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Thick in size but thin in content
August 27, 2008 12:47 PM   Subscribe

Quebec clothing chain Simons has pulled its newest catalogue after getting hundreds of complaints that the models in it were too thin. The genesis of the complaints may have been a story about the catalogue (and complaints) on Radio-Canada (Canada's French-language national broadcaster) about a week ago.

"Models are too thin!" is not an uncommon refrain in the media; in Spain, models with a BMI under 18 are banned from modelling. The death of models from Uruguay and Brazil in 2006 seems to have sparked the general growing awareness of models as unhealthy (and unhealthy influences); this is, however, possibly the first time that a major retailer has recalled a catalogue due to public outcry over its models being too thin. With the "average" fashion model weighing 23% less than the typical woman and standing six inches taller, is the public outcry over the catalogue and its subsequent recall the shape of things to come?
posted by Shepherd (77 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
uselesss w/o pics
posted by kaspen at 12:52 PM on August 27, 2008


/me goes to make popcorn
posted by desjardins at 12:53 PM on August 27, 2008


I am eating a sandwich in their honor.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:58 PM on August 27, 2008


Je mange, je vomi, c'est bon.
posted by brain_drain at 1:02 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Vanishing Point -- "Where the masculine ideal of as recently as 2000 was a buff 6-footer with six-pack abs, the man of the moment is an urchin, a wraith or an underfed runt."

Male Models: Pressure to be Thin?

One Year After the Storm Over Skinny Models, We Ask: 'Has Anything Changed?'
posted by ericb at 1:03 PM on August 27, 2008


Previously on MeFi: Skinny is in for male models.
posted by ericb at 1:07 PM on August 27, 2008


Or maybe it's just that people on average are getting fatter and fatter and as a result fat people are seen as regular sized and regular sized, healthy people are seen as being underweight or "too skinny"?
posted by gyc at 1:08 PM on August 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


Nice. My prisoner of war body type is finally sexy.
posted by chunking express at 1:10 PM on August 27, 2008


This seemed a bit tangential for the FPP, but here's a study that makes a noble attempt at correlating the (apparent) media obsession with thinness and the general rising of obesity rates, which seems totally counterintuitive at first blush.
posted by Shepherd at 1:12 PM on August 27, 2008


where are the photos?
posted by matteo at 1:23 PM on August 27, 2008


This is genuinely pretty useless without photos — my reaction to this is going to be very different if their catalog models are half the size of the models in most catalogs, or if they are actually "normal" catalog model-sized (meaning skinny but not famine-skinny like a lot of catwalk models are).
posted by Forktine at 1:27 PM on August 27, 2008


Maybe clothes sell better when advertised on thin models? Somebody must have done a study on this?
posted by rocket88 at 1:28 PM on August 27, 2008


Good, because, y'know, the sex-harrassment-at-cons thread was dying down.
posted by WCityMike at 1:33 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Or maybe it's just that people on average are getting fatter and fatter and as a result fat people are seen as regular sized and regular sized, healthy people are seen as being underweight or "too skinny"?

ummmm...have you heard of Ana Carolina Reston or Luisel Ramos?
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:36 PM on August 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


The Simons website may have what you're looking for, people.
posted by WCityMike at 1:36 PM on August 27, 2008


I may have seen this linked to on Metafilter, but I thought this recent Villanova study was relevant (and really, really depressing.)
Women who view ads featuring thin models are likely to come away with both a positive impression of the product being marketed and negative feelings about themselves, according to a study of 194 college-aged women.
(You need to log in to see the actual story - though several blogs recap it.)
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:37 PM on August 27, 2008


Clothing manufacturers want models that resemble, as closely as possible, a coat hanger.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:37 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


regular sized, healthy people are seen as being underweight or "too skinny"?

Anecdata: I have seen sentiments along these lines come up in conversation, on several occasions and with different people.
posted by everichon at 1:38 PM on August 27, 2008


ummmm...have you heard of Ana Carolina Reston or Luisel Ramos?

Generally high fashion models walking runways in Milan aren't at all like the models used by middle of the road clothing chains, but then I haven't seen what the models in the catalog looked like.
posted by gyc at 1:40 PM on August 27, 2008


Sorry -- the catalogue can be seen (in part) in the top video of the abovelinked Radio-Canada page, but that should have been more explicit in the FPP. The Simons site doesn't have it.

The Radio-Canada site needs you to install some obnoxious piece of software called "Silverlight" to view its videos, which is aggravating. I may screencap and post later tonight if time allows.
posted by Shepherd at 1:42 PM on August 27, 2008


where are the photos?

