The International Writers Magazine:
size really matter?
Too fat, too thin, will women ever win?
female size issue is back more then ever, our culture is bombarded
with image saturated magazines such as Heat and Reveal,
hounding models and celebrities, and debating weather there size
is healthy and whether theyre portraying good
role models for our generation. It is no mystery that
there is more pressure then ever to look good and stay slim.
The issue of size
however has become more serious, with the
death of two models Ana Carolina and Ms Reston, both succumbing to eating
disorders; there is a tragic side of wanting to be thin. A recent article
in Marie Claire delved deeper into eating disorders across the
globe, primarily in America, where its now an epidemic. It is
no surprise that being exposed to television, and indeed to all other
forms of media, can be directly linked to eating disorders but, dangerous
misconceptions still exist.
Marie Claire brought to my attention the extreme cases. Photographer
Lauren Greenfield carefully exposed the starling truths about American
women and eating disorders, which has now been publicised in her new
book Girl Culture and exhibition of the same name. The study
was based around a group of Fijian secondary school girls with an average
age of 17, they were asked various questions about their eating habits
and body image. Three percent said they had induced vomiting to control
their weight and hardly any had dieted. When the researchers surveyed
another group of girls, 69 percent admitted to experimenting with dieting.
Many of the girls expressed how they wanted to look like Western women
they had seen on shows like Beverley Hills 90210.
In Britain the crisis is very similar, we have more media publications,
more television shows on the subject.. We are exposed to so much, the
problem is universal but the consequences are still shocking. Previously,
photographer Lauren Greenfield documented girls and women through words
and images for her seminal 2002 book, Girl Culture. The images
are disturbing and distressing, but it brings to light a way in which
we can understand the disorder. It portrays the dark side of the illness
with great empathy, and recognizes that it is a type of mental illness.
Lauren Greenfields new book, Thin, is based around a residential
clinic for the treatment of eating disorders in Florida, one of the
countries most well known clinics. It is now an epidemic in America,
with anorexia nervosa the third most common chronic illness among adolescent
females in the United States. Twenty-five percent of college-aged women
engage in binging and purging for a weight management technique. It
has reached serious levels, which we must address. It is a psychiatric
disorder with an estimated 10-14% of people eventually dying from the
In some way or another, whether we have dieted ourselves or had some
experience with body issues, we can all relate to this image and peer-pressure
of being thin. Its a fact that all women and girls
feel it is essential at a young age to look thin. Thin is good, fat
is bad. Fat is associated with poverty and the underclass. Its
a sad and alarming state of affairs which will probably only increase
because of the medias fixation with body image. It seems ironic that
this article was taken from Maria Claire which is full to the
brim every month, with thin women, and with the recent televised reality
show Make me A Supermodel, it is hard to steer away
from the size issue.
The judges on the show admitted to preferring the painfully thin model
to the normal sized contestant. Jen Hunter, frequently telling
her that she would never cut it in the fashion world, she was too big
and she did not look good on the catwalk. She was, in fact, a wonderfully
curvy size 12, which is however a rare occurrence in the modeling world,
the judges feelings however were completely dismissed when she was voted,
by the public, as the winner of of the show, broadcast on Channel Five.
It was a win which would prove to the judges that women of her size,
(not that big at all), can still look striking on the catwalk. Her rival,
a size 8 Swedish teenager, has been defended as having a naturally boyish
As stated in The Independent recently, these models are signed
from a young age and put under extreme pressure, they are taught how
to walk, how to dress, how to wear their hair or makeup, but they are
left to their own devices when it come to their diet.
Although the recent winner of Make Me a Supermodel
triumphantly overcame the judges remarks and abuse, can she really break
into the fashion world? There are still a number of well regarded model
agencies who simply say that models need to be size zero for the clothes
to hang well, Tandy Anderson, owner of Select Models and one
of the show judges, said it was unfair to compare both the contestants,
"Women simply have different bodies." If this is the case,
then why is the catwalk so against including larger models?
High street shops have recently started to up their sizes, TOPSHOP in
particular now stocks size 16 clothes which was a rarity in previous
years. That size was regarded as unfashionable, whereas now its
the national average size in Britain. Many more designer shops are also
recognizing that women are indeed slightly larger than recent years
and we can, (probably to their disgust), still pull off a designer look.
It was only a few years ago that the elegantly curvy, Sophie Dahl graced
the catwalks, shocking and proving to the catwalk worshippers and the
disturbingly serious fashion world that, yes, she was curvy and yes
she still looked good in designer clothes. She was in fact a size 16
at the time, which caused such a media frenzy that, alas, she succumbed,
as many models do, to the diet regime. I was mortified to find that
under pressure by the media she finally gave in and shrunk to a size
8 in just over 6 months.
a distressing reality that popular culture and media has formed
this obsession with being thin, but we must also try to understand
that eating disorders are not just about looking at models, its
root and problem manifests much deeper in a more complex ways. We
cannot simply blame the media for eating disorders but we can observe
as a reader of fashion and gossip publications, and try to understand
that women do come in different shapes and sizes. All women, whatever
shape, can look and feel good, we have to take these magazines with
a pinch of salt, (low-fat salt actually). They are for me, a form
of escapism, I enjoy the fashion articles and appreciate them for
what they are, just a mere aspect of the fashion world and not at
I love my curves and appreciate others whatever their body shape
may be. It is, however, an obsession which will never decrease.
We will always have magazines, even more so in the near future,
but maybe, just maybe we will start to see an increase in model
size, Jen Hunter has paved the way for young curvy hopefuls, let's
just hope that the fashion world of modeling will recognize the
public needs to see more curvy women on the catwalk!
Image: Jen Hunter 2006
Joan Jacobs Brumberg,
a professor at Cornell University, puts it in her introduction to Greenfields
book: "This desperate, misguided search for perfection will
continue to perplex our affluent society for time to come".
Its a serious statement which we all, as women, can relate to,
a desire, a dream, a fantasy of being thin, to be thin in the fashion
world is to be beautiful and even moral! Fat in the fashion world is
seen as disgusting and unheard of. The size issue needs to be addressed
by all, the media, the modeling world and us, the victims of its constant
So whos responsibility is it to make a change, the media or the
fashion industry, YOU DECIDE!!
© Carly McClain December 2006
Carly McClain on this Turkish movie
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