Body image saviours
"It’s not enough to just fight the battle for size six acceptance over size zero acceptance"
Vogue’s recent decision to ban skinny and underage models from its magazine didn't have me popping the cork off a bottle of low-joule bubbly in celebration. But the ensuing praise and gratitude heaped on the style bible did make me want to drown my sorrows in a whole case of it.
Ex-supermodel Tyra Banks was so taken with Vogue's decision that she wrote an open letter to The Daily Beast congratulating Vogue on stepping up and, ‘doing the right thing, and protecting that girl. Perhaps that girl is you!’
This from a woman who now makes a living from a reality TV show -- Next Top Model -- where she and other fashion industry experts sit in judgment over young women and girls (yes, girls) for being too flabby, too old, too short, too awkward, too masculine, too [insert otherwise normal characteristic deemed to be a 'flaw' by the fashion industry].
But Tyra isn't the silly one, and neither is Vogue or all the industry sycophants that have praised Vogue in the last few weeks. The real fool is me, and anybody else who thought for a moment that the fashion industry could save us. This is an industry, after all that thrives off breeding insecurity and unrealistic ideals of body shape. Praising it for its stance on young models is about as perverse as praising the tobacco industry for funding a cancer ward. Sure, it's nice, but wouldn't it be better if you just stopped harming people in the first place?
After all, how is lifting the age limit for models from the previously ridiculous age of 14 to the only slightly less ridiculous age of 16 in any way ‘ground breaking’?
And how is the unenforceable and token claims to ban models who ‘appear’ to have an eating disorder going to do anything to revive the damaged self-esteem of any women, model or otherwise, battling with body hatred?
Sadly the same stupidity that has us congratulating Vogue for publicity-generating, but utterly meaningless announcements also has us turning to plus-sized model Crystal Renn to lead us to the promise land of body acceptance.
‘I’m proof that life doesn’t have to wait until you’re skinny,’ wrote model Crystal Renn in her 2010 biography Hungry: A Young Model's Story of Appetite, Ambition, and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves.
But in the last couple of months, Renn has evidently had a change of heart. She shed the curves that made her a poster girl for body acceptance and has been featured on the cover of Schön! Magazine, starring in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, and getting almost as much press as the Middleton sisters. Life, it seems, does indeed have to wait until you’re skinny.
Renn has since been tried for ‘treason’ for her massive weight loss – one she attributes to a relationship breakup and taking up hiking and yoga. PLUS Model Magazine Editor-in-Chief Madeline Jones was reported by the Daily Mail as saying, 'Everyone rallied around her and now she’s turned against us. We have been betrayed by her.
In some respects the sense of betrayal and disappointment at Renn’s weight loss and associated fame is understandable. As she wrote in her biography, ‘There is nothing sadder than the sight of a little girl in front of a mirror, pinching her belly and frowning.’
But the battle over skinny Crystal vs curvy Crystal is phony. If we expect supermodels to lead the charge for body acceptance, then the revolution may be some time in coming. And by celebrating false victories like Vogue’s recent announcements, we are losing sight of the real battle.
It’s not enough to just fight the battle for size six acceptance over size zero acceptance. The real war is about women acceptance: as women, we are worth more than our bodies. No matter how pro-curves models or fashion magazines may claim to be, they still make a living out of objectifying women; they are still advocating physical beauty above all else. They are still leading us to a shallow grave of body insecurity.
Some women are fat, some are thin. Who cares? Get over it! Move on!
If Tyra Banks, Crystal Renn or Vogue are to become our body image saviors then shoot me now. The real victory will come when we manage to raise a generation of girls who honestly believe that what they say and do matters more than what they see in the mirror.
Kasey Edwards is the author of Thirty-Something and the Clock is Ticking (Random House) and the forthcoming Kill the Fat Girl: A Girl's Own Manual to breaking free of bad body image and living a full life.