View Full Version : Surveys, size, and surveys' lies

26th September 2006, 22:24
<br>The press coverage of the Madrid ban on underweight models (and related topics) has been unexpectedly thoughtful and enlightened, for the most part. But one pernicious, long-standing myth did creep into the otherwise intelligent discussions, and this canard needs to be put to rest, once and for all.

In a pathetic attempt to defend the use of emaciated models, some newspapers trotted out a "study" that supposedly claimed that women prefer smaller models to larger ones.

"Studies" like this have been cited for as long as the fashion industry has been trying to defend its indefensible standards of emaciation. The fact that these surveys are patently bogus hasn't prevented them from being uncritically referenced ad nauseam. We have pointed out the fallacies of these studies before, but it seems necessary to do so again.

Any and all surveys comparing models of different sizes are totally unreliable and misleading, because they are subject to dozens of different variables that have <i>nothing to do with size.</i> The deck can be stacked against the fuller-figured models in a hundred different ways--and usually is.

Here are just a few of the non-size-related variables that can skew the studies' results:

<strong>1. Is a beautiful model being compared to an unattractive one?</strong>

If the larger model who is being compared to the smaller girl looks like Camryn Manheim, while the thinner representative looks like Carrie Tivador, then of <i>course</i> viewers will favour the smaller model, but for a reason that has <i>nothing to do with size.</i> The viewers will simply be choosing a beautiful model over an unattractive one--as is human nature. But if the sizes were reversed, if the survey were comparing a thin Camryn Manheim to a full-figured Carrie Tivador, then everyone would <i>still</i> choose Carrie Tivador, because a plus-size Carrie would still be gorgeous (in fact, moreso), while a minus-size Camryn would still be unattractive.

On the other hand, if the study were to factor out the difference-in-beauty variable (e.g., by comparing anorexic Crystal Renn to plus-size Crystal Renn), then it <i>would</i> be making a valid comparison. And then, the vast majority of responders would choose the larger model.

<strong>2. Is a younger model being compared to an older one?</strong>

If the smaller model is young and fresh-faced, while the larger model is elderly, viewers will generally choose the former, but <i>not</i> because of her size, but because of a natural preference for youth. If this factor were reversed, and an older thin model were compared to a youthful full-figured girl, then the latter would win handily. Again, this all-important element has nothing to do with size.

But if the youth variable were cancelled out, by comparing two models of equal age (and equal beauty, as stated above), then the fuller-figured model would win every time, as starvation accelerates the aging process, while natural indulgence prevents it.

<strong>3. Is good photography being compared to bad?</strong>

Sadly, plus-size fashion does not universally benefit from the kind of quality photography that the fashion industry lavishes on straight-size girls. If the survey's image of the thinner model is from a Guess promotion, and its image of the larger model is from a "reality" soap campaign, then viewers who select the thinner model will simply be choosing beautiful photography over ugly photography, poetic fantasy over homely reality, rather than responding to the models' sizes.

On the other hand, if the photography variable is cancelled out, and both models' photographs exhibit the same level of artistic quality (i.e., if both images are <i>Vogue</i>-quality tear sheets, or both images are simple Polaroids), then the full-figured model would triumph once again.

<strong>4. Are attractive hairstyles/makeup benefitting one model, but not the other?</strong>

This is a subset of the previous point. The fashion industry is populated by extremely talented artists in the fields of hairstyling, cosmetics, etc. If these artisans' techniques glorify the thinner model, but not the larger one (e.g., if the smaller model wears a voluptuous hairstyle, while the fuller-figured model sports an ugly bob), then the latter will be at a disadvantage, and viewers will choose the former--but again, for reasons that have nothing to do with size.

(There are any number of similar variables in the technical presentation of the photographs that could comparably skew the results.)

<strong>5. Is beautiful fashion being compared to ugly clothing?</strong>

Plus-size fashion is only now beginning to exhibit the quality and style of minus-size apparel. If the thinner model is dressed in a lovely embroidered peasant blouse and a romantic skirt, while the larger model is dressed in "butch" attire, viewers will select the image of the smaller model, but for a reason that has nothing to do with size. The fashion disparity between feminine beauty and ugly androgyny will skew the results.

However, if both models wear equally feminine outfits, with the same quality of fit and finish, then the fuller-figured model will triumph every time, because the outfit will look infinitely better on her womanly curves than on the starving model's bony frame.