Drive down main street, watch a television commercial, look at the rags in the checkout aisle. It isn't like these stick thin models aren't plastered anywhere and everywhere possible.
posted by clearly at 1:44 PM on August 27, 2008


Or maybe it's just that people on average are getting fatter and fatter and as a result fat people are seen as regular sized and regular sized, healthy people are seen as being underweight or "too skinny"?

This is immediately apparent in mainstream clothing stores (Eddie Bauer, Old Navy, etc). In high school (15 years ago) I wore a size 6 (US) jeans. Now I wear a size 0 or 2 - if I can find them. XS anything is nearly impossible to find. Most stores start at medium sizes. I have not lost any weight; in fact I have gained a few pounds. In order to buy clothes that fit well, I have to go to higher-end stores and pay more. Or go to Europe - I had no problem finding things that fit in Paris.
posted by desjardins at 1:51 PM on August 27, 2008


Why is that catalogue (catalog) in French? No wonder it got pulled. No one can read the damned thing.
posted by Postroad at 1:59 PM on August 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


Rarely is the question asked, is our models eatin'?
posted by isopraxis at 2:03 PM on August 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


Eddie Bauer

My fairly average-sized wife cannot shop there. Their womens' clothing is designed for spheres as far as I can tell. I expect it may have more to do with their specific target demographics rather than the broader population - H&M seems to size their clothing in the exact opposite direction.
posted by GuyZero at 2:05 PM on August 27, 2008


from what I can see on their website, they're not especially thin -- they're models. certainly not anorexic-looking like you sometimes (rarely, actually) see. it's like watching the NFL and being surprised that the players are big, it's what they do. thin is one thing and anorexic is another. I don't see anorexia on their website photos, maybe they pulled them.
posted by matteo at 2:08 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Or maybe it's just that people on average are getting fatter and fatter and as a result fat people are seen as regular sized and regular sized, healthy people are seen as being underweight or "too skinny"?

I have an annoying variant on this, in that I'm fairly bull-necked. Off-the shelf men's clothing assumes if you've got a big neck, you're a fat bastard. Shirts are like spinnakers.
posted by rodgerd at 2:11 PM on August 27, 2008


My fairly average-sized wife cannot shop there [Eddie Bauer]. Their womens' clothing is designed for spheres as far as I can tell.

This didn't used to be the case. I picked that as an example because I can compare the same store from 15 years ago to now. I don't shop there anymore because nothing fits.
posted by desjardins at 2:11 PM on August 27, 2008


You only hear about the one or two models who get sick, so everyone thinks all models are anorexic.

Most models are healthy (and many they eat like pigs).

This is just another form of discrimination against a body type and nothing more.
posted by Zambrano at 2:13 PM on August 27, 2008


- "they"
posted by Zambrano at 2:13 PM on August 27, 2008


desjardins, I'm glad to see someone else with that problem. When I was 16, my waist was X", and I wore an 8. When I was 24, my waist was X+4", and I wore a 6. Now I'm 35, my waist is x+6", and while I can occasionally find a 6 that fits, more often I find 4s that fall off me, if I'm lucky enough to find someplace that even carries a 4. And I cuss, and cuss, and cuss, and try to learn to sew
posted by dilettante at 2:32 PM on August 27, 2008


It's disheartening to think that a healthy young person/woman who grows up in a typical community of the obese (typically 50%) won't have any examples of normalcy but in a fashion magazine. Yes, models by and large are too skinny. The populace, by and large, is freakishly fat and getting fatter. I'd actually like my girls to be able to grow up seeing something resembling the world I grew up in thirty years ago as it pertains to body habitus, not a brethren of classmates with BMI's over 35 in the third grade. People that continue to harp on the fashion industry for having the temerity to use skinny models increasingly sound like blitheringly short-sighted fuckwits. It's commerce. Grow up.
posted by docpops at 2:35 PM on August 27, 2008


Screencaps from the video: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7.

I think that, besides picture number 4, they looks fairly normal if a little thin. N°4 looks very thin, almost catwalk-model thin.
posted by Memo at 2:36 PM on August 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


*they look
posted by Memo at 2:36 PM on August 27, 2008


I'd like to believe that's true, Zambrano, but I think there is more at work here than discrimination against a body type and nothing more.

