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Sep 21 2006

Another Bourgeois Crisis

model.jpg
Alien on his way to the Delta Quadrant, or model at a Michaal Kors show? You decide.

Breaking news at the NY Times: fashion models may be dangerously thin.

Well, knock me over with a feather.

Here’s an excerpt, since free access to this gripping article will disappear in a couple a days.

“At a Vogue party on Monday for a young designer competition, the model Jessica Stam expressed [...] dismay. ‘There are a lot of girls doing the shows who are very thin and frail,’ she said. ‘I don’t know if they are healthy or not, but I don’t think the frail, fragile look is very feminine, and I don’t think it’s attractive.’ ”

Dismayed young Jessica Stam knows what time it is. She knows that, despite the urgency with which one modeling agent remonstrates against couture’s eating-disorder culture (“We are minutes away from a catastrophe!”), nobody really gives a rat’s ass about the actual health of runway models; femininity and attractiveness, those fluid concepts defined according to the whims of misogynist male designers, are all that matter.

Femininity and attractiveness: the ultimate measures of success in the cut-throat world of competitive womanhood; the logos of the sub-humanity to which all loyal subjects of male dominance aspire. Loyal subject Jessica Stam “expresses dismay” about sick-thin models, not, one suspects, out of humanitarian saintliness, but out of fear. Hers is the fear shared by all members of the sex class: that the misogynist asswipes who call the shots have changed the beauty rules again. That they have redefined femininity and attractiveness such that Jessica Stam will no longer be able to qualify. After all, it takes a real commitment to fashion/patriarchal ideology to follow it into anorexia. Young Jess may not have the cojones.

But once enough women learn that ‘near-death’ is the new ‘pretty’, models who can breathe on their own will become passé, and designers will raise the bar again. Next year, look for Michael Kors’ models, skeletons on life support, to be wheeled down the runway on gurneys, gurgling.

66 comments

1 ping

  1. norbizness

    I blame the Twiggyocracy.

    And I assume “knock me over with a feather” and the discussion of Size -2s was intentional.

  2. finnsmotel

    While the fashion biz is starving them to death, up here in Missouri (misery), we kill ‘em the old fashioned way. With patriarchy.

    What else could make women think they have to have a baby so bad that they’ll kill another woman to get it?

    http://makeashorterlink.com/?Q1F3213DD

  3. kreepyk

    “Although it would seem reasonable that the agencies that represent the models have a responsibility to monitor their health, Mr. Bonnouvrier and other agents described an environment that is dictated by the designers. A model’s success depends on fitting an ideal image. He said that many of the models come from broken homes or poor countries, speak little English and are conforming to those demands as a means of survival. If he complains, he said, they will simply switch to another agency.”

    Replace agencies and designers with studios and directors and this could be describing hardcore pr0n and the exploitation of poor foreign girls and women.

    @#$%ing disgusting.

  4. robin

    What great, concise writing in this post!
    Direct hit as always, Twisty.
    And, the alien caption on the photo cracked me up.
    The “model” looks like those stretched out wavering aliens from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

  5. firefall

    I thought Dead was the new Black?

  6. Friggas Own

    I think the only reason “frail” is thought to be attractive by the fashion industry is that they like to sell the idea that women who can’t fight back are sexy. I think that’s also the reason why very young women are chosen, because there are plenty of designers and agents who get off on breaking women down emotionally and psychologically, and younger women are easier to do that to. I’m with Kreepyk, the only difference between the porn industry and the fashion industry is the ticket prices.

  7. langsuyar

    Painful and brilliant commentary, Twisty. Thanks. I definately agree that “near-dead” is the new “pretty” because women who can’t fight back are the ultimate Patriarchy Masturbation Fantasy. Of course, most models are also without physical markers of being female (like hips and breasts) so there is the whole creepy “gay designers hate real women and would rather be dressing up boys in sexy dresses instead” angle. Either way, there’s a whole lot of hating women while putting a pretty bow on it going on.

    New York Fashion Week: ” *whipcrack* Thank you Sir, may I have another?!”

  8. Jodie

    So, why NOT dress up 12 year old boys in those fashions?

    Makes more sense than starving women to look like 12 year old boys.

  9. Mrs. Coulter

    there is the whole creepy “gay designers hate real women and would rather be dressing up boys in sexy dresses instead” angle.

    There’s also the creepy prepubescent girl aspect of it. Many prepubescent girls are rail thin (I was one of them), until they have the nerve to grow boobs, develop hips, and bleed every month. So much of the current vogue notion of feminine “beauty” involves denuding the signals of actual sexual maturity (such as body hair–little girls have a “natural” Brazilian) and turning women into sexualized children.

  10. Nia

    There is a bit of non-news that’s causing great controversy in Spain just now. The people in charge of the Madrid fashion shows have just forbidden to have models with an IBM under 18. They are weighed in front of two doctors on the day the shows start.