<strong>6. Is a professional model being compared to an amateur?</strong>

Do both models have equal posing abilities? And do their images reflect this? Do the models' expressions communicate comparable degrees of allure, or joy, or both? If the smaller model is an experienced professional, who knows how to "work" the camera, while the larger model is an amateur who cannot respond to the camera at all, and looks awkward and uncomfortable on film, then viewers will choose the former model, but for a reason that has nothing to do with size.

But if the "professionalism" variable is factored out, and both models are equally proficient at their craft, then the fuller-figured model will win handily, because her bountiful figure will correspond to her pose and expression (i.e., she will look more comfortable, or more alluring, or both), while the straight-size model will obviously appear to be disguising her physical misery.<p><center>* * *</center><p>Such variables are <i>never</i> mentioned when these mythical size-oriented "studies" are cited in the media, and yet these variables primarily determine which models viewers prefer. The potential disparity in technical quality between images of smaller and larger models taints <i>all</i> size-related surveys (straight-size vs. plus-size, or faux-plus vs. truly plus).

The objective validity of these "studies" is therefore <strong>zero</strong>.

For these studies to have any credibility whatsoever, each of their images would have to be printed right next to the results. Then, the public would immediately see just how distorted the comparisons are, how grossly the findings are skewed, based on factors having . . . <i>nothing to do with size.</i>

Until such transparency accompanies these studies, they must be regarded as completely meaningless, and useless as a gauge of public preferences.

Christina Schmidt, from her recent test shoot with Fadil Berisha:<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/cs/christina82a.jpg"></center><p>(As beautiful, as young, as well-photographed, as well-styled, and as talented a model as any starving waif.)

27th September 2006, 11:20
What a beautiful picture of Christine Schmidt! The dark hair gives her an exotic, enticing look.

M. Lopez
27th September 2006, 18:10
Any time I start to doubt that there is a concerted media effort to suppress plus-size beauty, I find evidence that the suppression is very real.

I just discovered that in 2005, two British researchers (Dr Helga Dittmar, of the University of Sussex, and Dr Emma Halliwell, from the University of the West of England) conducted a study which showed that larger models are in fact just as effective at selling products as underweight models - and they don't damage the self-esteem of women, the way the thin models do.

So why did this study get NO media attention at all, while, the other study, claiming the opposite, was plastered all over the papers?

It really does seem like a thin-supremacist campaign.

Here's one article about Dr. Dittmar's study:


The important text:

Using average size models in advertising could protect women from body dissatisfaction, according to new research.

And it would be as effective at selling products as stick thin models, psychologists say.

The study found that women for whom appearance is important become more depressed with their bodies after viewing very skinny girls.

In contrast, seeing 'normal' attractive women was not linked with these negative images - and both types of females were equally successful in advertising...

[Dr. Dittmar] added: "Results from our studies suggest that average size attractive models are equally effective in advertising as ultra thin models.

The all-imporant word in the above article is "attractive," which is used twice, to refer to the larger models being compared to the thin ones. It confirms the point that was made earlier in this thread - that the models being compared must have equivalent beauty, in order for these studies to be valid.

In another article about the same study,


the researcher re-emphasizes this point in particular:

“Advertisers often argue that thin sells, but we have been looking at how effective adverts are when they have average-size looking models,” [Dr. Dittmar] said.

“What we have found is that as long as the models you use are attractive, those adverts appear to be equally attractive. So it goes against the idea that you have to use ultra-thin models.”

The fact that Dr. Dittmar was so acutely aware of the beauty factor, when she conducted her study, explains why she reached results that tally with the wishes that the public constantly expresses (i.e. wanting larger models). No other study on this topic has made the point that the models being compared must be equally attractive. Therefore, the disparity in intrinsic beauty between the models being compared accounts for the skewed results of other surveys.

But the real story here is still: Why were these results (in favour of larger models) never mentioned in the media, while the opposite conclusions are constantly repeated?

The anti-plus bias of the media is pretty clear.

29th September 2006, 09:25
Dr. Dittmar's study also proves why it's absolutely vital for plus-size models to be selected for their beauty, above all other qualities. Her study shows that the public can be enticed away from thinness-worship, but in order for this to happen, the models must be gorgeous.

It seems an obvious point (that models should be beautiful), but sadly, I think many plus-size retailers and agencies lose sight of this, in favour of heaven knows what other qualities in models.

Also, whenever the public is asked about their preferences for larger vs. smaller models, without the use of pictures that aesthetically stack the deck in favour of the waifs, they always ask for bigger girls. Here's just one example:



Forty-seven per cent of people who voted in our poll said yes, they should be banned, because it sets a bad example.

Another 28.8 per cent of voters agreed with replacing tiny-framed fashion models with curvier women
It's a change whose time has come...