Have a good look at these two women, both wearing the same bathing suit. Which one, in your opinion, would you consider as ‘sexier’?
Now, which one do you suppose was raved over as being 'sensational' by judges of one of those ubiquitous ‘I wanna be a supermodel’ type reality shows, and which one was reduced to tears after being harshly criticized for not taking her diet and exercise regime seriously?
Go on... guess…
Yeah, wasn’t hard, was it? The girl on the left, British yummy mummy Jen Hunter, was 24, and at 5’11” and 11 stone (that’s 154 pounds or just under 70 kilos for the rest of us) was told by a judge who is the managing director of a modeling agency that her legs were ‘stocky’ and scolded by former supermodel Rachel Hunter (no relation) for being ‘fat, lazy and greedy.’
While the judges – professionals from the fashion industry – preferred ‘the walking skeleton,’ tens of thousands of television viewers quite adamantly voted for the more voluptuous Ms Hunter, far and away enough to win over the judge’s favourite…
… just a few hours before model Ana Carolina Reston, a 21-year-old Brazilian model, was reported as having died of starvation, trying to live on a diet of apples and tomatoes to keep her catwalk career. Ms Hunter’s Body Mass Index was a healthy 21.5, while the girl on the right, Swedish Marianne Berglund, had a BMI of 16.1, well below the 18.5 considered by health professionals as the minimum weight of a healthy adult woman, and even below the minimum BMI of 18 for models taking part in Madrid Fashion Week, set after catwalk model Luisel Ramos collapsed three months earlier at a fashion show and died from heart failure, having eaten nothing but salads and Diet Coke for three months in her lethal attempt to slim down to the perfect size zero.
Three months after Hunter’s win and Reston’s death, Luisel Ramos’s sister, Eliana, a model with a major Argentine agency, died after having starved herself. Rather than even consider the issue of the fashion industry’s insane demands on young models desperate enough to risk their lives to be thin ‘enough’, her boss, Pancho Dotto, declared well before any coroner’s post mortem that ‘obvious the sisters’ deaths must be due to a genetic problem.’
Of course, this was back in 2006, and things must have gotten better since then, right?
‘It's fantastic to know the public prefer a woman with a few wobbly bits over a stick insect,’ Ms Hunter said after the show and refused to drop three sizes for the show’s prize, a modelling contract with Select Models – despite her win, the contract went instead to her emaciated rival. Cape Management agency offered her work, the first size 12 on their books – but she was rejected in castcalls for being ‘too big.’ Eventually, she signed with Excel Models… a ‘plus size’ agency.
Plus size. The woman is a size 12, with a BMI of 21.5, and she’s considered a ‘plus size’. My BMI is hovering right at the brink of 25, and while I’d be happy to shed a few inches here and there after the usual Christmas binging, I’m no ‘plus size’. The average size for women in the UK is between 14 and 16 (12 to 14 US). The average model size is still a size six to eight (4 to 6 US). Models have always been thinner than average, but a quarter of a century ago, the difference between you and me and the catwalk ladies was eight percent. Now it’s 23 per cent.
This month, Brigitte, a German woman’s magazine with a circulation of 700,000 announced a ban on professional models for its fashions shoots after hundreds of its readers wrote to complain about superskinny models. Now, the magazine is recruiting amateurs – history teachers and hotel receptionists and restaurant owners and artists and economics students – to grace the pages of the monthly glossy. And 20,000 normal women have signed up as potential models. For years, editor Andreas Lebert said, the magazine has had to use Photoshop on their professional models to ‘fatten them up,’ – in sharp contrast to the Photoshopped picture of Filippa Hamilton, whose body was digitally altered for a Ralph Lauren Blue Label ad to resemble a bobble-head doll, her normal head on an absurdly thin body. ‘Dude,’ Cory Doctorow howled with laughter on his blog boingboing.net, ‘her head’s bigger than her pelvis!’
The gorgeous 23 year old was then fired this past October; at 5’10” and 120 pounds, she was considered ‘overweight’ and unable to fit into Ralph Lauren clothes an longer – which is presumably what Ralph Lauren meant when he claimed she was fired ‘as a result of her inability to meet the obligations under her contract with us.’ Meaning… she’s too ‘fat’. The women have to fit in his clothes. Which makes me have to ask – why don’t you just make bigger clothes, Ralph? Newsflash for ya: clothes are supposed to fit the women.
Apparently, Lauren’s fellow fashion designer, Karl Lagersfeld, feels much the same way, insisting ‘Nobody wants to see a curvy woman.’ He accused critics of super-thin models as being a jealous bunch ‘fat, chip-eating mummies,’ thereby insulting every woman who has ever given birth to a child as well. Nice.
And it gets even more ridiculous. Apparently, French shoe designer Christian Louboutin thinks Barbie’s ankles are too fat. That’s right – Barbie. The anorexic doll that bears no resemblance to the anatomy of a real woman, ankles or any other part of her plastic body. But guess who’s redesigning Barbie for her launch this coming May? Mais oui, mes amis, you guessed right again.
Five thousand people have been kicked out of the BeautifulPeople dating site this month for being ‘festive fatties,’ including a New Zealand couple foolish enough to post their post-Christmas photos on the site. The website boasts 600,000 members who collectively vote ‘democratically’ to decide on which applicants are pleasing enough on the eye, while casting out the ‘fatties’. Since all applications are done on-line, and no one comes round to the house to check, I would be curious as to just how many Photoshopped ‘beautiful’ people there are on the site – but I suspect I’m not beautiful or irrational enough to ever find out.
Meanwhile, every time I cruise the internet, I’m bombarded with the ads: Use this one weird tip to a flat belly! Here’s how I lost 42 pound in two months with this simple trick! Get Killer Abs with this Amazing Diet! Whirl Yourself Thin in Ten Minutes a Day on the Fat Burning Bum Tum Thigh Booty Flex King Cardio Energizer Shaper Stepper Sculptor Circle Pro! Little cartoon women expand and contract before my eyes, while a disembodied torso squeezes and jiggles her belly fat at me. It’s everywhere, and it’s pernicious. I spent a day with a friend at a local church hall recently as a roomful of gorgeous, curvaceous, bubbly women sweated and gyrated while doing their best to keep up with the Zumba guy and his coterie of Zumbimbos, all desperate to believe that they, too, could be that thin and gorgeous with what turns out to be little more than an ordinary work-out routine with a few dance moves tossed in and some flash music.
Women’s self-image and, worse, our daughters’ self-image is being driven not just by impossible standards, faked Photoshopped women who’ve never existed, but by a bunch of old fat gay men and neurotic women. Why the hell does anyone listen to them? They’re idiots! Why does anyone listen to them instead of the tens of thousands of people who chose Jen Hunter over Marianne Berglund? Why don’t we see what hundreds of disgruntled German women got tired of seeing in their magazines and complained? Why do we watch these bloody American’s Next Top Model ‘reality’ shows when there’s nothing ‘real’ about them? And if women can’t listen to all those wonderful men who love them, (you guys know who you are) the ones we don’t believe when they tell us we’re sexy, the ones who aren’t homo-neurotic pretentious poseurs of the first order themselves, then here’s a last little quiz for you. Test your own eyes:
One of these women is 180 pound ‘plus size’ model Lizzie Miller, and the other is a ‘sensational’ perfect size zero.
Get the picture?