    The fashion business is divided between the people who won’t give an opinion in public and the people against it. The media focuses on the models who are against it because their IBM is around 16.

    Has any of this reached foreign media?

  11. educe

    Nia, I haven’t yet heard it in mass media such as the radio (no teevee here), but it’s at least online (e.g. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14748549/).

    Lots of talk about models, but what about the gals in my classes at university who are thin and ghostly?

  12. hedonistic

    I blogged about this last week, and although the official statements out of Madrid had to do with health and the self-esteem of young Spanish girls (which is laudable) I wondered if this wasn’t just another way of telling women (skinny ones this time) that whatever they are, it’s just not good enough, because now curves are “in.”

    Hard to say. Maybe a little bit of both ideas are ricocheting around inside the brain of the collective Spaniard. Who knows.

  13. Nia

    The models that have been on display in Spain’s TV news these days are anything but curvy. Only the skinniest cases are out. The management doesn’t want to force the fashion designers into adopting a different image, they (oficially) just want to stop encouraging unhealthy thinness.

    My opinion is that it is an electoralistic / marketing strategy. The Madrid (Madrid the Region, like an American State, not the city) Goverment has had a lot of free publicity from this initiative. If they had annouced it six months ago, giving the designers enough time to do a careful model casting instead of being forced to fire a handful of them at the last minute, it wouldn’t have been so controversial and problematic.

  14. Mar Iguana

    “I blame the Twiggyocracy.” norbizness

    From Twiggy’s official site:

    “Twiggy was born in north London on September 19th, 1949. She was named “The Face of ’66″ by the Daily Express. In the mid 60′s at 16 years of age, Twiggy became internationally known as the world’s first supermodel, her photographic modelling success epitomising the age.”

    And, Betty Freidan writes “The Feminine Mystique,” a direct and fatal blow to the patriarchy, sparking a women’s movement and the beginning of The Undeclared War On Women.

    I’m two years older than Twiggy. It has been a long, strange trip indeed, living through a time like no other in recorded history for women and stumbling through it without a map or a net.

  15. KMTBERRY

    I have a possibly false idea that the definition of “femininity” used to have a baseline of thinness, that being the thinness at which one’s Boobs dissappear. Can’t be Feminine without the Patriarchy-Approved Big Boobies!! No Boobies (used to)=too thin.

    Now that women can starve themselves to death and Near death, THEN get Fake balloons of silicone surgically inserted into their torsos, there is no baseline.

    Really the only sane thing to do is ignore the dictates of the Patriarchy completely. It makes the Patriarchy feel good to see you kill yourself trying to please it. Or conversely, kill all your enjoyment of life. Like worrying and feeling guilty for having a fucking cracker. (Or milkshake. Or ice cream sundae!! Seriously. How many blamers out there DO miss dinner? You must make nourishing yourself MORE of a PRIORITY!)

    In this vein, a model died on the runway this weak from heart failure from starvation. There is a thing on it on Feministe.

  16. Mar Iguana

    Whatta nijit. That’s “Friedan.”

  17. Shannon

    Actually, an 18 BMI is not that bad. I weigh 105(guessing here- I weighed 102 the last time I was weighed) and have a BMI of 21.2. An woman of 5 feet 8 inches would weigh 120 pounds at the BMI of 18.2. So it’s not really that restrictive. A naturally thin woman could easily pass the test.

  18. KTal

    Bourgeios yes, crisis, no. All the hype always seems to keep the fire of the ole patriarchy burning. Women get to make hollow gripes about how the competition is just stacked against them and making them like worthless failures without a future. Men get the inner satisfaction of knowing that their dicks and their money (more the money) still hold sway over the half the population.

    All the flagellating of the fashion industry smacks very much of the flagellating of the south in its grand old days,

    “Oh my Jessup, how those darkies work so hard for us! Why I am so glad we can afford to give ‘em a hambone and a Sunday evening off. So much better than old John Marcoux down the street, why the other day I saw him workin’ his n#$#ers until past dark on a Sunday and he hasn’t let them have any of the meat on that plantation! Why its a shame, its a shame!”

    “Now, now Miss Sallie, don’t you get yourself all worked up, you know what Master John said, we don’t want no trouble in the county with them abolitionists, you just got to mine your own business and we’ll all be fine. I’m sure his n@#@#rs is just fine anyhow.”

  19. scratchy888

    The fashion industry is run by gay men. What do they care/understand about actual women?

  20. Harpy

    I do not like the idea of using BMI to assess women as healthy or not, because not only is the idea of a woman having to ‘measure up’ to fit some kind of aesthetic standard disguised as concern for health pretty damn repulsive, the BMI is also remarkably useless as an indicator of health. Three different women of the same height could have a BMI each of 16, 26, and 36 and still be just fine health-wise.

