As we have noted before, one of the primary errors that anti-anorexia crusaders make (and it is a charity to call them "errors," for they may be deliberate choices) is that, in denouncing the thin-supremacist bent of the fashion industry and holding up its images for critique, these activists end up merely reproducing the very images that they condemn and thus inadvertently reinforcing fashion-industry messaging. The impact of the images outweighs any critical text that the activists append. Words fail, and the pictures win.
This phenomenon problematizes a recent anti-anorexia campaign from the Revolution Brasil ad agency, ostensibly commissioned by Star Models.
in the Daily Mail,
the campaign features entirely typical fashion sketches alongside models who have been digitally adjusted to physically conform to the drawings.
The images feature emaciated models with shrivelled limbs, grotesquely protruding ribcages, skin as rotten as aged leather, skull-like faces with sunken cheeks, and frizzled hair. The images are unmistakably meant to instil feelings of disgust, and that they certainly do.
However, the ad campaign could do more harm than good, both for an obvious reason (which the Daily Mail article identifies) and for another, far more devious reason.* * *
First, the obvious.* * *
As the Mail reporter points out, anorexia victims (or potential sufferers who are but one trigger away from succumbing to the disease) have such a distorted view of the human body that they can even look at images repulsive as these and still see in them something to emulate.
True, the models in these banners resemble reanimated corpses--but the "death aesthetic" is precisely the goal that the thinness-worshippers pursue, often at the actual cost of their lives.
Furthermore, while the models' bodies in the images have been digitally adjusted to match the sketches, those adjustments have been minimal. Most minus-size models look scarcely different from this. Real-life fashion models do resemble walking corpses, with stick-like limbs, hollowed-out faces, cadaverous ribcages, etc. They are just as sick-looking as the standing corpses in this Brazilian campaign, yet fashion consumers, brainwashed as they have been, do not revolt at the sight of these malnourished girls, nor do they demand models who exhibit at least a modicum of health.
That, then, is the obvious problem with these banners: they fail to elicit as much disgust and anger as they should, because the public has been conditioned to accept the sight of cadaverous models, and furthermore, the images could become inadvertent sources of emulation to current or potential anorexia victims, thus triggering eating disorders rather than helping forestall them.
But there is a yet more insidious reason why these images could do more harm than good.* * *
Consider an analogy from the geopolitical world.
Let's say that a rogue state wishes to steal 50 percent of a foreign territory's land.
First, it annexes 10 percent of the foreign territory's dominion, whereupon the rest of the world's nations condemn the rogue state . . . but do nothing.
Then the rogue state steals 20 percent of the foreign territory's land, and even starts building on it. The world community howls in protest, but still does nothing.
Then it steals 30 percent. Then 40 percent, all the while enduring universal condemnation.
Finally, when the rogue state has become a pariah among most of the world's nations and has stolen, say, 60 percent of the foreign territory's land, it turns around and gives 10 percent back.
This supposedly "magnanimous" action earns the rogue state the praise and goodwill of the world. "Look!" the world powers applaud, "They gave the territory back 10 percent of its land! How generous!" The world community cheers, praising the rogue state for its supposed benevolence . . .
. . . yet the rogue state still holds 50 percent of the foreign territory's land. But despite its ongoing crime, it receives praise for giving back a little of what it stole, while still occupying the rest of the ill-gotten territory.
Imagine if thieves were to rob a bank of two million dollars, then give $100,000 back, and get praised for doing so, instead of being prosecuted for the $1,900,000 of stolen loot that they still possess.
Evil brilliance, no? The rogue state only ever wanted 50 percent of the foreign-nation's land in the first place--and now it has it, not only free of criticism, but earning praise. "If we steal that 50 percent, then the world will condemn us," the rogue state planned in advance. "But if we steal more than what we want--if we steal 60 percent instead of 50, then give back 10 percent (the 10 percent we didn't even want), then the world will think of us as the 'benevolent' state that surrendered 10 percent, not the predatory state that stole 50 percent."
That analogy illuminates the most insidious effect of the Revolution Brasil campaign (and remember--it was commissioned by a straight-size modelling agency):
By displaying models who are, impossibly, even more emaciated than a size 0, perhaps a size -2 (minus two), these images reset the parameters of size acceptability in viewers' minds, so that actual size-0 models (who are, by any objective standard, utterly anorexic-looking) suddenly "don't look that bad" in comparison to these digitally fabricated cadavers--even though size-0 models are anorexically underweight.
It's like a poison that's "only" 70 percent lethal (i.e., size-0 models) being made to look "good" by comparing it to a poison that's 90 percent lethal (i.e., these size-minus-two digital fabrications), or making a corpse look "good" by comparison to an outright skeleton.
