Did you know……
Over the past 30 years models in magazines have grown steadily thinner, so that now they tend to be about 15% underweight.
Twenty years ago, the average model weighed 8 per cent less than the average woman—but today’s models weigh 23 per cent less.
The average fashion model is almost six feet tall and weighs 130 pounds (9 stone 4 lb). In contrast, the average British woman is 5 foot 4.5 and weighs 143 pounds (10 stone 3 lb).
Most UK model agencies no longer have size 10 models on their books.
Researchers in the US report that women’s magazines have 10.5 times more ads and articles promoting weight loss than men’s magazines do, and over three-quarters of the covers of women’s magazines include at least one message about how to change a woman’s bodily appearance— by diet, exercise or cosmetic surgery.
Canadian researcher Gregory Fouts reports that over three-quarters of the female characters in TV situation comedies are underweight, and only one in twenty are above average in size.
When the Australian magazine New Woman recently included a picture of a curvier model on its cover, it received masses of letters from grateful readers praising the move. But its advertisers complained and the magazine returned to featuring bone-thin models. Advertising Age International concluded that the incident “made clear the influence wielded by advertisers who remain convinced that only thin models spur the sales of beauty products.”
At least 1.1 million people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder. As many as one woman in 20 will have eating habits which give cause for concern; most will be aged 14 to 25 years old.
Classifying someone like Crystal Renn as plus size sends the message to women that if you are a healthy weight, you’re too fat. And that beauty, at any size, has to fit certain criteria. Of course, the fashion/beauty industry focuses on the idealised, the perfect, and that has to be taken into account. But when the media zero in the plus size models and celebrities as being a sign that things are changing, that ‘normal’ women can now feel better about their bodies, well it’s simply not true. Recent studies have shown that using plus size models in advertising campaigns still made women feel unhappy with their own body size. The researchers concluded that this was because women don’t want to look like these models, they want to see a thinner version to aspire to. And thus advertisers continue to use super-thin models.
I disagree, very strongly, with this conclusion. I don’t think that the readers reactions were based on aspiration, I think they were based on shame. ‘I don’t want to see a plus size model advertising something because when I compare my body with hers, it makes me think that I must be plus sized too, or it makes me wonder why I can’t be hourglass shaped and cellulite free like she is.’ Personally, I would rather see a curvy model than a stick thin one, but the end result is the same: it makes me dissatisfied with my body, and ashamed. I believe that this is what drives the fashion and beauty industries -shame, not aspiration. I think that most women’s reaction when they look at a magazine advert for perfume, or skincare, or cellulite cream, is not, “If I use that product, I could look like that” but “I could never look like that, what is wrong with me? But I suppose I ought to try to do something about myself, so I’ll give it a go.”
Either way, body dissatisfaction works – for the advertisers and promoters. Whether it inspires change, or evokes shame, it motivates, it sells products. I honestly don’t see that this will ever change. Fashion, beauty, skincare, haircare, cosmetic surgery, weightloss, these are multi billion industries. They will continue to work with the media to influence womens’ body image and concept of beauty. The only thing that we personally can do about it is to try to change our own view, to see beauty in diversity, to applaud other women for their style, their grace, their shape, their strength, their warmth – whatever it is that we can see that is truly beautiful about them. It’s more than just refusing to buy into society’s narrow view of what is beautiful. It’s about actively searching for the beauty in every individual woman, and openly appreciating it. Not comparing (I’m sure her thighs are fatter than mine), judging (her hair is nice, but really, isn’t she a bit old for long hair?), or quantifying (she’d be so pretty if…..).