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Old 14th April 2011   #1
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Default ''Killer Fashion: An Industry in Denial''

Is this a sign of increasing pressure on the fashion industry to reform itself? Or is it another impotent gesture? The former, I hope.

The cover story of the magazine In These Times is a fairly effective denunciation of the fashion industry and its ongoing promotion of androgynous emaciation. The cover shows a painfully malnourished model.

But as well all know, the trouble with images like this is that the fashion industry has brainwashed the public so much that even such grotesque horrors have lost their shock value. The cover cadaver isn't much different from the corpse-like models who walk the runways every season. In denouncing the alien fashion standard, such a cover still backhandedly promotes it, instead of at least contrasting this with, say, a full-figured, healthy, size-18 model.

The article is fairly effective, although it is undermined by a few mixed messages.

The opening is certainly frightening enough, recounting the cases of the numerous models who have died of anorexia. Some other high points include:

This rapid succession of casualties provided a wake-up call for the international fashion industry. One detail in particular made it impossible to ignore: All three women, even on the brink of death, were taking home paychecks as working models.

The fashion establishments in London and New York did take steps to address model health, but both opted for conspicuously less explicit regulations [than those in Brazil, Italy, and Spain].

New York’s industry leaders, on the other hand, elected only to frame a set of vague guidelines known as the Health Initiative...As in London, missing from the guidelines are minimum BMIs and medical evaluations for models. Also absent: any means to ensure the implementation of the recommendations, which are voluntary.

Advocacy groups cried foul...They called for the development of “action steps to identify models in need of intervention.” And they proposed an outright ban on airbrushing photos of models to create unrealistically thin images.

Some experts worry that without concrete screening methods the Health Initiative will be ineffectual. “The American fashion industry...basically tried to take the teeth out of any real standards,” says Jennifer L. Pozner, founder and executive director of Women in Media and News (WIMN). “Anything that would change the industry and hold them accountable in ways they could not deal with, they rejected.”

Doctors’ evaluations and screening models based on BMI are not foolproof ways to detect eating disorders, but they do have potential benefits. “[The screening methods] can definitely reduce the pressure on models to engage in unhealthy weight control behaviors,” says Bulik. “They also help protect the consumers of the fashion industry from constantly being barraged by images of unusually thin women.”
The latter point is the most crucial one in the whole article. The most insidious defense that the fashion industry deploys to evade responsibility for the harm that it does to women is the claim that "our models are naturally underweight." Well, (a) that's a lie, and (b) that's not relevant, because the more important point is not whether the small handful of girls who work in the fashion industry can survive on starvation rations that leave them looking like corpses, but whether women in general can. The inescapable fact is that images of freakishly emaciated girls trigger eating disorders in women in general. THAT'S what the fashion world needs to stop doing, and that's why models should not be permitted to be grotesquely skinny.

By comparison, a model who smokes in a cigarette ad might, if she's lucky, not develop lung cancer herself, but smoking does cause lung cancer in the population in general. Hence the justified banning of cigarette ads.

And anyway, the models do have it bad:

The day-to-day stress of modeling is considerable, chiefly because all but the most famous are easily disposable. If a model doesn’t fit into designers’ samples, an agency can simply bring in a thinner replacement, and the ousted model has no channel for redress.

When those weight control methods metastasize into a full spectrum eating disorder, models face more serious risks than unemployment. Eating disorders are mental illnesses, and often deadly ones. Anorexia has the highest rate of mortality of any mental illness, at around 20 percent. Eating disorders are more than two times more prevalent in the United States than Alzheimer’s disease, although funding for anorexia research is less than one-fiftieth of that for Alzheimer’s research.

Compound the susceptibility of youth with a profession that entails continual—and competitive—monitoring of body measurements, and it’s no wonder so many models fall victim to eating disorders. “Every model is afraid of being measured,” says Rieder. “Every model is afraid of the centimeter."

Here's where the issue of influence comes in:

That fear is not confined to the world of sample sizes and catwalks. According to The Journal of Adolescent Health, 81 percent of American 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat...They—and Americans of all ages—get their “thinspiration” from a variety of media, among them ads for all manner of consumer goods that invariably feature tall, stick-thin models.

But the most frustrating part of the article is, of course, when it correctly identifies the real problem behind the situation: that every part of the fashion industry blames the other, so no one takes responsibility:

Modeling agencies are most profitable when they provide the thin models that are popular with designers. Often those designers are gay men whose standard for physical beauty eschews feminine curves. Designers contend that they aren’t to blame because all the models are so thin that they are forced to tailor clothing to skeletal frames. Advertisers and manufacturers of a vast spectrum of products profit from existing standards.

Models fear they will be easily replaced by a thinner alternative if they do not conform to the sample size, which is sometimes an American size 00, which is, incomprehensibly, one size less than 0.

The CFDA’s tight-lipped response to questions from In These Times was echoed by fashion magazine editors, designers and modeling agency representatives. All declined request to comment.
Bear in mind, by the way, that In These Times is a left-wing political magazine, so for even this publication to recognize that the sexuality of the designers is part of the problem is a sign that certain illusions are finally falling away.