"Models seem to be suffering the brunt of the fashion industry's obsession with size zero, according to a new study carried out by the Model Health Inquiry. The study indicates that as many as 40% of models may currently be suffering from some kind of eating disorder." *

Not "most", but certainly not dismissible.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:40 PM on August 27, 2008


And, um, I have to say as a teenage female. I very much understand the annoyance at ever-growing store sizes (I can't even shop at Old Navy... it's absurd) but if there's something young women today have a problem with it's NOT a lack of people telling them to be skinnier. Really, docpops, for someone with daughters you're very out of touch with the messages that they're receiving.

Promoting healthy eating and exercise? Yes, by all means. Promoting thinness? Trust me, plenty of people have got that covered for you.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:44 PM on August 27, 2008 [11 favorites]


Not "most", but certainly not dismissible.

The same arguments can be made about obesity. But I think you'll find people who object to giving the morbidly overweight a hard time about their weight are only too happy to talk shit about skinny people (and, of course, vice versa).
posted by rodgerd at 2:44 PM on August 27, 2008


Solon, how many people are suffering from health issues related to being underweight? How many people are suffering from health issues from being overweight?
posted by rodgerd at 2:45 PM on August 27, 2008



Maybe clothes sell better when advertised on thin models?


Yes, for two reasons:

1) Models are presented as the epitome of glamour. "Wear these clothes," the ads say, "and you too can be this glamourous."

2) Fabric drapes better off angular shapes, making the clothes look better. Which is, of course, ridiculous in pret-a-porter clothing; the women who actually buy the couture stuff have private fittings with the designer, who moves heaven and earth to make the clothes look on them the way they look on the models.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:46 PM on August 27, 2008


Oh, yes, because I think it's unhealthy to be underweight I must think it's just grand to be overweight! There's nothing in between that is a healthy goal!

I think a perfect weight would be strawman size.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:48 PM on August 27, 2008 [5 favorites]


Solon, you'd be more likely to find a crack pipe in my house than a fashion magazine. Billboards and fashion ads, in the pantheon of potential threats to my child's well-being, just don't rate more than a wheezing ambivalent shrug. If people want to claim victim status for themselves or the models I couldn't care less. Self-esteem issues are much more likely to start around the dinner table (or lack thereof). These same people might consider calling up MTV or any of the other producers who parade forty-five year-old plasticized mommies in search of their next fix through the prime-time line-up before they go after a dying medium like print advertising.
posted by docpops at 2:52 PM on August 27, 2008


The 6th photo is the oddest: knees shouldn't be the biggest part of a leg.

Emaciation (5' 11" and 110 pounds ) is not the same as being a normal-sized small person (5'5" and 110 pounds).
posted by jrochest at 2:53 PM on August 27, 2008


Clothing drapes best off catalogue models because the clothes are pinned and tucked out of sight to fit her perfectly from the one angle the photographer wants so it will look just so. If she sneezes, there's an explosion of clothespins; if she bends over she gets strangled by the neckline. It's all bogus. Every bit of it.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:00 PM on August 27, 2008


Clearly, the only solution is to put all the models in a locked room until the stronger models have eaten the other, skinnier, weaker models. The handful of survivors will be beautiful, well-fed and ready for media interviews.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:07 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hm. To be more clear about my last response,

Solon, how many people are suffering from health issues related to being underweight? How many people are suffering from health issues from being overweight?

I certainly don't think that underweight models is the biggest threat to our health - I agree that obesity is a much, much, much (x#) more worrisome problem. However, if I read a story regarding people who are underweight my response to that is "Okay, that's bad for them."

That doesn't mean I endorse obesity. It just means I'm being realistic and am going to be realistic about claims that models are pretty much all perfectly healthy, or that girls today don't have enough skinny role models, for example. It's possible to dislike two things, you know - you don't have to swing wildly in defense of one badness to make a point against the other badness.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:07 PM on August 27, 2008


Solon, how many people are suffering from health issues related to being underweight? How many people are suffering from health issues from being overweight?

Because the percentage of people underweight in the population is lower than those overweight, there will obviously be fewer in raw number. However, health issues are health issues, and each group has its own percentage that may be related to their weight. It's not easy to measure because many problems could've arisen from other sources.

And where do you put people in normal weight categories?

There's also the issue of people who look thin but have lots of internal fat stores around major organs. Weight and BMI are misleading.
posted by cmgonzalez at 3:14 PM on August 27, 2008


a healthy young person/woman

A healthy young person should have a BMI between 19 and 25. The controversy over thin models has largely to do with models who have BMIs under 18 - meaning that they are indeed unhealthy.

