “The Biggest Loser” “passing out and throwing up in the gym to become size 8 or 4 or 0,” she ignores the fact that, due to many factors, including the work of people like Broadsheet’s Kate Harding and the fact that we know how Photoshop works, people increasingly don’t believe that they can look like models if they work hard enough. The backlash isn’t always about health or body image, but about wanting a standard of beauty that actually seems semi-attainable. At least you could buy a corset (good luck carrying that Photoshop eraser tool around with you at dinner).

You Might Also Like

“The culture” isn’t insisting on emaciated models and greeting larger ones with hostility; the fashion industry is, and as such, it seems increasingly out of touch with consumer demands. “The culture” is developing new aspirational models, like much-beloved, noticeably not-emaciated Christina Hendricks of “Mad Men.” Most of us will never look like her, either. But at least she looks like herself without any computerized assistance. And, for the moment, that’s enough. 

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    DAYA  
    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    MORELLO   
    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CINDY   
    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CAPUTO   
    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    BOO   
    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    SOSO
    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    POUSSEY
    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    PENNSATUCKY
    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CHANG
    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    HEALY
    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NORMA
    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NICKI
    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>