    Dear patriarchy: How about the some shut the hell up about what our bodies look like. Forget OMG she is like sooooooo skinny yuck. Forget OH NO fat chicks everywhere gross! None of that condescending oh-we’re-just-concerned-about-your-health crap. Just SHUT. UP.

  21. Catherine Martell

    It’s a sick irony, when obesity is the second biggest killer in the US and getting that way in Europe, that so much attention is given to the problems of the tiny number of underweight women in the western world.

    Articles like that in the NYT are effectively an excuse to print pictures of very skinny, objectified women, many of whom will be celebrities, more still of whom will be in high earnings brackets. As far as these women are concerned, having pictures printed of them approximates their raison d’etre.

    For an anorexic, even appearing in a negative context constitutes a form of public attention, and effectively encourages her behaviour. I’m not saying newspapers shouldn’t report such stories, but do they always have to come with a lurid photo-section?

    Meanwhile, the huge upward trend in women suffering obesity-related illnesses is rarely reported, because it would have to be illustrated with photos of old, fat women.

    366,000 women die of heart disease in the US every year, and that’s only one obesity-related illness. 1,000 die of anorexia. In the developed world, if you’re genuinely concerned about women’s health, low BMIs are not a major issue. If you’re looking to sell papers, on the other hand, I suppose they really are.

    Guess what I blame?

  22. Lizzy

    I agree BMI is just another stick to beat women with, but can’t help blanching at the news that Kate Moss (not one of the thinnest) has a BMI of 14. Presumably not one of them has to take period supplies to fashion week.

    When Twiggy ruled the covers, she stood out for being unnaturally skinny. Look at those same photos now with 21st century eyes and she looks totally average for a cover girl, if not a little untoned.

    Agree with Twisty about a good chunk of the public outrage being “Oh damn, stop moving the goalposts, I used to be hot under the old system” rather than “These poor teenagers”.

  23. Harpy

    Obesity is NOT the “second biggest killer”. Not even close. The pharmaceutical giants that sell diet pills and obesity “cures” and the stomach-mutilating clinics and the likes of Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers (great bunch of women-haters there, I tell ya) would love you to think so. It’s pretty easy to whip up a moral panic and assorted hysteria in the media about fatties. Everyone loves to laugh/recoil in horror at a fat chick!

    366,000 women may die of heart disease but you’re assuming that they’re all fat and that being fat is what caused their heart disease. That’s how the obesity/diet/body-hate industry creates such alarming figures. Add up all the costs of diseases the fatties are supposed to have, whether or not they do, whether or not the ill people are fat, and there you go. The figure for deaths strongly attributable to being fat is more like 25,000. More people die from causes strongly attributed to being underweight than that. How many of those women who died from heart disease were too poor to afford medical care that might have picked up heart trouble early on? How many live in highly-polluted environments? How many could afford medical help but couldn’t be saved because medical studies are mostly done on men, who obviously have different physiology, and the treatments didn’t work as well?

    This is a feminist issue because who is that buys women’s magazines filled with diets? Who goes to diet clinics and “health camps”? Who buys diet pills? Who watches Oprah talk earnestly about her “weight probelem”? Women. And let’s face it, women, fat or thin, who don’t hate themselves enough to buy into this rubbish are plenty patriarchy-threatening. The obesity industry needs you to think that anyone with a certain BMI or over is chewing up your taxpayer dollars in healthcare costs so you can help them with some free hating. They need fat people, especially fat women, to buy more and more of their products. Big pharma lobbied hard to have the BMI categories of what constitutes “overweight” and “obese” lowered so they could shove more diet pills down our throats. Lower the category for “obese” to BMI30 and overnight you have a whole new market. And they did.

    It really is mostly about women. You can be a fat man and still get to be an overpaid executive or the star of a TV sitcom with a “perfect” skinny sitcom wife. There’s no fat woman on TV with a buff guy husband. There’s no fat ladies allowed on big company boards. (If you’re model-thin you might be allowed for a bit, but now you’re TOO thin, bad for company image.)

    If you would like some solid, respectable references about actual figures on the “obesity “crisis”", please visit bigfatfacts.com for a start.

  24. hedonistic

    I just hate those womens magazines whose covers shriek “LOSE A GAZILLION POUNDS IN JUST TWO WEEKS!” along with a mouthwatering photograph of . . . a layer cake.

    Face it: They all hate us. Turn away.

  25. Pony

    Of the 70-80 years olds you know, how many are obese?

    Obesity does kill. You can parse it anyway you want but that doesn’t change the truth. You can even say your obesity is because of genetics, but that doesn’t change the facts; don’t pretend it doesn’t kill. The evidence proves otherwise, for both men and women. And that’s the evidence apart from the hysteria which you rightly mention.

