Friday, January 13, 2012 2:44 PM
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.”
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.
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
Image by PLUS Model Magazine, courtesy of PLUS Model Magazine.
Friday, September 23, 2011 3:03 PM
“Barbie was hushed contraband—I didn’t say much about it, but she wasn’t welcome in the house,” writes Betsy Ball in WNC Woman. “She had been a topic of serious discussion within the circle of my women friends who also had daughters.” So it goes within many households containing mindful parents and a little girl. Barbie is the ultimate no-no doll, the epitome of the unattainably small-waisted, big-breasted, blonde ideal that is presumably so damaging to little girls’ self-image as they’re moving her from room to room in their Barbie 3-story Dream Townhouse or shooting her down basement stairs in her pink Barbie Corvette. Barbie angst—along with Bratz angst and Monster High angst—elicits well-meaning conversations among likeminded adults about how those dolls will be quietly disappearing if they find their way into the child’s hands from enemy sources.
When her 5-year-old daughter inevitably received a Barbie gift from a relative, Ball wondered, “Should I confiscate The Doll with a discussion on Loving Our Bodies? Pretend that the Malibu gal got mauled by the dog?” In the end, though, Ball magnanimously let Barbie stick around and reminded herself that her own body image will have a far greater effect on her daughter than a doll’s figure:
I tried to remember how many times my daughter had wandered into my room while I was getting dressed, and I started harping on about my jelly thighs or hips the size of Texas. How many times had she heard me complain about the size of my tummy?... To think that a girl’s self-image is going to get twisted by a doll is ridiculous.
It’s true, Barbie is a silently happy doll who never complains about her weight (except for one little slip-up from Slumber Party Barbie in the 1960s), whereas a mom’s fat fits and constant diet talk can lead to the same in her daughter. Dolls and stuffed animals are pretend, and children know it. Moms, sisters, and friends, however, are real-life—and children know that, too. “I’m thinking that I’ll have to look past my own baggage regarding the iconic doll’s ludicrous, lifelong-body-issue-neuroses-inducing physical proportions and let my daughter explore her innocent desire to play with one,” concludes Jenn McKee, another mom wrestling with her daughter’s first request for a Barbie, on her An Adequate Mom Blog: “Mommy’s the one bringing all this paranoia to the situation.”
Sources: WNC Woman, Jenn McKee’s An Adequate Mom Blog
Images by tienvijftien, bugeaters, and Max-B,
licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, January 06, 2009 2:29 PM
Forget aspirin: scientists at Oxford University are testing binoculars as painkillers. Their findings suggest that manipulating visual images of the body could help manage chronic pain, reports the Scientific American.
The researchers asked study participants to perform sets of movements using an arm that gave them chronic pain. During each exercise, the participants watched their hand through different binocular lenses. In one test, their hands were magnified to twice their size. In another, they were made to appear smaller. In each case, the subjects experienced greater pain as the size of their hands seemed to grow.
These subjective observations were buoyed by objective ones: Their fingers swelled more when perceived to be bigger.
The authors of the study aren’t exactly sure why the distorted images affect pain, but they hypothesize that the binoculars changed the subjects’ connection to their bodies. When their hands looked larger, they were more aware of owning them and thus felt pain more acutely.
Image courtesy of jlcwalker, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008 10:55 AM
Post-partum depression and body image woes are part of the psychic price new moms pay for their bundles of joy. Delivering seven-pound, six-ounce twin girls took a hefty physical and emotional toll on Melissa Stanton, which she describes in MotherVerse (excerpt only available online), a journal of writing by moms.
Stanton learned the only way to regain her former figure would be a tummy tuck, which required too long a recovery for a mother caring for a preschooler and infant twins. Without surgery, Stanton faced scrutiny from strangers and surgeons. “Looking pregnant after delivery is a cruelty few first-time moms are prepared for,” she writes. “But with the twins, the balloon-like remains of my pregnancy were so pronounced that a doctor sent to check on me dared to declare, ‘Are the twins still in there?’ ”
Though her “wobbly belly” caused Stanton stress, she managed to find a use for it. “When the twins are teens, I fully intend to show them photographs of my expanding—and by month-nine torpedo-like—pregnant belly. I’m hopeful that seeing the images will make my daughters sexually responsible and cautious. Girls! If you have sex, this can happen to you!”
Eventually, Stanton decided to have surgery to repair her abdominal damage, “if only to keep my uterus and innards in place.” She did, however, refuse the cosmetic trims and tucks the first plastic surgeon suggested: “…as I really looked at my changed body, which for years I had shied from seeing, I wondered at what point does one generation cede youth to the next? ...I’ve come to realize and accept that I’m now of an age when it’s more important for my body to be healthy than fashionable.”
Image by Mahalie, licensed under Creative Commons.
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