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01 October 2009 @ 03:07 pm
women, weight, perceptions of beauty  

I thought pretty much everyone had seen the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty video of the young woman being made-up and then Photoshopped into a billboard mannequin, but I reposted it on Facebook yesterday and a bunch of people hadn’t (or this, probably, which has a whole bunch of different sites showing models & actors who’ve been retouched & sometimes totally rebuilt for commercial purposes…). So I’m reposting the link here, too, mostly because the topic of women, weight and perceptions of beauty has been raised recently by fashion designer Mark Fast and Glamour magazine too, and it’s enough to tip me over and pour me out.

A couple weeks ago, Fast apparently had the nerve to put three “plus-sized”, by which we seem to mean “size 12 UK” (a size 8 US, which looks like this on yours truly), models in his runway show. Now, Mark Fast is apparently known for his knitwear designs, and frankly, I think virtually every design showcased in the slideshow at the above URL is unattractive, unwearable or unflattering. They are not, however, noticeably less flattering on the bigger girls, and Fast has evidently taken a whole *lot* of shit about having used models who could be mistaken for something other than clotheshangers. I swear to God, if I thought any of his designs were even vaguely appealing I’d go buy one just as an invitation for his detractors to go screw themselves.

A couple of months ago, Glamour magazine ran an article about being comfortable in your skin, and its attendant photograph was a naked woman who looked like she was (photo included in the link, but work safe). She is also not thin as a rake. She’s apparently about 5′11″ and 180 pounds, and there was a huge outcry, both in letters to the editor and apparently in Glamour’s online boards for more girls like her.

Glamour appears to be making some effort to listen. The article is kind of long, but unlike virtually any other article about women & weight I’ve ever read on the host site, msn.com, I think it’s actually worth reading. Among other highlights which are on one hand screamingly obvious but on the other hand probably require thirty years of reinforcement the way we’ve had thirty years of “visible hipbones are normal” reinforcement is the fact that most “plus-size” models actually aren’t plus-size humans. It’s one of the perversities of the modeling industry that women are moved into “plus” divisions once they’re anything larger than a six. (Bear in mind this is a US size six they’re talking about. That’s generally speaking a European size 10.)

Elsewhere in the article it addresses the question of whether using models of “plus” sizes sends a message that obesity is okay (let us for the moment overlook the fact that “plus” means “barely in the normal range” by standards outside the modeling industry). The author thinks not, which I agree with so vehemently it makes me want to scream.

My personal experience with weight loss & beauty-industry magazines (particularly fitness magazines, as I don’t read Glamour and its ilk), has been that actually the closer I get to a weight and shape I’m happy with, the *less* tolerant I am with seeing impossibly thin, fit, made-up, glamourized women in magazines. I mean, I think I look pretty fantastic as 155 pounds (I’m 5′7″) and a size 8, but by the time I’m at that size and in good condition, it’s violently clear to me that nothing I ever do is going to make me have, oh, say, anything but a short waist, big ribs and big boobs. When I weighed 210 pounds, yeah, okay, the women in Shape magazine were so far away from what I was that sure, I could idealize them and wish I had a body like that…but when I’m in shape and at a good weight, I look good–and nothing short of major reconstructive surgery is going to make me look like that. So I’m personally inclined to think that seeing women of normal proportion and fitness in magazines might be considerably more inspiring to your average reader than seeing Kelly Clarkson photoshopped beyond recognizabliity.

I seriously doubt there’s going to be any kind of seismic shift in the modeling or magazine industry. I fear that probably about the best we can do is train ourselves to say “Jesus God, did they even bother to start with a human being?” when we look at a magazine cover or, hell, your average runway model (where I think they may often be starting with cadavers. Frankenstein’s monster lives…).

(x-posted from the essential kit)

 
 
Current Mood: bitchybitchy
 
 
Katee Robertredqueen1 on October 1st, 2009 02:21 pm (UTC)
THANK YOU!