  26. Hawise

    Obesity does kill, so does excessive thinness. Extremes are to be avoided even in patriarchal institutions. However, eat right and exercise more doesn’t sell great big bottles of supplements. Walking a few feet more a day doesn’t help the spandex industry. We have commercialized every aspect of our lives from the most dreary normal to the most exotic and surprise, it has led to excess. We want it all in easy, digestible amounts and then we want to be praised for doing it. As a result we are essentially paying people to make us abuse ourselves and then we pay them to abuse us, for a few moments of pitiable applause.
    Well, I’m off to a gaming convention. I will proceed to beat the pants off of some young, over weight patriarchal types and gloat. It was more fun when I was in my twenties but it still has its moments in my forties.

  27. scout

    Anousheh Ansari, the first female space tourist, is currently weightless!
    Her blog is pretty good, by the way: http://spaceblog.xprize.org/

  28. Pony

    In no way is this validating what’s happening with those models. But there is clincial evidence to show that calorie restriction extends life. It’s in the mice stage still. But it’s there, very definitely there.

    I won’t be volunteering.

    Today, Borscht, tomorrow, French toast with real maple syrup and Canadian bacon.

  29. KMTBERRY

    Somewhere in this flap someone commented that, if these models were SHOW DOGS, the concern for their health would be Overwhelming, and their starvation would be rightly named ABUSE.

    THat comment made an impression on me about the status of women in our society. I think it is a true comment. Women are being treated worse than dogs, and it is invisible, in fact we RESENT the women and what they are representing for making “impossible standards” for us to live up to.

  30. Mar Iguana

    There are over twice as many animal shelters in the US than women’s shelters.

  31. KMTBERRY

    The fact remains, that women so concentration-camp emaciated that they DROP DEAD ON THE RUNWAY are being paraded in front of us, and most people think that’s OK and even DEFEND it, as in the comments above.

    We should all just refuse to buy clothes.

    Also, I don’t advocate trated DOGS poorly. I Love dogs. I just think it was a wake-up call to see women being treated in a way that would have animal-lovers up in arms, and us, American Women, kind of not caring. Because they “choose” to starve themselves. (I say that sarcastically. I don’t think they have much of a choice, from what I have read. It’s starve yourself or be out of a job.))

  32. KTal

    I think that the rail thin image conjures up all sorts of juicy stuff for the men and women living in a patriarchy:

    - the woman as martyr – that she will ‘starve’ herself to conform
    - the good woman as the pinancle of discipline and self denial
    - the good woman as vulnerable and frail, needing of assistance and protection
    - the good woman who invites suggests little ability to resist restraint/abuse/rape
    - the good woman whose existance is all about the looks

    Any other woman, whether fat or not, represents the opposite of the above.

    I absolutely agree with the poster about the constant publication of thin women as a crisis as well. It is indeed a crisis shared among a very small number of woman of a certain class status.

    And I agree that the article serves more as self flagellation/mental masturbation/gratuitous activity than any actual alarm bell ringing.

  33. Blamerella

    “Of the 70-80 years olds you know, how many are obese?”

    How many used to be obese? My great aunt, who lived well into her 90s, was a large woman most of her life. Once she hit her 70s, her appetite decreased substantially, as is common in the elderly. Gradually she became thin as a rail. The reason you don’t see many fat old people is that old people don’t tend to eat very much.

  34. Ms Kate

    ‘zactly, Blamerella.

    Women in my family get large in their 20s, thinner as they cross 40 and 50, and are usually of modest mass by their 80s or 90s.

    Unless they smoke and drink to excess, which does them in around 75.

    BMI is good for populations and for diagnosing the extent of starvation cases in the individual. It has very low prognostic value as a statistic for predicting individual anything otherwise. I personally have an “obese” BMI, but I cycle 15 miles round trip to work each day and otherwise measure average in all things except weight and boobage (height, pant size, etc all “normal”). Nobody has ever successfully guessed my weight because I am very muscular – just like my father, grandmother, etc.

  35. Buttercup

    I just blogged about an ad running here in Pittsburgh by Highmark BC/BS (bs stands for bullshit). It’s all about helping this poor child “take control” of her weight. In the ad, once she’s “taken control”, she is no longer “Big”, and her friends, family, and teachers now love her.

    It’s very sad. And it pisses me off a great deal.

    Here’s an excerpt of what I wrote.
    “Highmark, you have perpetuated evil by two things. The first thing is that this child who was probably (in her ficticious life) perfectly happy, active, and healthy, will now have an obsession with being small. A girl subject to this perception will almost certainly have lifelong self-esteem issues, which may include eating disorders, cutting behaviors, depression, acting out. The second evil that you have perpetuated is the “gender sizing” myth. Only Men can be Big. Men can be Huge. Men can be Gigantic. That’s Manly, right? Women, however, cannot be Big, or they are not women. Women must be small, frail, delicate, childlike. Strength, Bigness, are not allowed.”

    That’s why models are so admired by the patriarchy, even though screwing one is reportedly like screwing a sack of coathangers.

    We just can’t win, can we? And what do I blame for that, I ask you? Guess!

