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Old 3rd April 2012   #1
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Default Fashion is ''guilty,'' admits Vogue editor

As widely reported, Franca Sozzani, the editor of Vogue Italia, delivered a speech at Harvard University yesterday on the subject of eating disorders.

Numerous articles have excerpted the speech, but it is available in full on the editor's own Web log;

As one might expect, it delivers a host of messages, some very constructive, some less encouraging.

Ms. Sozzani speech begins well enough, acknowledging the severity of the crisis pertaining to eating disorders:

The health concern associated with anorexia and eating disorders, generally speaking, does not seem to wane: indeed, results of specialized studies show, in the best case scenario, an unchanged outlook with the higher incidence occurring in the teenage female population.

More importantly, she admits the culpability of fashion in leading to this problem:

One of the reasons why a girl starts a too-strict diet is the necessity to correspond to an aesthetic standard which rewards thinness, also in its excesses. According to numerous psychiatrists, in fact, the current inclination to embrace a female beauty standard that exalts thinness has devastating consequences on many adolescentsí eating habits. And this is where fashion comes into play, alongside models, fashion magazines and everything regarding aesthetics. What lead us to establish that thin is beautiful and that thinness is the aesthetic code we should follow? Why the age of supermodels, who were beautiful and womanly, slowly started decreasing and we now have still undeveloped adolescents with no sign of curves? Why is this considered beautiful?

The latter part of the above paragraph is insufficient, though, as it asks a question that, in fact, Ms. Sozzani should be answering, given her position. To ask it without answering it is an evasion. It's the same problem that we see in a follow-up question that she asks:

What has really happened? Trends change also regarding aesthetics, and today we accept such standards as the most normal thing. And this is a negative example.

This is a regular evasion in discussions of body image: the absence of an acknowledgment of individual agency by specific fashion designers, photographers, editors, etc. Instead of asking a question to which she knows the answer, Ms. Sozzani should be openly admitting the answer: "We did it. Every fashion-magazine editor, every major designer, every photographer, every agency director caused this crisis by (a) adopting the anorexic standard and (b) not eschewing it."

The bottom line is this: anyone who determines model casting either causes and exacerbates the problem (if she books underweight models) or remedies and solves the problem (if she books plus-size models).

As Ms. Sozzani's own issue proved, any editor could insist on plus-size models in every issue and ban underweight models. Likewise, as Dita von Teese proved in her recent runway show, any designer could insist on plus-size models in every runway show and ban the androgynous anorexics.

That they don't is all the answer that Ms. Sozzani's questions need.

The more troubling passage in Ms. Sozzani's speech is her defense of underweight models:

We cannot generalize, of course, and accuse the girls we see walking runways of being anorexic. They are still undeveloped. And are taken as role-models, for instance by girls who may already have personal issues and are therefore easily influenced. And fashion becomes one of the causes.

For the thousandth time, whether the models themselves are anorexic or not is no defense. The fact is, they trigger eating disorders, as Ms. Sozzani herself admits in the same paragraph. Therefore, their appearance is harmful.

The second portion of Ms. Sozzani's speech concerns her efforts to ban pro-starvation sites:

One of the most disturbing aspects of the spread and globalization of Eating Disorders is the employment of the web to convey cultural models that emphasize thinness though websites that promote pathological behaviors aiming at weight control and offer extreme dieting advice.

This is a noble effort, but with one caveat: no fashion magazine can use attempts to curb pro-starvation sites as a way to give itself cover for publishing images of underweight models. It cannot use such a campaign as a way to shift blame. Yes, pro-starvation sites must be stopped, and bravo to Ms. Sozzani for spearheading this effort, but images of underweight models in all fashion magazines must be stopped as well. To do one and not the other is irresponsible.

The bottom line is, fashion magazines are more than "a little guilty" for the existence of such sites. They are entirely guilty, as they create the images that such sites celebrate and seek to emulate:

Last year I discovered a new and unknown world, that of [pro-starvation] websites, and I accepted the idea that we are all, in some cases involuntarily, a little guilty so I started an online petition to close such websites...

We have reached now 12,000 signatures and I will soon launch a provocation to stop such sites. I will ask for the help of the users themselves. We will set up a chain "against", since the law is unable to close such sites.

Ms. Sozzani is also correct in identifying that the thin-worshipping media as a whole triggers eating disorders, not just the fashion component. However, in saying so, she must not use this as a way to evade responsibility or shift blame either:

I can accept that fashion may exaggerate, but I cannot help but mention all the negative tools that society employs to spread false information on food and aesthetics.

The fact is, the rest of the media follows fashion, so fashion is the wellspring of the thinness toxin. Fashion is to the entertainment media as a whole what academia is to sociological/political media. Just as the writing of the Frankfurt School created the Cultural Marxist paradigm that the mass media follows to this day, so the fashion industry sets the looks that the entertainment media follows and promotes.

Likewise, when Ms. Sozzani calls on others to help Vogue, which promises to "do its best," this is a valid please, but it too cannot be used as a way of evade responsibility or shift blame:

We will do our best, but it will be impossible to fight this widespread idea of thinness all by ourselves. Everybody must do their part, from parents to teachers to the kids themselves who must help those who canít make it on their own.

A fashion-magazine editor cannot control these things, but she can control what gets published in the pages of her own publication.

Now, to be fair, before one criticizes Ms. Sozzani too much, one must acknowledge that she has done more than any other Vogue editor in promoting plus-size beauty, particularly by featuring Sophie Sheppard in her magazine's pages and by running another issue with a trio of plus-size models on the cover , as Ms. Sozzani herself points out:

Taking the blame is a necessary deed and finding a solution is even more important. Last year I released an issue of the magazine entirely devoted to curvy girls which was a real hit. They were beautiful and sexy.

True enough. "Finding a solution" is the most important element in all of this. Banning underweight models is part of the solution, but promoting plus-size beauty is the most important remedy for the crisis. Vogue Italia has done more in this regard than most fashion magazines -- but it could do more still, and other fashion mags could follow the Vogue Italia example and do far, FAR more than they have until now.
Meredith is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 5th April 2012   #2
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Default Re: Fashion is ''guilty,'' admits Vogue editor

Why the age of supermodels, who were beautiful and womanly, slowly started decreasing and we now have still undeveloped adolescents with no sign of curves? Why is this considered beautiful?

To answer the last question in the quote, I have no clue how anyone could see that as beautiful. Needle-thin so-called "supermodels" remind me of a bad sci-fi horror film.

While it is true todays supermodels are quite young with an average age of 17, age is not the culprit for lack of curves. Its the strict anorexia starvation diet that is the culprit. Anorexia is anorexia, no matter the age. A well-fed girl at that age will be more beautiful than a stick model at that age. A prime example of this is Chloe Agnew in videos from the first Celtic Woman DVD and in her own concert DVD
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Old 5th April 2012   #3
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Wink Re: Fashion is ''guilty,'' admits Vogue editor

Clay, you have no idea how encouraging it is to check in here each day and find fellows who admire the curves of plus size women.

Whew! A breath of fresh air!

J of P is now my favorite pick-me-up pastime. Brightens my mood immediately and improves my overall outlook. Also, it inspires me to want to dress cute-as-a-button.

Bless you!!
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Old 9th April 2012   #4
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Default Re: Fashion is ''guilty,'' admits Vogue editor

Now that I have had some time to think about this issue, it comes to me that if the average age of needle-thin supermodels is 17, then a majority of them need their parents permission to be on stage. What really surprises me is that these parents allow the fashion industry to starve their kids to death
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