This has been the fashion industry's twisted methodology all along, its most insidious tactic in pushing ever-more androgynous standards of appearance. When Cindy Crawford and her size-6/8 ilk were (rightly) criticized by the public for embodying an unnaturally skinny appearance, the fashion industry (rather than listening to the public) made its models even more emaciated. It shifted the standard to a size 4, then a size 2, then a size 0--and now, in this campaign, to something even less than a size 0, something even less human.
It would be like a government that was caught using torture reacting to the disclosure not by stopping the practice of torture, but by enacting more torture.
Now, appallingly, the fashion industry has trained the public to praise models who are merely Cindy Crawford's size as "healthy," when in fact, models her size were underweight, as was contended in their day. It's just that today's models look even more horrible.
By making things worse and worse, the fashion industry has made "merely bad" (as opposed to "horrifying") look "good"--at least to the general public, which has been brainwashed by the industry's toxic imagery.
This is how values in general have been eroded in our society, with one moral outrage outdoing the rest, until behaviour that was rightly considered morally depraved two decades ago is now seen as "normal" (though the behaviour is still just as sick and unnatural as it ever was), because the parameters of indecency have been pushed farther and farther into outright degeneracy.
Aesthetic values have been eroded the same way.
So if anti-anorexia campaigns that reproduce androgynous imagery constitute the wrong way to advance size celebration, what is the correct approach?
The answer is to be found in the text that accompany's the Revolution Brasil images:
"You are not a sketch," the text reads. A rather slippery statement, when you think about it, because it slyly suggests that the problem is not the corpse-like sketch itself, but women who compare themselves to the sketch.
Ergo, even the slogan is a ploy to let the fashion industry off the hook and to further pathologize women. It's a typically Marxist way of thinking: "If there is a problem, it must reside in human beings, who must be adjusted to conform to the ideology," rather than considering that it is the ideology itself which is toxic, and that human beings are fine just as they are.
In fact, personal comparison to visual art is natural and inevitable. It's not women that have the problem: it's the fashion industry.
In short, it's not women comparing themselves to the sketch that's the problem.
The problem is the sketch.
Change the sketch.
Change the sketch to exhibit soft, natural, voluptuous femininity, not hideous emaciation. Change the sketch to show clothing on a well-fed womanly body, not on a cadaverous, stick-thin frame. Change the sketch to show timeless beauty, not modern androgyny.
What would such a fashion sketch look like?
Here's a perfect example:
This graphic was released by a Russian plus-size model agency. It features perhaps the loveliest drawing of a female goddess this side of Disney's Katrina van Tassel. In every particular she embodies timeless beauty, from her fair skin tone to her blue eyes, round facial features, pink lips, and especially, her spun-gold tresses, so coquettishly draping over one of her eyes. She even wears a princess-like tiara, as if she had been crowned the "fairest of them all." Her arms are round and fleshy, exhibiting the soft, sensual plumpness that derives from the perfect feminine combination of self-indulgence and indolence.
She is heavily buxom, in a highly alluring manner, with generous, womanly hips; and her strapless, sleeveless pink dress clings to every luscious curve of her body. We have never seen a more perfect graphic rendering of timeless beauty. She is a Nordic goddess, youthful yet maturely proportioned, as if someone had blended Shannon Marie, Katherine Roll, Sophie Sheppard and Kelsey Olson all into one being.
This, then, is the kind of graphic representation that anti-anorexia campaigns should be utilizing. Instead of reproducing androgyny-promoting imagery, even to denounce it, they should be publicizing images of plus-size models and graphic depictions of timeless beauty such as this.
Compare the two approaches. Which would be most effective at undoing thin-supremacist media propaganda and resetting the public's natural aesthetic inclinations back towards favouring full-figured beauty: the scare-tactic cadaver on the left, sterile and aggressively modern, who inadvertently normalizes anorexia by embodying an appearance even more malnourished than size 0, or the voluptuous vixen on the right, so lavishly well-fed, so surpassingly gorgeous, so young and irresistibly desirable, so languorous and gentle, the very embodiment of beauty, the dream of desire that lives in every man's heart, and the ideal toward which all women naturally strive?
The choice is clear: a scolding, proscriptive approach, or a celebratory, loving approach. The Judgment of Paris made its selection long ago, and we stand by it. For the day will yet come when today's curve-o-phobic hegemony collapses, and the hostile elite which has colonized Western culture over the past century will be driven from its position of power.
When that day dawns, the public will awake, as from a lingering nightmare, and see in timeless beauty the vision of loveliness that it has ever nurtured deep within its heart.
- The Judgment of Paris Pinacotheca