  36. Ron Sullivan

    In my tired, smiley, addled post-Celt-Fair state, I read Norb’s comment as “I blame the Twistyocracy.” And I thought, “Oh, you WISH.”

    Well, I do. It could only help.

    I see in the Chron photos of some earthshattering fashion event that there was a horse on the runway by way of scene-setting. Looked like a healthy, handsome, muscular horse. Of course, there’s the SPCA to consider, and the fact that the horse has to be strong enough to carry something heavier than clothes on his/her back.

  37. jc.

    The fashion world (perversion, cult, sickness?) as shown by this story and your previous link to the Fashion pictures in Italian Vogue, among other things, reflects the values and realities of the patriarchal society much like Cargo Cults in the pacific reflect the industrial and consumer society of the western world or a fun house mirror reflects a carnivals visitors. The picture is very warped and has it´s own reality,laws and causes but has, none the less, an uncomfortable similarity to the source.

  38. Ms Kate

    One difference, jc – the cargo cults are not being held up as an ideal of how a consumer should be. Walking by the funhouse mirror merely reminds you that you have entered a twisted fun world – it also does not represent an ideality to aspire to.

  39. maribelle

    >>Obesity does kill.

    Life does kill. You can parse it anyway you want but that doesn’t change the truth.

    At birth, the only guarantee is that you are going to die. Taking every step possible to put it off as long as possible regardless of our quality of life is a sign of our own ignorance and deep spiritual cowardice.

    The intense, driving fear of death leads to insanity, barbarous cruelty to others, wars to destroy people who might possibly someday try to kill us, etc.

    Relax–you’re going to die and so am I. Meanwhile, there is a big beautiful world out there waiting; let’s enjoy the hell out of it until our number is called, then go take our place in line with as much courage, grace and humor as we can muster.

  40. Pony

    That’s a doozy of rationalizing.

  41. KMTBERRY

    KTAL:

    I think your comments are EXTREMELY intelligent and insightful.

    On a completely different note, I think we older Feminists need to brainwash more young girls into seeing things OUR way. (Diabolical laughter). Seriously. I don’t even KNOW any young people, but I think it is clear that the younger folks buy into this crap BUT TOTALLY. They all seem to be gambling that if they are just “feminine” enuff, they can land a rich investment banker and retire. Anyone who criticizes that plan as unrealistic is just a jealous old bag. It is hard to get through to them, the P has them well-trained. I have noticed that women younger than myself don’t come around to Feminist thinking until AFTER they have been repeatedly screwed over by the P, which they tend to realize around 35 years of age.

  42. Crys_T

    Pony, I suggest you take a trip to Alas and read the extensive number of posts linking to numerous studies on the subject that show, that, no, obesity is not the guaranteed death sentence the media tries to paint it as. (Unless, as maribelle pointed out, all obese people end up dying because all PEOPLE end up dying).

    And as for the calorie restriction = longer life thing? Then why have a couple of recent studies shown evidence that being somewhat overweight is actually BENEFICIAL to participants’ health? As for obese people in their 80s, I can think of 2 examples from my immediate family, with some overweight people in their 70s as well.

    And I’m going to repeat this one again–and will keep on repeating it till it sinks in, because I’m sick of this bullshit masquerading as “common sense” and “what we all know” when the *real* medical evidence doesn’t even fucking support it (check out proper medical studies for a change, please)–my father is a pathologist, and he told me years ago that nearly every single one of the autopsies he performed on people who suddenly dropped dead at a relatively young age WERE ON THIN PEOPLE. Shock horror, I know, but those are the facts.

    Quit fucking equating thinness with health. It fucking dehumanises a whole section of society and IT FLAT-OUT DOES NOT HOLD UP IN THE FACE OF REAL FACT.

  43. Enough Already

    Firstly, as newbie here, is there any way that I can change my pw from the one sent to me to something I could conceivably remember?

    Onto the subject – if anyone hasn’t seen the movie “Goldfinger” recently, I cannot recommend it highly enough. It’s fun ‘cuz it was the Bond movies that eroticized the “Cold War”. Beyond that, wait til you see the women. They were actually allowed to exist, have curves, etc. Of course, they had to pay w/other Patriarchal Obscenities – names like “Pussy Galore”…

    I noticed this war on women’s size was an aspect of male’s response to the women’s movement, as though they were saying -well, if the c***’s have to exist, they better exist as little as possible.

    I wish some young women would do some actions at fashion shows to take this on. The pervasiveness of tv watching has really spread it like the plague though, and most young women I see around town are quite underweight.

  44. Enough Already

    (I’m not sure how to do links here, so I’ll try w/angle-brackets & just entering url & see what works.)

