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)