But many models over BMI of 18 still don't present a image of health -- healthy people should have good muscle and skin tone. Just look at what athletes, who are clearly in excellent health, look like versus models - male or female.

If the current beauty trends were actually about health, the fashion industry would be casting models who look like healthy - but this attractive healthy woman has thighs about three times the size of any models. Most healthy women do not have large gaps between their thighs (a few due, but most do not due to both fat and muscle); most models do.

The fact is that the clothes hanger comment above is absolutely spot on: it's easier to get fabric to hang well off of bones than to make it drape well around complex three dimensional shapes. Fashion designers are either too lazy or too incompetent to design clothing that drapes well off of curves (of muscles, hips or mammary glands), so they arrange for their clothes to be modelled by people with as few difficult in and out bits (like a high hip to waist ratio, which is healthy) as possible.

It's not about the objectification of women for sexual purposes by men (see porn industry - their objectification is totally different) -- it's about laziness and lack of talent. Really talented fashion designers would make clothing which flattered the wearer, including different styles for different body shapes, not just seek out wearers who flatter their badly designed clothing.
posted by jb at 3:24 PM on August 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


sorry -- editting made me come out with pidgeon english. That should have been, "the fashion industry would be casting models who look like this healthy woman..."
posted by jb at 3:27 PM on August 27, 2008


I am very happy with my body and it is my most constant source of joy in my life. However talking about this is easily insensitive to listeners who may have body image problems. Usually you can talk about these rushes and satisfactions comfortably with people you exercise with. Negative aspects of your body can be talked with almost everyone.

I think this leads to a harmful cycle: people unhappy with their bodies spend their time in a world where every real person seems to be unhappy with their bodies and in all of these discourses they only learn to be better at being unhappy. From there, road leading to a body where you could, maybe, be happy seems to be paved only with suffering and denial of enjoyment.

Meanwhile, people who are happy with their bodies meet secretly in their gyms, clubs and halls and from each other they learn more about being happy in their bodies. And afterwards they talk about their sufferings and sacrifices to not hurt the unhappy listener.

Severe body image problems seem to combine these both worlds: they do get kicks from their body, but at the same time they hold to common idea of denial & suffering as only true path.

(Happy/unhappy with their body is not meant to be thin/obese-distinction. When I was unhappy about my body, it was because of being too skinny and path to not being so seemed impossibly boring. Which it wasn't. And I am still skinny, but body is happy when it moves/plays.)
posted by Free word order! at 3:32 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


it's about laziness and lack of talent

So, uh, you know absolutely nothing about fashion designers, then? Jolly good.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:43 PM on August 27, 2008


in response to the comments above, about whether obesity or underweight is the greater health problem:

The issue isn't about whether these images are encouraging more people to be underweight than before - clearly the trend is not that way. The social concern is that more people of normal weight have low self esteem about their body because of the normalising of abnormally thin people, and that in some people this can lead to serious psychological illnesses (like eating disorders), while for a lot more people it just makes them feel sucky. It's a psychological and social problem.

And I think that these images do contribute to the problems of obesity and ill health in our society. How many people don't exercise because no matter how much they do, they will never be thin enough to be "attractive"? How many already feel like failures even as teenagers? When I was 11, I avoided my school's free gymnastics lessons (which earlier I had really wanted to do), because I didn't want anyone to see me in a leotard because I was too fat. Maybe I would have been a lot more active as a kid, and maybe would have been less roly poly, if I hadn't had such a bad body image.

I'm not saying it's the only reason for the growth in obesity -- I would say the main reason are lack of exercise due to increasingly sedentary work and a society which is organised in such a way as to make humans expend the least about of energy possible.

But the current body fashion in modelling has nothing to do with promoting a healthy ideal -- and instead hurts efforts to promote healthy living by setting impossible (and unhealthy) ideals. The effect of the media is real - just look at the fact that young black women in the US are more like to have a healthy body image than young white women. And that's because there are images of healthy and sometimes curvy and sometimes not black women in the media.

What needs to come back into fashion is balance -- a healthy balance of muscles. good skin tone and even a little bit of fat, reflecting a healthy lifestyle. And clothes designed to fit on beings who are beautiful bags of mostly water, not coat hangers.

So, uh, you know absolutely nothing about fashion designers, then? Jolly good.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:43 PM on August 27


Well, not about them personally - I mean, I don't know how they like their coffee.