    Has anyone seen the OBSCENE spread in Italian Vogue, eroticizing Fascism? I’m speechless. The discussion of it at the usually intelligent bagnewsnotes.com is just as mind-boggling irrelevant. (Sept. 18 entry)

    Through this livejournal community, we gain a look at the fashion spread in September’s Vogue Italia.  (Because the color shots are more plainly satirical, I’m going to primarily touch on those.)  One person who wrote me described these images as evoking rape fantasies and the expression of female power.  That interpretation, while going for the sexual politics, seems to overlook the main point, which is more purely the terror politics.

    Here is a luscious lampoon of the America terror state — a situation that has gone so far, it can only be treated as burlesque.

    If you see any duress (in the color photos), let me know. 

    “luscious lampoon”…I’m overcome w/fury & despair, yet such is the “educated male” take.

    Fashion of the Times

    To see images, pls. click through to his link.

  45. Enough Already

    Link worked, so I’ll give direct link to Vogue shoot . State of Emergency. Comments are also interesting…finally wayy down, someone Finally objects but then “apologizes for going off”!

  46. Catherine Martell

    My point was not that thin = good, fat = bad. Far from it. I was arguing that – in the western world – excessive thinness is a condition which affects a very tiny number of women, many of whom belong to the privileged classes, while excessive fatness is a condition that affects a very large number of women, many of whom are underprivileged.

    Owing to the cheapness of crap food and the paucity of education, poverty has become a cause of obesity (and, you could argue, vice-versa). So, when Harpy argues that some obesity deaths are attributable to poverty, I agree – but these causes are interlinked. That’s exactly the point. It’s not particularly controversial to point out that, over the course of the 20th century, people got fatter – especially lower down the social scale. You don’t have to equate thinness with health to realise that the medical problems suffered by a labourer in the Dustbowl in 1930 were more likely to be linked to being underweight, while those suffered by a production worker in 2006 are more likely to be linked to being overweight.

    Meanwhile, the press keeps bleating on about how terrible it is that a handful of rich women have missed a few meals, and coddling the poor, emaciated darlings by campaigning to remove images of other thin women from their environment. Apparently this is done on the assumption that women are so damn stupid that looking at a picture of a thin lady will make us go anorexic. Quite apart from completely misunderstanding the psychology of anorexia, this sort of journalism ignores and conceals the real issues of nutrition and public health that face the vast majority of women.

  47. lesshaste

    I think langsuyar hit the nail on the head or at least is looking at the right nail with “gay designers hate real women and would rather be dressing up boys in sexy dresses instead”. It’s not so much that gay designers hate women, it’s that their idea of beauty and perfection is much more closely related to a 6 foot tall, statuesque young man without any clear gender signs (e.g. hair, muscles, breasts or hips). It’s not at all clear that your average borish heterosexual male has any interest in this as an image of femininity. See for example the studies of hip-to-waist ratio in female nude imagery over the years which show that although “fashion” changes, men’s base tastes don’t appear to. Broadly speaking, women’s high-fashion is an industry almost
    untouched by heterosexual men. Of course, that isn’t to excuse them from all the over harms they cause…

  48. Dr.Sue

    It’s probably true that more people in industrialized nations are dying from eating hypercaloric and cholesterol-saturated cheap crap food than from self-starvation. But it’s not a contest. All are victims of the disease of commodification.

    When I worked in a poor, inner-city, all-minority elementary school, obesity and diabetes were already problems among the K-5 set. This was partly because McFood is marketed to this age group and economic sector and is more easily accessible than fresh produce–and when families are living in hotels and shelters they may not have nice big refrigerators and stoves to store and prepare food; they can’t necessarily buy anything in bulk; and some aren’t even allowed to keep food in their rooms because of problems with roaches or rats. I don’t think “fatness” itself was to blame for health problems; rather, it was the lousy non-food people were forced to eat. And the free school meals were a joke–sugared cereal and doughnuts for breakfast; white-flour macaroni and processed cheese or mystery meat hot dogs for lunch. Plus the neighborhood was considered dangerous so kids were cooped up inside their apartments after school instead of being able to go outside & play, and recess and gym periods were minimal.

    But my case load included young girls, including a kindergartner, who went on starvation diets because they’d absorbed the cultural message that their body size was problematic not because it was unhealthy, but because it was unattractive–so the way to address this wasn’t by making healthier lifestyle choices (insofar as these are available to a 5-year-old living in a slum) but to deprive and punish themselves. And that to me is what is at issue with these models. It’s not that the problems of a “privileged few” are more important than those of the impoverished rest of the world (where many of these models come from) but that the message given to women is that we’re not acceptable unless we are on the edge of disappearing or dying. And that affects everyone, fat and thin.

  49. hedonistic

    As if you needed another reason to hate the fashion industry:

    http://hedonisticpleasureseeker.wordpress.com/2006/09/25/fashionista-on-strike-as-if-i-needed-another-reason/

  50. drumgurl

    Wow, there seems to be a lot of hatred towards skinny women here. How are some of you so sure what is “unnaturally skinny” or what “real women” look like? How do you know who is having regular periods and who isn’t? I’ve had to put up with this bullcrap from other women who *assume* I fraking starve myself when I don’t. Why is it your business? Why do you care if screwing a skinny woman is like screwing a bunch of coat hangers? Is that a woman’s only worth? My god, you seem to do a lot of woman-hating yourselves.

