Friday, February 09, 2007

So What's The Skinny?

I was reading this article from Newsweek on MSN over lunch today. The subject is why skinny models could be making us fat. The discrepancy between the beauty images we see daily and the faces and bodies we actually see in the mirror is one that I've spent countless hours pondering, discussing, and ranting about. Please excuse the poor grammar. This topic just gets my knickers in a twist.

So, first of all, there's the weight thing. There are many others who can address the subject far better than I. I'm lucky enough not to suffer from eating disorders, and I've never been a dieter. I've been fortunate enough that if I'm not happy with my weight, I add some exercise, skip a couple of Cokes, my pants fit better and I'm over it. I truly know the super-skinny models and celebrities are not the norm, and although I had to say that for a long time before I really understood and believed it, I do know it's true. I don't find most of them attractive- Nicole Richie scares the hell out of me. I really want to give Kiera Knightly a sandwich. Lindsay Lohan... well, best not to open that can of worms. There's a whole lot more going there than egg salad is going to solve.

I _have_ had that punched in the stomach feeling when you put on the outfit you've seen in the magazine or the catalog and it doesn't look even remotely like it looks on her. I _have_ had that feeling when I look at my cheekbones/neck/toes/whatever that there is something just not right about me/mine. It isn't just weight. These images can cause shame about any part of a woman's appearance.

You see, this article mentioned about how much photo-editing is done. Now I know what you can do with Photoshop, and I've long sighed at the thighs on those Victoria's Secret models- you know, the pictures were the thigh looks plastic and spray-painted, with extra shading clumsily added to remove any curve at all? We've heard about airbrushing in the past, but now? Sweet Jesus, they can do anything... and DO.
Not only are moles, acne and subtle facial hair erased from already pretty faces, but retouchers are routinely asked by editors and advertisers to enlarge eyes, trim normal-size ears, fill in hairlines, straighten teeth and lengthen the already-narrow necks, waists and legs of 18-year-old beauties. link
So our beauty ideal isn't even REAL! The actual models can't even hack it. THEY don't even look that "good." If you want to see it in action, go watch this film. It's by the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty and the Dove Self-Esteem Fund (btw, I think Dove's Pro-age ads are astoundingly beautiful!). That lovely woman in the movie barely resembles herself by the time her photo is on the billboard!

It took me so long to realize that there were things about my body that, starve or paint myself, were never going to change. I have a great big ribcage, and I looked far too sturdy compared to those waify models. Why didn't I look as slender as they did? I was thin, too. I have oily skin- and I couldn't figure out why my skin, although free from acne, didn't look like the velvety faces I saw in magazines. Those women didn't even have pores! And why was it that, despite my oval face shape, I looked round compared to the girls in ads? Was it the cheekbones you could slice cheese on that were missing? Or was it perhaps the dandilion stem neck that I didn't have? It took me years to realize that there was nothing I could do about these perceived flaws. I felt like maybe I wasn't trying hard enough or something.

It kills me that, beyond using very thin, very beautiful models, they are making changes to the shapes- the skeletons- and the features of these women once they're photographed, so that they become impossible beings.

I'm so upset by this and what it means for young girls. I thought the standard was high when I was a teenager, but some of those Teen Magazine models from my youth are positively stumpy compared with what we're seeing these days. And the article does mention that younger and younger girls are concerned about body image. I mean, 42% of first- third grade girls wanting to be thinner? WHAT?

But I've already seen it. My beautiful Gabriella, my godchild, my niece, who is all of 7 years old has a friend, Cammie. Cammie is built like a gazelle; she's tall with long skinny limbs. Gabby is of average height, and she's a slender, healthy girl. Half of my Gabby's genes come from New Mexico. She's probably going to have all the wonderful Latina curves to go along with her beautiful brown eyes, and she is going to be one hell of a knock-out. But Gabby has mentioned that she's not as skinny as Cammie. Gabby has mentioned that lots of boys like Cammie. Fortunately, Gabby still thinks boys are ridiculous and wants nothing to do with them. She's a confident little spitfire, but the point is, she has noticed. She sees the difference between her body and Cammie's.

Ugh. I've been typing on this rant for hours, and I simply have no idea how to wrap it all up. It just makes me so sad that fewer and fewer girls and women find themselves beautiful. I hate that, as media becomes more and more pervasive, the beauty standard has become completely fabricated. I really hate that, despite the fact that I'm a confident woman and I like the way I look, sometimes they still make me feel bad, too. Go check out the pro-age ads if you haven't already, and see how beautiful those women are. Look for the beauty in every woman and girl you see, and share it with those, young, impressionable minds.

In fact, see YOUR beauty, and share it with all of us. Write something, take a picture, draw, whatever you can think of- show us or tell us about what's beautiful about you. Consider yourselves ALL tagged on this one.


dragon knitter said...

i'm not sure how much older i am than you (i turned 40 last year, sigh) but when i was a kid, anorexia was just being brought out as a big deal. and the models were thin. twiggy happened when i was a child. twiggy, today, would not have been hired, because she was too curvey!

my daughter is a big girl. now, while she admits she could stand to shed some pounds, she is not "fat." she is literally big boned. as a child, her grandpa used to call her a linebacker. broad shoulders, broad hips, big hands & feet. just a big girl. and she's beautiful. she agrees with you; let's give all these girls some sandwiches.

and you are lucky. i can't just drop a few cokes, walk a little more, and the pounds come off. i'm premenopausal, and the pounds are screaming every time i even try! oy. it's slow, to be sure.

Faith said...

Susan -

Thanks so much for adding your voice. The more people that recognize what is going on, the better off our daughters, god-daughters and nieces are going to be. I look forward to the changes that we're going to see in what is beautiful.

Anonymous said...


This is an amazing and wonderful and beaustiful post, it actually has me crying... Because I'm trans, and bigger boned I have had to deal with the fact that I will never be a size 8 my body just isn't that small and that I'm curvy, I have a butt and hips, I have an hour glass build and that is sexy....

Thank you

hesira said...

I was sick when you posted this, and I couldn't muster up a decent reply. Now, I just want to let you know what a beautiful piece of writing this is, and how much I appreciate your candor. I have been thinking about this ever since you posted it. I consider myself tagged, and have been trying to fashion a reply for my own blog.

Thank you, Susan.