Grace Dudleygrian_ruadh on October 1st, 2009 02:28 pm (UTC)
Well said.
Vicki: Text-YOU ROCKeilan on October 1st, 2009 02:28 pm (UTC)
Dittoes redqueen1
Thank you!
This was said amazingly!
I had posted the Glamour article on my LJ a few weeks ago, cause I was happy they had put a regular healthy looking woman in their magazine!

it’s violently clear to me that nothing I ever do is going to make me have, oh, say, anything but a short waist, big ribs and big boobs.
Also, ditto this! I'm stuck with them, so I have to make the most of it!
mayakdamayakda on October 1st, 2009 02:30 pm (UTC)
“plus-size” models actually aren’t plus-size humans. "

Oh, those are goddesses. Srsly, the photo with that article -- those are some amazingly beautiful women.
kit: catie_haveanicedaymizkit on October 1st, 2009 02:33 pm (UTC)
*Aren't* they? I thought they were all beautiful. And I mean, come on, what else does one want from fashion models? Yes, okay, *fine*, I don't care if they're much prettier than I'll ever be, I'm willing to go that far with the whole 'this is a fantasy female' thing, but 'beautiful' isn't and shouldn't be synonymous with 'see-through'.
(no subject) - eilan on October 1st, 2009 02:46 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - iceopal on October 1st, 2009 11:14 pm (UTC) (Expand)
UrsulaVursulav on October 1st, 2009 02:31 pm (UTC)
Loved the photo shoot with the seven larger models...at 5'7" and 173, that's what *I* look like, and while I wouldn't mind shedding another
five pounds or so, I can look damn good when I want to, and I'm pretty sure I don't read as "fat." (Actually, what I remember most was when I had slid down to 145 and my buddy Jason said "Yes, yes, you look incredible. Now eat some cheese, damnit! Can I make you a sandwich?" Bless that man...I think that one exchange did more for my sense of a healthy weight...)

I'm not a reader of fashion magazines, because they aren't useful for me, but it occurs to me that they might actually BE useful if they showed models my size wearing clothes. Then I'd be able to say "Hey, that might look good on me!" But when you've got squishy bits under the chin and some pudge at the waistline--to say nothing of the D cups!--you wear entirely different clothes than if you're a boobless waif, and up until now, the only thing that's ever been the slightest use in saying "This might look good on you!" is "What Not To Wear."
kitmizkit on October 1st, 2009 08:30 pm (UTC)
Yeah, novel thought, isn't it? Imagine how many women might buy the damned magazine/watch the show/buy the clothes if they thought they might actually look /good/ in them!
Hexeengel Liebesliedhexeengel on October 1st, 2009 02:37 pm (UTC)
Can I link another community to this please?
kit: catie_sexymizkit on October 1st, 2009 02:39 pm (UTC)
Oh, sure, feel free to spread it around if you like!
(no subject) - hexeengel on October 1st, 2009 02:46 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Kari Sperringla_marquise_de_ on October 1st, 2009 02:42 pm (UTC)
Yes, yes, yes. And then there's the apparent ban on ageing if female. No women who look their ages may be shown if over 30 or so. Hollywood casting 17 year-olds to play 23 year-olds with 55+ year-old male co-stars. I no longer have anyone to look up to as a role model as I'm over the age when women may appear in public (I'm in my 40s) unless surgically adjusted, or in some way NotWomen (Mrs Thatcher, say). And the only approved-of older women are those who devote their entire lives to making their age invisible through over-exercise and surgery.
Colettebellinghwoman on October 1st, 2009 02:53 pm (UTC)
I no longer have anyone to look up to as a role model

I have Judi Dench and Helen Mirren...
(no subject) - pers1stence on October 2nd, 2009 02:32 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - rolanni on October 1st, 2009 02:53 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Laura Anne Gilman: citron pressesuricattus on October 1st, 2009 02:47 pm (UTC)
*nods* I have a naturally lean structure, but I also have strongly muscled thighs,and growing up seeing these colt-legged girls who looked like they would break under a heavy wind being touted as "the ideal" I pretty much just gave up on ever having a good body, because short of slicing away parts of my body, I wasn't ever going to look like that. Add in a strong ribcage and shoulders, a short waist, and no chest to speak of, and I felt like a mismatched pile of parts, according to what I was "supposed" to look like.