    Before I had my son, I was 5’7 and 95 pounds – through no “fault” of my own. I tried so hard to keep weight on after I had my son so that maybe, just maybe, the verbal abuse from other *women* would stop. Well, I managed to keep 20 pounds of pregnancy weight, which puts me at 115 pounds. But you know what? That *still* isn’t good enough. Women still hate me. Screw you and your bigotry.

  51. hedonistic

    I hear you, drumgurl, myself having grown up being called the poster child for famine relief, all tiny and knock-kneed and such. My mother actually HUNG A SIGN AROUND MY NECK saying “Do not feed this child, she gets enough to eat at home.” I shit you not: The neighbors actually though my parents were starving me and fed me on the sly so that when it was time for dinner I was no longer hungry.

    My sister goes throught the same thing you do, and she’s your height. I’m short, which adds another dimension to my dillemma: The waif vibe. When I was 22 I was picked up off the street and taken into custody by the police because they thought I was a “child runaway.” My mother told me I’d be grateful for this someday. Feh.

    Age and childbirth gave me what I carry today, but I still get sneers from women who don’t know me from Eve. I swear I’ve gotten more randomized hating from women then I ever have from men, and that’s just sad. But we can’t even complain, because apparently complaining about being skinny is akin to complaining about being rich.

    Fuck that. When I blogged this subject chez moi, I mused about the naturally thin women who would be missing out on modeling jobs because someone moved the goalposts again. It’s a small segment of society, granted, but it’s the principle of the thing. What’s wrong with having a variety of sizes of men and women on fashion runways? Sheesh, is this so hard to figure out?

  52. drumgurl

    Thank you, hedonistic. :-)

    It’s odd that men are “nice” to me now that I’ve filled out (nice in the way that they just want to get in my pants, of course). Before that, the men were just as mean as the women!

  53. Twisty

    Hedonistic: “My mother actually HUNG A SIGN AROUND MY NECK saying “Do not feed this child, she gets enough to eat at home.”

    Ha!

    I’m a skinny myself, but, as much as I dislike it when people tell me to “eat something,” I don’t believe there is a qualitative equivalence, in terms of what drumgurl calls “bigotry,” between the skinny experience and the fat experience. We (the skinnies) may get clucked over by women who pretend to be concerned for our health, but I suspect that this passive-aggressive behavior is largely motivated by envy. Women who are perceived as “fat” are openly reviled in our culture, whereas skinny chicks – because it is trendy (see post above) – are seen to possess the Holy Grail of metabolisms and are rewarded; one can certainly understand it if fat girls resent this. It only proves the point that no one – not me, not you – is immune from the toxic effects of patriarchal hegemony.

  54. Pony

    You “suspect” we’re envious!? Of course we are. And with that, I’ll head off to “eat something”.

    By the way Hed, I’m your height and weight most of my life and I never considered myself skinny. Now, 17 pounds over that weight, I consider myself fat.

  55. Dr.Sue

    Having been what I considered a normal, healthy size, for me, most of my adult life (5’5″, about 125-130 pounds, and I’m a swimmer, so fairly muscular), I became very ill last year and dropped about 25 pounds. I thought I looked emaciated and old. (Not to say that you can’t weigh 100 pounds at my height and look great, but I didn’t feel I did; I’d lost most of my muscle tone and my bones aren’t that small. Also, I had nearly died, and that takes a toll on one’s appearance.) As I staggered about my rounds when I was first allowed out, acquaintances who didn’t know I’d been ill kept stopping me to tell me how “great” I looked. Clearly, they were not responding to the bloom of health and well being, but to the fact that there was less of me. This wasn’t just casual, “How’ve you been, you look great” social nonsense, but women at the pool stopping me and demanding to know my “secret.” When I explained that I’d had a life-threatening disease, several said, without irony, that they were envious.

    I do believe women can look terrific at all sizes. But the emphasis on thinness really scares me because it does seem to equate fragility with attractiveness, and to discount the person’s health and well-being.

    Also, if the “ideal” is unattainable for most women, yet we’re pariah-ed if we don’t aspire to it, we’re going to spend a lot of energy on goals that distract us from actual issues.

  56. hedonistic

    Pony, my boobage didn’t really sprout until my mid-twenties and didn’t become – er, “problematic” – until midlife. I believe that’s the main difference between our physical types.

    When the boobage started affecting the way I photographed, dressed, stood, etc., I felt “fat,” which is ridiculous, but there you have it.

  57. hedonistic

    Oh – - and FWIW until midlife I hovered about at 100 pounds and Kate Mossish proportions.

