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1/13/2012 2:44:00 PM

Tags: Madeline Figueroa-Jones, Body Mass Index, eating disorders, models, body image, health, media, PLUS Model Magazine, Danielle Magnuson

During a late-night college powwow session many years ago, a guy asked me, for some reason, how much I weighed. I was 5 feet, 8 inches tall and pretty scrawny at the time from biking and walking across campus every day. I told him: 120 pounds.

“What!” he said. “Don’t worry, you don’t look that heavy.”

He was just a clueless college boy, but this bizarre line of thinking—that 120 pounds could possibly be construed as overweight for a 5'8" woman—isn’t limited to frat boys. It exists all over our advertising and our media. Every model in every commercial and every catalogue has stick-thin arms and legs, often made even more emaciated by Photoshop. Watch an episode of Project Runway and you’ll see the contestants picking apart the so-called flaws of a model who looks like she hasn’t eaten in a month—pointing out her “pouchy stomach” or her “big booty.”

van loo

PLUS Model Magazine, a publication celebrating the plus-size fashion industry, recently printed some revealing statistics about the models that exhibit our clothes, sell our products, and generally define female beauty. The highlights:

  • Twenty years ago, the average model weighed 8% less than the average woman; today, she weighs 23% less.
  • Most models meet the Body Mass Index physical criteria for anorexia.
  • When the plus-size modeling industry began, the models ranged in size from 14 to 20; today, they average between a size 6 and 14.
  • Half of American women wear a size 14 or larger, but most standard clothing outlets cater to sizes 14 or smaller.

pietro liberi

As Madeline Figueroa-Jones points out, “we are not talking about health here because not every skinny person is healthy.” We’re talking about an abnormal body image that promotes anorexia-thin women as the standard. What’s almost as fascinating (and dispiriting) as PLUS Model Magazine’s revelations are the reader comments that follow the online article, largely focused on whether or not the (gorgeous) plus-size model featured in the accompanying photographs is “fat.” Which tells you that we’ve still got a long ways to go before that college boy mindset is in the minority.

Source: PLUS Model Magazine 

Top image: "Young Woman Going to Bed" by Jacob van Loo / oil on canvas; public domain 
Bottom image: "Sine Cerere et Baccho friget Venus" by Pietro Liberi / oil on canvas; public domain



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Post a comment below.

 

BOB SIZOO
1/23/2012 11:46:06 PM
Actually, 7% is unhealthy and below the level of essential body fat which most sources say is 10-12 or 13%. The American Council on Exercise says women athletes average 14-20% and "fit" woman average 21-24%. Average women are above that - as Lady-T- pointed out, in the US, average is not fit. You might be thinking of men's numbers, which are lower.

THOMAS TIERNEY
1/23/2012 7:21:59 PM
I hate to think what the figures are for the average male.We have come so far but obviously not far enough.

STEVEN COX
1/23/2012 6:03:03 PM
Some posters seem to think the model is fat. It is impossible to know whether the model is fat, or not. We don't know the model. We don't know how she feels best, or what the best weight is for her. She appears from the picture, which can be misleading, the picture of health, so to assume fat because she is a bit fleshy is absurd. If you can call her fat then you are saying there is one body type that is correct and all others are wrong.

Kelly Wright
1/23/2012 4:54:29 PM
This is ridiculous. I have been an UTNE subscriber for almost ten years and the ONE time I choose to comment on an article, the comment is removed repeatedly. I am appalled.

Mario Here
1/23/2012 4:50:00 PM
You make some really good points. But I would caution against using the word fat. It creates hostility with those opposed to being called fat. To set the record straight a healthy women has from 7-14% body fat, and this is just an estimate. So while the model above may be "slightly overweight" - fat is hardly an accurate descriptive. Alternately, you could call her phat and have a better chance of making a compliment. Also It wouldn't negate your beneficial comments. just my opinion.

Kelly Wright
1/23/2012 4:47:47 PM
Why has my comment been moderated twice now? There was no profanity, no abuse, and no adult content. I do not appreciate having my comments removed.

Dan Pieniak
1/23/2012 4:16:15 PM
I don't mind a little meat on the bones of the lady I love. But..... Don't you think the second photo is too erotic as an example. Although.... no real complaints from me :-)

Lady -T-
1/23/2012 1:30:48 PM
So the average model today is 23% smaller than the average woman.... But how much larger is the average woman today than she was when models were only 8% smaller? The average sized woman in America wears a 14 (that stat is old, and is probably inaccurate); but does this mean that 14 is a healthy size? The models in magazines are too thin, yes, but American women are also far too fat. It's not about looks, it's about how our bodies are able to best function. And yes, gorgeous or not, the model pictured is fat.






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