At 42, I've finally gotten to the point of being able to look in the mirror and see what's strong and healthy and good, rather than focusing on what I need to "fix." But it took me a long time to get there.
Kate Kirbykirbyk on October 1st, 2009 02:48 pm (UTC)
Personally, I tend to find (depending on height and muscle mass, of course, but roughly) 160-180 to be pretty much the ideal range for women I'm attracted to. Which is not to make this about men - the personal image part of the equation is more important - but additively, there also exist quite a lot of men who like women who are not super-thin. And there's not some sort of binary state between Thin and Fat - there's a middle, and it's wonderful.

In fact, my biggest complaint is how hard it is to find a woman who is shaped in a way that I like that isn't _incredibly_ unhappy with how she is shaped, to the point that they reject compliments and are hostile towards anyone who finds them attractive. The pathology of women's body image is not outside of the realm of importance for men - in fact, I'd say that for single straight men, finding an attractive and emotionally healthy woman is, um, fairly high on the list of priorities. Right between 'food' and 'shelter'. So I think it's important for men to say, "Hey, stop it. I'm not kidding, I like how middle-sized women look!"

A part of me is wary to even say this much, because there's a lot of problems in our society with men fetishizing women and objectifying them. This is true. But I think a sizeable enough chunk of the problem is tied into a desire to be attractive to the opposite sex that it does more good than harm to include this view in the discussion.

Viva la curves!
Lauraskeagsidhe on October 1st, 2009 03:19 pm (UTC)
You're right...men ARE part of the equation.

I'm not particularly big (5'6" and 135 pounds or so), but I have hips and I have thighs and am not at all shaped like a rail-thin model. I never have been. It's not how my body is put together.

I was always self-conscious about how I looked, partly because of that and partly because I'm a nerdy girl. Enough said.

I'm now dating a guy who thinks I'm gorgeous and says so regularly. And he was honestly and obviously surprised when I didn't believe him the first time he said that. That was a HUGE ego boost and definitely made me reconsider how I look at myself...and this is after years of thinking of such things in an academic and logical sort of way. Hearing it from a guy does make a difference, whether that's how it should be or not.
(no subject) - mizkit on October 1st, 2009 05:47 pm (UTC) (Expand)
wldhrsjen3wldhrsjen3 on October 1st, 2009 03:05 pm (UTC)
Okay, I'm sorry but I really have to add something from the other end of the spectrum. I am 5'8" and weigh 115 pounds soaking wet. EVERYONE in my family is tall and thin. No, I do not nor have I ever had an eating disorder or a thyroid problem. It's just the way I am. And I've grown up with comments like this: your average runway model (where I think they may often be starting with cadavers. Frankenstein’s monster lives… my entire life. And it hurts.

No, I don't think women should idealize _any_ particular body form. Beauty should come in _all_ sizes and shapes - whether it's the tall thin kind or the lovely curvy kind. Why can't we _all_ feel beautiful in our skin? I _wish_ I had curves because then I wouldn't hear the whispers behind my back: "Oh, god. She looks sick!"

I am GLAD that fashion designers and fashion magazines are including women with a variety of body types, but please don't use it as an excuse to target those of us who are skinny. I have enough inadequacies at is (good gods I wish I had boobs).
kitmizkit on October 1st, 2009 03:54 pm (UTC)
*sigh* I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be slamming naturally slender people. My friend ellenmillion is on your end of the spectrum, too, and I know how much work it is for her to maintain what she considers a healthy body weight. The difference, to me, is that even at her slimmest--which is right where you are, height and weight-wise--she didn't look paper-skinned and hollow-eyed. I realize part of what makes runway models look that way is the makeup choices designers make, but all of the genuinely slim--or skinny, if you wish--regular people I know *don't* look dangerously thin or cadaverous to my eye.