But I do understand the principles of shaping cloth and designing clothes -- and the challenge in fashion is to create something beautiful within the contraints of fitting that design to the complex 3-dimensional human body. And I say that fashion designers who choose such skinny models are either lazy or untalented, because they choose body types which present the least amount of challenge. If they really wanted to show off how good they were, they would design clothing for body types which were much more difficult to design for.

It would be like architects designing buildings only to look interesting, rather than to look interesting and being very functional for the people who have to live/work in them. Oh, wait, lots of them do that too. Except for the ones who design buildings for universities -- they specialise in designs which are neither good looking or functional.
posted by jb at 3:53 PM on August 27, 2008 [4 favorites]


Screencaps from the video: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7.

I think that, besides picture number 4, they looks fairly normal if a little thin. N°4 looks very thin, almost catwalk-model thin.
posted by Memo at 5:36 PM on August 27


#7's thigh and #6's upper arms look unhealthily thin to me.
posted by joannemerriam at 3:58 PM on August 27, 2008


And I say that fashion designers who choose such skinny models are either lazy or untalented, because they choose body types which present the least amount of challenge

Or, you know, they use the models that they know have the ability to do what they want them to do. Namely, show off the drape to its fullest advantage. Which will just about always be off an angular figure. Calling people like Lagerfeld or McQueen or Sui or Westwood 'talentless and lazy' shows only how very little you know about the subject.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:12 PM on August 27, 2008


I can attest that many people are way more than willing to step over the line when they believe that you are 'too skinny' or 'you look sick' in a way that they never, ever would to anyone who they believe is perhaps 'too fat' or 'you look fat' -- it seems it's perfectly fine, perhaps even politically correct to jump a persons case if they are thin, and absolutely A-OK if they are skinny. You can get scorned, shamed, you can get a rash of shit from many people if you lose weight (even if you're carrying a lot of fat), for being thin, sometimes even when you are clearly healthy and happy, jumping up and down, hooting and whistling.

February 2004. A break-up -- Elena -- devastating to me; it really was a break-up, in that I was breaking up into bitty little pieces. Regardless what I ate or didn't eat -- and I did eat, I was eating as best I could, when I could -- weight fell off me. Which didn't bother me, as I had larger concerns, such as how I was possibly going to negotiate each day as it came along; I can't think of a way I could have cared less about my weight, maybe even some relief about it, as I'd put on more weight than I'd ever carried up to that point in my life. (And I'm no kid, and I know that it comes on lots easier than it comes off at this stage of life.) But many of the people in my life (particularly those who filled out their American clothing hint hint) made it their business to tell me I was skinny, to tell me to eat, to tell me this, to tell me that, to tell me things that were absolutely none of their goddamned business. I am certain that not one of these people -- nor any others -- would have said one word had I gained fifty-seven pounds; not one of them would come up and tell me "Hey, you're getting fat, you better lay off the twinkies". I can't tell you how angry I became about this jive, how rude these people were, how thoughtless, careless with our friendship.

September 2007 -- I began a yoga practice. Ashtanga. The fat has fallen off of me, almost none of the clothing I own fits me any longer (shoes, boots, socks still fit, gloves, some coats from years ago that had become almost too small) and I can't think of a way I could be happier about it. (Note please that I said "fat has fallen off me" rather than "weight has fallen off me" -- I'm 'leaning out' ie less fat and more muscle, though the fat has gone much faster than the muscle has shown up, thus far.) I can now wear clothing that I wore in high school (no, I'm not going to wear any dang brown plaid hip hugger bell bottom pants), I am in perhaps the best physical condition of my entire life, and that despite the dead heart tissue from being dead so long (heart attacks, death, July 2004, long story). Some of the same people are coming up with the same baloney as in 2004 but this time I'm just laughing, smiling and pointing at them and laughing, and sometimes they laugh also, because it's clear that I'm physically healthy and happy about it all. (Mentally healthy and happy about it all? Another long story.)

I do know anorexia and perhaps orthorexia 1 2 tenancies hang around close-by to me at times, and I've seen both of those destroy the lives of others, obviously in the news but also people in my life. I don't want to gain that weight (the fat part, anyway) back, that's for sure. But I think Zambrano may have called this one correctly -- people have big noses and often stick them where they don't belong. Just because some people are alcoholic and destroy their lives or lose their lives doesn't mean that no one should ever drink; just because some models starve themselves to death doesn't mean that all thin people are to be called on the carpet and account for it.