  58. Pony

    I do think skinny is healthier, if we are only talking about weight, and skinny is accompanied by a good nutritious diet and exercise. But a BMI of 14 seems outrageously dangerous, especially since Moss is not short.

  59. saltyC

    I was also one of those stick-thin kids, and the worst part is, because my family had an unusual diet (near-vegetarian: no birds or mammals), grown-ups I knew were constantly measuring me up like wrapping their finders around my wrist and clucking at how wrong my mom was for starving me. I agree, it’s all part of the patriarchy: it’s easy to put down children. I really tried had to over-eat but it did no good, and the “Bond Girls” made me anxious, I would never be as round as them.
    Now being middle age I do watch my weight, it is part of staying healthy and happy. I have seen friends develop diabetes, and even worse, from overeating. Maintaining a healthy weight is important, and there are a wide range of healthy bmi’s. When I lost the pregnancy weight I found the ideal goal was losing two pounds a month.

  60. Pony

    It creeps me out thta we must be not only insubstantial, but childish. We must look as childlike as possible. To look too substantial, hairy, “weighty” is too far removed from the the demands of the inherent pedophilia lurking in western male culture. I think it’s why men prefer Asian women (not only that they are the bit of brown du jour). I read recently that native women are very desired as whores because we can pass as Eurasian, Hawaiian, whatever; no one can tell so we can be worked so efficiently. See?

  61. Pony

    Not only must we look childish we must sound childish too. I have a breathy “small” sounding voice. I can force it down, and out. But I must force. Not only does every man in the patriarchy think any woman is his to assess visually: her weight, her potential fuckability for him, but even internet providers on the phone think they have a right to assess you, and keep interrupting as you try to explain what it is you want “Pardon me, let me say, Ma’am stop just a minute I have to say, Ma’am Ma’am?” until finally you let him interrupt, and he says “I have to say, you sound just so young–way to go, you’re doing well.” I was asking when I could have the senior discount for highspeed.

  62. drumgurl

    I have not just been “clucked over” by men and women; I have been publicly harassed. Women were not envious of me when I weighed 95 pounds. Why? Because the boys thought I was disgusting. And it’s all about pleasing the boys, you know. Maybe they are envious now, but like I said, I have gained 20 pounds from having my son. Even if they were envious, does that make it okay to harass me?

  63. Twisty

    Even if they were envious, does that make it okay to harass me?

    Of course not. My point is that, in a system where dominance rules, harrassment for lack of conformity becomes a socially acceptable response. This is the reality within a patriarchy, an ideology with which I take, you know, issue.

  64. deja pseu

    Yes, it is fucked up that women are denigrated for their body size, whether thin or fat. I have to say though, I’ve been thin (anorexic a couple of times in my life) and I’ve been fat, and the world is a much more friendly and accepting place when I am thin.

    Regarding envy, someone much more erudite and clever than I once postulated that the idea of “thin envy” is not unlike the idea of “penis envy.” Just as women probably never wanted to posess an actual penis but rather wanted to have the autonomy, agency, freedom, respect and social acceptance experienced by the segment of the population in posession of one, envy of thinner women isn’t about their bodies themselves, but rather the envy of the acceptance, social status, freedom and respect that we believe having a thin body confers. It’s not so much about what’s real as the qualities that our culture has assigned to different body types. Even though my sister and I grew up eating the same foods, I was led to believe by my family and the outside world that she somehow possessed a stronger character because she was thin and I was fat.

    Cultural ideals of extreme thinness are about fetishizing women’s suffering, along with high heels and uncomfortable clothing. The ideal woman in this paradigm is one who willingly submits and suffers.

  65. Twisty

    Deja pseu! Long time no see!

    You have hit the nail on the head with your elucidating remarks on envy.

    Somewhat tangentially, my family has always judged character in terms of not just body fat, but physical fitness. I am seen to possess real flaws because my resting heart rate is around 70, whereas my sister Tidy’s is a superhuman 42. When I talked to my father the day after my ankle surgery, his first question was “So how are you exercising?” When I explained to him that my off-the-scale post-op pain required me to lie around with my leg elevated, his bright suggestion was that I lift weights.

  66. Johnny

    As a gay man I’m suprised by some of this discourse. I’ve always felt a kinship with straight women, kind of an us vs. straight men. I guess I wasn’t aware we were the target of so much animosity regarding the fashion industry. That said, I’d be interested to know what you gals think of celebrity weeklies. Like ‘Us’ and ‘Life & Style’? I love them!

  1. When Eating Disorders Go Digital at I Blame The Patriarchy

    [...] A propos of the fat/thin discussion of a couple of days ago, blamer Rebecca sends the following communiqué. If you’re pressed for time, I’ll give you a synopsis: She blames the patriarchy for a consumer electronic woman-shrinker, and closes with a poetical expression of her acute sensitivity to and appreciation for Truth and Beauty (I have helpfully put that part in boldface). * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * [...]

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