Anyway, I /am/ sorry, I didn't intend to pick that particular turf war.
(no subject) - wldhrsjen3 on October 1st, 2009 05:37 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mizkit on October 1st, 2009 05:41 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - wldhrsjen3 on October 1st, 2009 05:56 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bellinghman on October 1st, 2009 07:37 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mizkit on October 1st, 2009 08:35 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - pers1stence on October 2nd, 2009 02:35 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mizkit on October 2nd, 2009 09:30 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bellinghman on October 2nd, 2009 08:45 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mizkit on October 2nd, 2009 09:28 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bellinghman on October 2nd, 2009 09:44 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - mizkit on October 2nd, 2009 09:47 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bellinghman on October 2nd, 2009 10:11 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - cainle_bean on October 1st, 2009 05:02 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - wldhrsjen3 on October 1st, 2009 06:01 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Natural20natural20 on October 1st, 2009 03:52 pm (UTC)
One of the best bits of advice in a song full of amazing advice - "Do not read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly."

You are, in short, so right. The human race, sometimes I don't know why we do it to ourselves.
silkiemom on October 1st, 2009 05:11 pm (UTC)
I was discussing where to shop for plus size clothes for daughters and slim size clothes for sons with another mom who has children of the same build as mine. She also suggested that I get my daughter into some sort of sports to help her lose weight. I did not actually laugh in her face. She did quit ice skating class this summer, and she's temporarily dropped karate class for the duration of soccer season. So she's only doing soccer practice twice a week with one game a week and gymnastics once a week now. She is a healthy, reasonably fit kid. She's the only one who played all of the three games so far this seaoson (we're short on subs). I dislike the attitude that all she needs is to get more exercise. :P The kid has got shoulders on her! She will never have her brothers' stick builds because they've got really different bone structures.

And on a slightly related rant, would it kill Penney's to make the snow leopard print knit pants in plus sizes as well as regular sizes? Grrrrr.
mayakdamayakda on October 1st, 2009 05:17 pm (UTC)
Plus size for my one kid too, I second that rant!
Off-topic - hexeengel on October 1st, 2009 05:40 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Off-topic - silkiemom on October 1st, 2009 08:01 pm (UTC) (Expand)
mela_lyn: FabBoobsmela_lyn on October 1st, 2009 05:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you. Those were interesting articles to read. And it's good to see real women and not photoshopped women. I remember when I learned that they really change how a person looks... I think it was on the Tyra Show... and my jaw just dropped. Talk about false advertising. And it really does play into a women's conscious.

It's a difficult subject for me too b/c I had a breast reduction when I was 17. I was a size 14, 5'5", and E34 breasts. I hated it... for physical and mental issues. So my parents let me get it done. I've never regretted it. I could move, had less pain, and was more confident. Yes, I lost some weight after such an intensive surgery but I didn't feel like I had these giant beacons on my chest (says the girl who now has green hair).

But at the same time, it's difficult to feel like an advocate for 'natural' beauty when I've been physically altered. Kind of feels hypocritical. :) But I'm definitely not an advocate of plastic surgery for no reason. I have scars from stretch marks that will never heal. And I had huge dents in my shoulders from my bra straps trying to support me.

I want women and girls to see themselves as beautiful. To understand we're each unique. And that the things that make us different from men are gifts. But how do you do that when you've had some of those gifts lopped off?
kitmizkit on October 1st, 2009 05:36 pm (UTC)
Well, there's "natural beauty" and there's "my body is actually damaging me". If some of those gifts are causing you literal physical pain, I think you're going beyond "worried about societal standard of beauty" and into "health concern", which strikes me as a very different animal. I have a girlfriend who was equally well endowed (although she's a lot taller than you), and when she looked at breast reduction the insurance company told her she had to lose a certain amount of weight--it wasn't a whole lot, but it had to do with percentage of body weight in the breasts--for it to be considered medically necessary. She did lose the weight, and as it happened losing it reduced her breasts just enough for her to decide not to have the surgery (and is still Very Buxom Indeed). But she had the same kind of physical discomfort you did, and...yeah, I can see where it's an odd position to find yourself in, but it doesn't strike me as especially hypocritical.
(no subject) - mela_lyn on October 1st, 2009 05:50 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Chrisberchrisber on October 1st, 2009 08:08 pm (UTC)
It’s one of the perversities of the modeling industry that women are moved into “plus” divisions once they’re anything larger than a six.