Anyone want to buy any Eddie Bauer clothing, cheap?
posted by dancestoblue at 5:03 PM on August 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


I do believe late-90s English glam punk band King Adora have something relevant to say on this issue.
posted by SciencePunk at 5:08 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


And I think that these images do contribute to the problems of obesity and ill health in our society. How many people don't exercise because no matter how much they do, they will never be thin enough to be "attractive"?

Yes. I completely agree with this. This is why the idea that young girls need more thin people to emulate because so many Americans are overweight is ridiculous.

To stop anyone who accuses me of having a "feel-good party" at the expense of these girls' health, high self esteem will encourage young people to do fun things like play sports and go swimming and go to the gym whereas low self esteem will just encourage them to sit around and feel sorry for themselves saying, "Well, I can't look like that so there's no use trying." Or "I look fat in this swimsuit I'm skipping that part of gym."

A lot of my peers in middle/high school would skip meals and loose some weight that way, but then start yoyoing back and forth the other way because they couldn't keep that level of weight loss up and didn't understand how to shoot for a healthy in-between. I knew of a few girls involved in the "pro-ana" movement and I hope people understand that I'm taking this so seriously not out of academic arm-chair hand-holding ideas but because I've seen it seriously fuck with young kids.

Anyway, in the end, I'm not saying I advocate taking all skinny people out of magazines or anything like that, I was just worried by some of the comments that seem to suggest that idolizing underweight people is fine because it's balancing out the amount of overweight people visible in our society. Both are health problems and I agree with jb that they are tied together.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:29 PM on August 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


I can attest that many people are way more than willing to step over the line when they believe that you are 'too skinny' or 'you look sick' in a way that they never, ever would to anyone who they believe is perhaps 'too fat' or 'you look fat' -- it seems it's perfectly fine, perhaps even politically correct to jump a persons case if they are thin, and absolutely A-OK if they are skinny.

Yes, yes, yes. A female friend of mine used to email me pics of the latest models with messages like "Isn't this sick?" and I had to think... well... it looks like me. Not that I wasn't rail-thin, but I don't think I deserved abuse because of it. I didn't have an eating disorder. I had always been like that. I understand she was acting out of insecurity, but it's a level of insensitivity we would never tolerate directed toward those on the other end of the spectrum. And the fact that it comes from so many who have been the target of weight-related abuse as some kind of bonding exercise/steam release, completely oblivious to the fact that they're engaging in exactly the kind of behaviour they most despise drives me crazy.

I also strongly agree with gyc, above. I never hear the end of attempts to place people in just two categories: the thin and the "healthy". And the "thin" appears to increasingly include rather ordinary, fit looking people.

Fair disclaimer: I am a male, so no doubt this skews things. To some people's minds, there is no such thing as a too-thin female. OTOH, a too-thin male seems to make people think -- sometimes out loud -- "sickly".
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:41 PM on August 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


"Omg wtf those models are better-looking than me BAN IT!"
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:04 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Actually, most models are really quite plain in person. You can see the lower-end-of-the-scale effect on shows like America's Top Model; compare the 'just woke up OMG TYRA MAIL' shots with their shoots, for example.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:35 PM on August 27, 2008


A healthy young person should have a BMI between 19 and 25.
That's debatable. Walter Willett, of Harvards School of Public Health says that there is no such thing as a too low BMI, in general. Apparently, many studies that say a low BMI is dangerous do not take into account the fact that often people have a low BMI because they are ill, not the other way around. It is perfectly possible to be healthy at a BMI of 17 or 18. Of course, I realise the problems with using very thin models exclusively (I don't understand why there is not more of a variety of body types in those catalogs - that way everybody would be happy, right?), but I am also starting to agree with Zambrano: This is just another form of discrimination against a body type.

I can attest that many people are way more than willing to step over the line when they believe that you are 'too skinny' or 'you look sick' in a way that they never, ever would to anyone who they believe is perhaps 'too fat' or 'you look fat'
I have the same experience.
posted by davar at 12:10 AM on August 28, 2008


Solon, you'd be more likely to find a crack pipe in my house than a fashion magazine.

There is also the TV and internet and the big Outside that tell girls they need to be thin! thin! thin! if they want to be beautiful and liked by people. *tries to fit into old pants*
posted by ersatz at 4:13 AM on August 28, 2008


Saying that skinny models make the clothes drape better is entirely subjective. Seriously, take a look at this painting by Botticelli. It's all about the fabric drape, and I see plenty of pudge and chub. So no, 'clothes look better on coat hanger' has nothing to do with it.

