CQ Feature: Reclaiming Real Beauty, Health and a Woman's Right to Curves
With London Fashion Week peeking over the horizon, regular CQ contributor, Cate, examines the truth behind the camera and catwalks, she writes...
The British Fashion Council has refused to ban the use of “size 0” models at London Fashion Week. Instead, they have requested that all designers use "healthy models" aged 16 and over. (Because clearly fashion designers have a tight grip on what healthy looks like.) Also, Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen claims that she has never suffered from anorexia because she "had a very strong family base" and that “The parents are responsible, not fashion."
In response to the British Fashion Council’s decision, the owner of Topshop, Sir Phillip Green, has risen to the occasion by banning "waif" models and saying,"We all know what the definition of unhealthy is and we want to try to act correctly, responsibly and without causing a rift. Everyone wants to see people being healthy and we have got lots of good-looking girls who can be a healthy weight and look great."
I respect that Sir Phillip Green has enough courage to speak up and out and make a responsible, positive decision that will hopefully set an example for the rest of the fashion industry. But Gisele...?
Look, I'm glad that she had such a sweet and sugary home life and that her family apparently loved her enough to prevent her from feeling like she needed to starve herself. Does that mean for all those poor girls who feel so horrible about themselves that the only way they can cope is to starve themselves, should blame their parents for not loving them enough, or the "right way"?
And please do not tell me, Gisele, that it is only parents to blame for the global issue of poor body image, low self-esteem, and eating disorders amongst young women and girls. If it's not fashion, then it's not fashion magazines, either, I suppose. It's not ads, or commercials. It's not TV. It's not movies. It's not lingerie catalogues. It's not runway models. It's just the parents fault… right?
Gisele’s argument doesn’t make any sense especially if you examine the actions of all of the other media outlets in the world. These outlets all agree that their music, programs, films, games, or advertisements do contain content that could possibly be inappropriate and damaging to children, and therefore use rating systems to help parents judge which materials could be inappropriate for their families. While all of these sources of media cannot be forced to remove this material, it is still their legal and social responsibility to warn parents and consumers that their products contain such material.
My question is - how many more girls need to die before the fashion media outlets take some responsibility for their destructive influences on the self-esteem, body image, and health of young women around the world?
We have a global issue on our hands.
We have millions, and millions of women and girls who think they're ugly and fat and are slowly killing themselves to try to obtain the unobtainable, western, media/fashion created image of "beauty". The one issue that nobody seems to want to touch, or take responsibility for, is their influence on young girl's body image and self-esteem. Models, fashion agencies, fashion editors, designers, and directors have all defended their use of emaciated, unrealistic looking women by excusing the problem away. Models are just naturally that skinny. Gisele says that "everybody knows the standard for models is to be thin”.
Right. Well, does everybody also know that, according to Dove, in 1998, just 3 years after US television shows were introduced to Fiji, 12 out of 100 girls had bulimia?
Do they know 70% of all 9 year olds are dieting?
Does everybody know that 90% of all women overestimate their body size by an average of 25%, and that 40% of all women see at least one body part as being 50% larger than it really is?
When you hear someone say that “my nose is too big” or “my bum isn’t supposed to look like this”; what is their nose big compared to, and what is their bum supposed to look like? If a woman says that her “breasts are too small”; why does she think that? The what and the why are the images, the air brushed, starved, entourage created, digitally altered, surgically enhanced, unrealistic, unobtainable, projection of what beauty is supposed to look like that we are bombarded with from every single media outlet across the world.
Our entire basis of what is sexy, attractive, and beautiful is based on what the fashion industry and media tells and shows us. But when is enough, enough? I believe that the fashion industry won't take any responsibility for these issues as their situation is a bit more unique than any other media outlets. It's not as simple as just issuing a ratings system, is it?
Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, for example, is helping to celebrate the real bodies and beauty of real women. Real women who are tattooed, scarred, curvy, "imperfect”, and absolutely gorgeous. This campaign is all about health, high self-esteem, and educating women and families on how to relearn what beauty looks and feels like.
I believe that this campaign is contributing to a major change, and helping lift the shame that we all feel for not looking like how the "ideal women" should.
The depression, self-esteem issues, eating disorders, and psychological disorders that so many girls and women suffer from do not just develop from thin air. We need our parents. We need our mothers, we need other women to reach out to us before it ever crosses our mind that we need to be thin, big breasted, or tiny to be worthy of love. We need to complimented, and receive attention for things other than just being “so pretty” or “so trim”.
It is because of this that Dove is launching a program/workshop in the UK called "Body Talk" to "help young girls (and boys) understand and deal with feelings about their physical appearance, and learn how 'ideal' images of beauty are created". They emphasize the importance of positive role models for young women, and that they need positive self-esteem boosts before it ever occurs to them to think otherwise. We need to embrace health. As a society, I don't think we understand what "healthy" even means any more. We all need to stop being so afraid of being, eating, or becoming fat.
Whoever said that healthy meant not having any fat on your body? Having a perfectly toned behind? Healthy doesn't necessarily mean thin. Healthy is beautiful. Happy is beautiful. There is nothing wrong with being "bigger" as long as your health is not in serious risk, and you are happy.
Before we can cleanse the world of stereotypes and prejudices, and unobtainable body images, we first need to cleanse ourselves.
I'm starting with me.
May you do the same... and so on, and so forth.
Cate regularly contributes to Shiny blogs. The uncensored, full-length version of this article can be found at CupCate.com