Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Shape of Things

Why, in the name of god and all that is holy, do we live in a society that so demonizes fat, eating and curvy body shapes?! Why, also in god's name, do we keep having the same lip service paid to this issue over and over again without any changes actually being made? When are we going to see women with real bodies on the covers of magazines, and because it's the norm, not to give the illusion of morality?

I asked myself these questions after seeing the latest cover of Vogue magazine (April 2010). It's the annual "Shape" issue as they call it, or as I like to call it "the issue where we pretend to be inclusive and accepting of all body types, but then use a girl who's a size 4 as an example of a "curvy" body." Or something like that.

DISLIKE.

The Shape Issue always features 5 or 6 women of "different shapes" - tall, short, thin, curvy, and pregnant. This sounds like a great idea in theory; so refreshing. But the fact is, the short women featured are not always that short and the curvy ones are never that curvy. Curvy to Vogue is anything larger than a size 4 and short to Vogue is anything shorter than 5 ft 7 (uh, hello, if you think that's short you should jump into my stubby pantlegs and try out 5 ft nothing for a day!). Heck, just a couple of months ago the magazine had a story regarding a new, hot model Lara Stone who, AT A SIZE 4, is considered by many in the fashion biz as "fat". I don't know anyone who would think size 4 is fat. For most women I know, fitting into a size 4 is a pipe dream. And, hello, Gisele is wearing booty shorts and a skin-tight, body-suit top on the cover?! That's not "fashion to flatter every figure", that's fashion to flatter .2% of every figure.

Now, this being said, I do read Vogue every month religiously. I read it because I think it's beautifully presented, culturally relevant and features very well-written, insightful articles by great writers. It's an escape of sorts. However, it doesn't mean that I approve of the standards that such magazines uphold. There's no denying the fact that all of the women within its pages are tall and thin with nary a wrinkle or fat layer in sight. Yet, look outside the pages, at the real tangible people all around you, and how many tall and thin and perfect men and women do you see? I'm guessing you could count the number that you see in one day on one hand (maybe only one finger if you're in the suburbs or a Wal-Mart*).
*one finger may be slightly generous in this case

Sure, as I mentioned, the magazine is beautiful to look at and when it comes right down to it, that's sort of it's purpose. But there's also something sickeningly fake about selling page after page of people who are airbrushed of any character.

Sure, this issue has moved more to the forefront than ever in recent years, and many within the industry, such as supermodel Coco Rocha and some designers, have spoken out about it. Rules have been put in place regarding the health and weight of model's, and celebrities like Beth Ditto and Beyonce with a little meat on their bones have been celebrated as cultural icons, thanks partially to their curvy shapes. I hate to even add my two cents into the fray because it's almost tired now; "old news". But it's just so frustrating. And in spite of all the hype, nothing has changed. Magazines have been taken to the cleaners over this issue, yet there they sit on the newsstand with vacuous, slim models staring out in short shorts, mini-skirts and bikinis, singing their siren song to bystanders, filling them with self-consciousness.

Everything changes, and yet nothing changes, all at the same time.

I'd be lying if I said I love my body; frankly, some days I downright hate it. But for the most part I'm happy with myself and I prefer to have a few curves. Most of the guys and girls I know prefer this as well. I like food, and though I try my best to keep healthy, I'm not going to deprive myself or feel guilty about something that should be a pleasure in life. If I wanna eat a brownie or a handful of mini-eggs then I will.

Luckily I'm realistic and self-confident enough to realize that I don't need or want to hurt myself in order to look like the models in these magazines. But the fact is there are millions of girls that do (and guys, but lets be honest, girls are the ones who bear the brunt of this) and that makes me sad. It makes me sad that we live in a society that promotes such unrealistic ideals, fully KNOWING the damage that it causes.

Maybe someday seeing Size 12 or 14 women on the covers of magazines will be the norm.

Yeah. And maybe I'll wake up tomorrow looking like Gisele.

5 comments:

Carly Findlay said...

Hi there
I agree with you totally.
They never truly embrace diversity.
Sorry to self promote, but I wrote a blog about this earlier in the year when they featured a model on the cover of Marie Claire magazine, un-airbrushed and mentioning her 'flaws' in support of body image and an eating disorder foundation. It seemed like a complete contradiction.
http://carlyfindlay.blogspot.com/2010/01/marie-clairejennifer-hawkins-debate.html
Great entry again,
Carly

Kim H said...

I know, like they all pretend to be behind the issue but it's all just PR, really they are in the business of selling so they are never going to be fully accountable. As someone who is curvy and short, it's frustrating to never see anyone that looks like me in magazines. Ever. Your entry is great too!

Katie said...

I have a quick quibble. I hate using the term "real" bodies to apply to anything but skinny people. A lot of people do have skinny bodies, and that is their "real" body. In an effort to slam the obsession with being model thin, at the expense of everything else, I hope we don't at the same time attempt to shame other bodies or exclude them from what is "real" or acceptable.

Beyond that...I agree with pretty much everything else you've written. What's more, I hate how magazines only do the non-traditional-model bodies in a single issue or a single segment in a single issue. It's sort of like, you publish a token fat girl, and you get to demonize fat bodies and harp on being thin, thin, thin for the rest of the year with a clear conscience!

Hate it. Until they publish all kinds of bodies in magazines without making some big deal about whether or not the body is 6-foot and 100 lb., or without sandwiching those pictures between write-up after write-up about the importance of NOT being fat, it's just paying lip service to the idea that beauty comes in all kinds of packages. It's a PR campaign, not a real belief.

Katie said...

I have a quick quibble. I hate using the term "real" bodies to apply to anything but skinny people. A lot of people do have skinny bodies, and that is their "real" body. In an effort to slam the obsession with being model thin, at the expense of everything else, I hope we don't at the same time attempt to shame other bodies or exclude them from what is "real" or acceptable.

Beyond that...I agree with pretty much everything else you've written. What's more, I hate how magazines only do the non-traditional-model bodies in a single issue or a single segment in a single issue. It's sort of like, you publish a token fat girl, and you get to demonize fat bodies and harp on being thin, thin, thin for the rest of the year with a clear conscience!

Hate it. Until they publish all kinds of bodies in magazines without making some big deal about whether or not the body is 6-foot and 100 lb., or without sandwiching those pictures between write-up after write-up about the importance of NOT being fat, it's just paying lip service to the idea that beauty comes in all kinds of packages. It's a PR campaign, not a real belief.

Kim H said...

I know, like they all pretend to be behind the issue but it's all just PR, really they are in the business of selling so they are never going to be fully accountable. As someone who is curvy and short, it's frustrating to never see anyone that looks like me in magazines. Ever. Your entry is great too!

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