It's also indisputable that while the average measurements have been inflating, and regardless of size deflation in the stores, models and our ideal of beauty has been getting thinner and thinner over the past century. For example hot legs have gone from shapely calves and a well turned ankle, to the mile long colt legs that now stick out of they poofy coats and dressed that're in this season.

The problem is not that slender can be beautiful (because it can), it's that it's the only way to be beautiful in popular culture. My family tends to run skinny. My sister is tall and skeletal (and 14) and I know she doesn't starve herself because I live with her, so I know first hand that you can be perfectly healthy and have no muscle tone and little body fat. But I could no more look like my 6', rail thin sister then she could look like comparatively chunky, 5'5" me.

My figure is 34-28-38 (or 40 sometimes, baby's got back). As well as meaning that very few things fit as I'm between sizes, I get the fun of being too fat to be fashionable and shop at exclusive boutiques, and yet slender enough to be morally lauded for my restraint. People see me eating a salad and react like I just told them I volunteer with orphans. In other words with a mixture of envy at the fact that I'm doing the 'right' thing and annoyance I'm flaunting my masochism. Never mind that I actually enjoy a good garden salad with home made dressing, food has suddenly turned into a moral choice. This is bloody weird and I want it to stop.
posted by Phalene at 7:31 AM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Saying that skinny models make the clothes drape better is entirely subjective.

Yup. Just look at some old photos of pin-ups, chorus girls, and actresses from the earlier part of the 20th century. The "ideal" woman's body has gotten much, much thinner since then. And that ever-shifting ideal is what defines the aesthetics of fashion.

And the whole "thin prejudice" thing seems like a bit of a red herring to me. I mean, I do get worried looks from family/friends when I'm at the bottom of my weight range (i.e., not getting enough beer). But that's really nothing like what fat people experience. On the other hand, I'm female, so I think it's much more acceptable for me to be skinny than it is for a guy. The ideal for men seems to be much more of a thin-but-muscular type thing.
posted by 912 Greens at 9:07 AM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


People see me eating a salad and react like I just told them I volunteer with orphans.

Conversely, I eat a double cheeseburger and a big bowl of ice cream and people react with jealousy and occasionally self-directed derision. "Oh, I could never eat that, I'm gaining 10 pounds just looking at it!" My metabolism is not my fault anymore than yours is. I don't claim that particular meal is healthy, but I'm not going to gain weight from it.
posted by desjardins at 9:38 AM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Fair disclaimer: I am a male, so no doubt this skews things. To some people's minds, there is no such thing as a too-thin female. OTOH, a too-thin male seems to make people think -- sometimes out loud -- "sickly".

I think 912 Greens is right on this one - men face the social pressure to be (in addition to not-fat) muscular and bigger than women. Just as women face the social pressure to be tiny, hairless, whatever. It's all the same thing and I'd bet an attempt to increase sexual dimorphism.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:35 AM on August 28, 2008


912 Green's "ideal is getting thinner" thesis in two words:

Marilyn Monroe.

What I found (and find) interesting about all this when I posted it wasn't the "models are too thin" aspect, but the fact that a fairly major (for here) clothing chain not only listened to public complaints about how they were presenting people in their catalogue, admitted fault, recanted, and withdrew the catalogue.

This seems huge to me: not the fact that their models were (possibly unhealthily) thin, but that people wouldn't stand for it and the retailer had to react. Now that it's been shown that it can be done, I can't help but wonder if people might start standing up and shouting down the "too-thin" media image in larger markets.
posted by Shepherd at 11:04 AM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I do get worried looks from family/friends when I'm at the bottom of my weight range (i.e., not getting enough beer). But that's really nothing like what fat people experience.
I experienced both (I used to be obese and then became "too" skinny, according to other people). I found the reactions that I got while skinny worse than those when I was obese.
posted by davar at 11:09 AM on August 28, 2008


That's interesting, Shepherd. I hope ultimately this shows a trend less towards bitching about skinny people and more towards representing lots of different looks and body sizes in the media. While I don't think it's at all polite to make rude comments to someone about how thin they are, I really don't think that's the issue here.

I'm not trying to make a judgment about which models are and aren't healthy and what body size is healthy, I'm just trying to make a statement that it's unhealthy for the media to only represent one body type as normal. I mean, I'm a white, blonde, skinny female. I don't want to pretend that everyone looks like me. I like that a lot of shows are making a move towards greater diversity, and hope it spreads towards advertisements, magazines, all of that.

I found this article about Sara Ramirez (an actress on, god help me, Grey's Anatomy) and thought it was relevant.