The only solution that has even a chance of working is government intervention. The article demonstrates, yet again, that the fashion industry will never reform itself on its own. Why should it? It is a self-selecting environment populated almost exclusively by thin-supremacist individuals who have an antipathy to the natural, full-figured female body.

The government needs to step in and stop this out-of-control industry from doing any more damage. And once the industry is compelled to showcase plus-size female bodies, it will discover that it can achieve all of its desired artistic results without promoting anorexia and ruining women's lives.
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Old 6th July 2011   #2
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Default Re: ''Killer Fashion: An Indusry in Denial''

The article is substantial and devastating. I'd like to hope that as time goes on, such vital criticism of the abuses of the fashion industry will finally compel it to reform itself.

Now the American Medical Association has added its voice to this discussion, and is calling for a ban on airbrushing.

The significant point:

In a vote at its recent annual convention, the nation’s largest medical association adopted a new policy to encourage advertising associations and public and private sector organizations to establish guidelines that would discourage airbrushing or retouching in advertising, “especially those appearing in teen-oriented publications.”

“Extremely altered models can create unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image,” leading to eating disorders and other child and adolescent health problems, said Barbara McAneney, a physician on the AMA board of trustees.

McAneney pointed out a study that found that 53 percent of 13-year-old American girls are unhappy with their bodies, and by the time they turn 17, that number rises to 78 percent.

This is all true, and let's hope that the fashion industry starts paying attention to the growing chorus of voices that are calling for its reform.

However, one should temper one's praise for the AMA with the caveat that these days, doctors themselves are often prone to adopt blatant anti-plus prejudice in their diagnoses, and often do as much harm to the self-esteem of curvy girls as the media does. The medical profession too needs to reform itself and adopt a more pro-curvy mantra. So when it comes to denouncing harmful weight bigotry and curveophobia, "Physician, heal thyself."

Also, while bans on airbrushing are commendable, this wouldn't be as much of a problem if models were sufficiently curvy to begin with. The very fact that size-0 models are being used in fashion is much worse than whether such models are airbrushed to be even skinnier. The real crime is in using such underweight cadavers in the first place. Airbrushing is only a smaller symptom of a bigger problem, which is the fashion industry's promotion of anorexic emaciation.

Banning underweight models would be even more important and beneficial than banning airbrushing (though banning airbrushing would certainly be a positive move).
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Old 10th August 2011   #3
M. Lopez
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Default Re: ''Killer Fashion: An Indusry in Denial''

A new article published just the other day gives further coverage to the American Media Association's call to ban airbrushing.

It spells out the situation precisely:

Barbara McAneney, a physician on the AMA Board of Trustees...cited a notorious 2009 advertisement for Ralph Lauren in which “a model’s waist was slimmed so severely, her head appeared to be wider than her waist.”

That photo and others like it – where fleshiness and other marks of what might be considered a normal, even beautiful human face and body are erased to sometimes cartoonish proportions – caught the attention of younger medical students, who raised the issue at the AMA convention, McAneney said.

“They had had enough,” she said. “We must stop exposing impressionable children and teenagers to advertisements portraying models with body types only attainable with the help of photo editing software.”

Note the passage in bold. How encouraging to find at least one reporter singling out "fleshiness" as something that could distinguish a "beautiful human face and body." It's not enough to simply decry airbrushing as a regrettable pursuit of "perfection," because that still would imply that there is anything remotely "perfect" about an airbrushed image. Rather, what is really needed is for people to recognize visible "fleshiness" as "beautiful" - which it is.

Historically, Western culture always understood this. It celebrated the beauty of fleshiness in its art. Only in the 20th century was there an attempt to erase fleshiness (both virtually and physically) in women, when new personalities took control of the culture.

But the most revealing passage in the article is this:

In 2009, Vogue editor Anna Wintour defended photoshopping during an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” saying it makes people “look their best.”

“That’s one of the things that makes me rather angry, that I don’t understand,” Wintour said. “That if you look wonderful, does that make you less important? Less powerful? Less serious?”

There's the whole problem in a nutshell. Wintour really does have such a toxic, distorted aesthetic that she thinks airbrushing makes people "look their best." It doesn't, of course. It makes them look "cartoonish" (as the article says) and weirdly, grotesquely emaciated. In fact, it makes them look ugly.

But as long as the media is in the hands of people like Wintour, who have such an alien, anti-traditional aesthetic that they think airbrushed artificiality looks better than well-fed fleshiness, this problem will be intractable.

I do believe that Wintour is telling the truth when she says that she is "angry" and that she "doesn't understand." She sees the world one way, while the rest of the world sees it in another. What she can't wrap her mind around is the fact that her view of how people "look their best" is WRONG - it is ugly. And worse than ugly, it is harmful, because it leads to eating disorders. She can't see outside of her own distorted prism; and what is truly insidious is that she is inflicting her own warped death-aesthetic on the rest of society, and making the rest of the world see women in the curve-o-phobic, thin-supremacist way that she sees them.

People with such a poisonous aesthetic cannot be allowed to run the culture, because through their power they create a harmful, even fatal environment. But when the media is back in the hands of people who see full-figured female fleshiness as beautiful, then we will have a healthy culture once more.
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