I think this is part of the American (Puritan?) problem: there are no shades of grey. Everything is black and white. You either don't drink, or you are an alcoholic. You are either "size 6" (a pointless system of indicating size, but that's another rant) or you are fat.

I suspect anything else is too complex for this undereducated, polarized, country.

Besides, those "plus size" models in the article you linked to look gorgeous.
T.M. Thomastmthomas on October 1st, 2009 09:07 pm (UTC)
I find this topic interesting, although I'm a guy and sort of a spectator. My wife is a smaller person, but I think she sometimes feels the pressure to look like the Size 3 in the magazine instead of what a real size 3 looks like.
Anaquana: Too sexyanaquana on October 1st, 2009 10:57 pm (UTC)
Absolutely fabulous post!

I just have one little quibble - if that woman in the Glamour magazine photo is 5'11" and 180lbs, I'll eat my shoe. :D

I'm 5'11" and weigh about 145. Comparing my body shape with hers, she can't be more than 160. Unless she is somehow magically hiding ENORMOUS breasts.
kitmizkit on October 2nd, 2009 09:22 am (UTC)
I think what she's got, actually, are large thighs and hips. I mean, yeah, her weight is on her butt so obviously it's going to spread out some, but I suspect that's where she's /carrying/ her weight, too.
hegemony hedgehogagrimony on October 2nd, 2009 12:19 am (UTC)
I'll admit that one of the biggest demotivators (that's not really a word is it?) when I do make efforts to lose weight is the knowledge that even if I shed all the extra pounds I should shed and got fit and into shape... I'd still probably not be much smaller than a size 12 or 14 or 16 simply because of my underlying shape (darn hardy peasant stock) - which means that "society" would still point at me as that huge fat cow over in the corner. :P
Merry: lego_mefeed_your_muse on October 2nd, 2009 10:49 am (UTC)
I know what you mean; I'm always going to be 'hardy peasant stock' because my bone structure is quite chunky - you just have to look at my hands to see it. (My mother's height - short; and my father's build - broad. Damn genetics - can you say hobbit?
)
When I was ten (and probably a European size 14), one of my teachers at school told my mother that there was a 'great summer camp' where I could go and have my jaw wired so that I could only have liquids and therefore lose weight! I know I was eating the wrong things, I've always been an emotional over-eater, but even then that seemed an extreme reaction. I'd have thought mentioning healthy eating and exercise that I liked doing would have been a better place to start, but no. I suppose I should be glad she didn't recommend surgery? (And no, my mother didn't take her up on it) :-)

Merry
janabard: Aha Grin Bollywoodjanabard on October 2nd, 2009 12:29 am (UTC)
Here by recommendation of grian_ruadh.

Great post! I was so excited when the picture of a "real woman" showed up in Glamour, and I agree that we have to retrain our perception.

Do you mind if I friend you so I can read more of your writing on a regular basis? :-)
kitmizkit on October 2nd, 2009 09:22 am (UTC)
Friend away! That's what LJ is here for! And welcome! :)
pgwfolcpgwfolc on October 2nd, 2009 01:59 am (UTC)
Not much to say except that I totally agree. It's ridiculous. And tragic. (It also leads to this problem.)

Also totally agree about that picture... you do look great.

On the other hand, while it's sad that things like the Dove campaign and Fast's choice of models are considered revolutionary (in one sense or another), and it's true that there isn't going to be a seismic shift... at least there are places in the industry where things are moving in a better direction. Small steps, but maybe they'll take things somewhere, in time.
artful_dabblerartful_dabbler on October 4th, 2009 02:11 pm (UTC)
It took me years to believe my husband when he said I was sexy. And after a while "I like fluffy women." finally got through, and I realized, "He really DOES like fluffy women!" Luckily, since I am not quite as fluffy now, he likes me in general. :)
pgwfolcpgwfolc on October 15th, 2009 03:28 pm (UTC)
Just watched this clip (and the one after it), and it reminded me of this post. Thought I'd take a sec to pass it along.