"I went to Shonda Rhimes, the executive producer, and said, “Do you really want me to do this? Why me? I have so much cottage cheese here and there!” She just looked at me and said, “Work it.” That was all I got from her. And sure enough, doing the scene helped me get over a lot of my issues. I had to accept my body."
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:48 AM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think 912 Greens is right on this one - men face the social pressure to be (in addition to not-fat) muscular and bigger than women. Just as women face the social pressure to be tiny, hairless, whatever. It's all the same thing and I'd bet an attempt to increase sexual dimorphism.

I'm with ya. However, and I don't know how much of this is negative role-modeling from gay male culture, but "thin but muscular" also doesn't cut it for a lot of guys, because "real men" are anything but model-ish -- so you can have muscle as long as you're actually on the fat side, dress terribly, and behave like a wanna-be neanderthal.

As a skinny guy, I got all kinds of male aggression related to my apparent (yet non-existent) "gay-ness". Then I put on a bunch of weight and it disappeared. Then I changed that weight into muscle and it returned. There's all kinds of gender role enforcement nonsense going on. I don't want a road map so much as to be off the map altogether. What bullshit.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:14 PM on August 28, 2008


returned - but not to the same extent, I should say. I guess some stereotypes take a firmer hold than others.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:31 PM on August 28, 2008




912 Green's "ideal is getting thinner" thesis in two words:

Marilyn Monroe


Who was not very big at all.
posted by dilettante at 5:23 PM on August 28, 2008


tiny anecdote which is vaguely relevant: i was munching on my dinner last night in front of the tv, and with nothing better on, i was vaguely paying attention to the tail end of "Australia's Next Top Model" (that might not be the correct name, but it's one of those model-search reality shows).

they had all the guys & girls lined up in swimsuits, and the de rigeur trio of judges were announcing who would or wouldn't go through to the next round, with all the usual 'dramatic tension' pauses.

they came to one girl: "So-and-so...I'll be blunt. You NEED to firm up, your figure looks terrible" or words to that effect. my attention snapped up from dinner to see what they were complaining about, and fuck me if she wasn't the most appealing of the lot, with a cute little belly & realistically proportioned thighs, but still very far from what anybody would call 'fat'.

with any luck, she'll crash out of the competition & suffer a crisis of self-confidence. with a little more luck, it'll turn out that she lives right next door to me...
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:57 PM on August 28, 2008


I experienced both (I used to be obese and then became "too" skinny, according to other people). I found the reactions that I got while skinny worse than those when I was obese.
posted by davar at 2:09 PM on August 28


Are you a guy? I'm a girl and I've had the opposite experience. I once dropped an alarming amount of weight in a few weeks. I received nothing but approval from people who kept telling me how good I looked, while medical staff were telling me that I was dangerously underweight. You could quite clearly see my bottom two ribs through my skin, and my stomach dipped inwards. I had to be hospitalized to fix the underlying problem, and they kept me an extra couple of days to make sure I was getting enough nutrition and fattening up. I could have died, but received nothing but approval from non-medical people.

On the other hand, I am about twenty or thirty pounds overweight and I frequently get negative comments from people about my weight, both catty/bitchy/mean, and genuinely concerned about my health (which is probably not in danger from this mild weight gain).
posted by joannemerriam at 5:45 AM on August 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Are you a guy?
No, I'm a girl. I live in Europe. It probably depends on what's acceptable in your group of friends/family.
I actually meant that I got negative remarks both when I was fat and when I was thin, but that the remarks when I was thin hurt me more. It was really messing with my self and body image at the time.
posted by davar at 9:36 AM on August 29, 2008


I once dropped an alarming amount of weight in a few weeks. I received nothing but approval from people who kept telling me how good I looked,

At the worst point in my previous career as a cokehead, I was told by everyone how fantastic I looked - I'd dropped at least 20 lbs in less than a month, since I was living on a couple of crackers a day. Best diet in the world, until it kills you.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:27 AM on August 29, 2008


I'm late to this, but if anyone's still reading: Check out these old pics of Marilyn Monroe. To me, her size is a perfect example of a healthy weight (of course not everyone can be as exquisitely proportioned) but I am curious as to whether people who think our current standards for healthy weight are too lax on the upper end of the spectrum would consider her too fat.
posted by Jess the Mess at 4:14 PM on August 30, 2008


ah, thanks for the reminder - i was meaning to find a picture of the "too fat" model wannabe on tv that i mentioned above...here she is (nsfw if bikinis aren't tolerated)
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:25 PM on August 30, 2008


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