Off The Rack ~ Another Body-Shaming Article Makes the Rounds

By now, some of you have probably seen PLUS Model Magazine’s spread featuring “facts” about women and weight in the fashion industry. The photos aren’t safe for work, so I won’t post them here, but you can find them on PLUS’s website. It’s a collection of nude photos of a beautiful plus-size model (whom some of you may recognize as Kasia from cycle 16 of the show America’s Next Top Model).

While most of the pictures feature Kasia alone, wearing fabulous heels and jewelry (and nothing else), two of the images feature her cradling an extremely thin model. Each photo is also accompanied by one of those aforementioned “facts” (why “facts”? Read on…). They read:

1. Twenty years ago the average fashion model weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today she weighs 23% less.

2. Ten years ago, plus-size models averaged between size 12 and 18. Today the need for size diversity within the plus-size modeling industry continues to be questioned. The majority of plus-size models on agency boards are between a size 6 and 14, while the customers continue to express dissatisfaction.

3. Most runway models meet the Body Mass Index physical criteria for Anorexia.

4. 50% of women wear size 14 or larger, but most standard clothing outlets cater to sizes 14 or smaller.

Laughably, the final photo states: “Changing society’s view will not happen overnight, we are all responsible for helping to make this change. Embrace the uniqueness of you and appreciate your body.” (Italics mine.)

They might as well say “unless you’re skinny” at the end of that last sentence. This photo spread, while I’ve no doubt was created with the best of intentions, is incredibly shaming. Only instead of “fat-shaming,” it’s “thin-shaming.” Additionally, and just as problematic, is the fact that there are no sources listed for these facts and they don’t take into account a few key points.

Statement number 1 is ignoring the fact that the average weight of an American woman has gone up significantly in the past ten years, so this percentage is an exaggeration. Then numbers 2 and 4 are entirely forgetting about vanity sizes: As little as ten years ago (when I was a high school senior), I wore a size 6 or 8, but now I sometimes take as little as a 2 (I’m looking at you, Express), even though I weigh more now than I did then. And again, where are the sources for these statements? Is there actual empirical evidence or did someone just pull these out of a hat?

But I find the most problematic statement to be number 3. First off, BMI is generally considered to be woefully inaccurate and inadequate in assessing a person’s health. Second, and more pressing, anorexia is not a physical illness and does not have physical criteria—it’s psychological and it affects people of all sizes. Not everyone who has an eating disorder is thin and not everyone who is thin has an eating disorder. This statement makes it seem like any woman who is extremely thin has a disorder and only women who are thin can have a disorder , which is irresponsible and patently untrue.

In this magazine’s effort to shine a light on the beauty of “plus-size” bodies, they’ve shamed anyone who doesn’t fit that ideal. This is exactly what the rest of the fashion industry does, only with the weights being reversed. Loving and accepting your body doesn’t mean hating on others. We shouldn’t be picking sides, we should be celebrating all the different body shapes out there. And sure, this blog is written with hourglass-figured women in mind, but it also never makes negative statements about why non-hourglassy bodies aren’t as good.

Comments

  1. Perhaps what they meant by “Most runway models meet the Body Mass Index physical criteria for Anorexia” is that a majority of these models are severely underweight enough that they exhibit symptoms that also often appear in anorexic people, such as difficulty regulating body temperature and failure to menstruate. There may be some people who are healthy at that weight but these are usually considered a sign that the person is at too low a weight to stay healthy. That’s what I’m guessing they meant; they could have certainly phrased it better.

    Personally I didn’t feel this article was shaming women with skinny bodies so much as it was drawing attention to the fact that the weights we see in fashion do not reflect the weights of most women in the slightest. There are still a LOT more sources saying it’s bad or unhealthy to be overweight, I think this article was just trying to bring our attention to how skewed the whole situation is.

  2. I was shocked by the second statement (“Most runway models meet the Body Mass Index physical criteria for Anorexia”) as well. I don’t find the other statements offensive and I actually think that “50% of women wear size 14 or larger, but most standard clothing outlets cater to sizes 14 or smaller” is a pretty valid point, even if I’m not sure of the exact statistics.

  3. Yes, yes, yes.

    It is NOT body positive to shame other women for having bodies different from yours, no matter if those bodies are thick, thin, or somewhere in between.

    Body policing is a massive problem, and just because it’s coming from the other side now doesn’t make it any more right.