Missing the Point?

source: Plus Model Mag

This morning a friend Facebook shared an article about a photo spread by Plus Model Mag. At first I didn’t know what to make of it. I’m always happy when plus-sized women get positive time in the spotlight, but unfortunately that often results in negativity targeted at women on both ends of the size spectrum.

source: Plus Model Mag

The January 2012 issue of PMM features a photo shoot of a beautiful, naked, size 12 model, each with an accompanying statistic about the mainstream fashion/modeling industry. The text from the editor urges women to pressure designers and clothing retailers for more clothing size options, as well as the media to stop promoting a skinny ideal. She concludes by answering the title’s question, “What Wrong With Our Bodies Anyway?”

“…there is nothing wrong with our bodies. We are bombarded with weight-loss ads every single day, multiple times a day because it’s a multi-billion dollar industry that preys on the fear of being fat. Not everyone is meant to be skinny, our bodies are beautiful and we are not talking about health here because not every skinny person is healthy.”

As a lady with curves, I totally support PMM’s messages that we should push for more size diversity in the fashion industry (read my woes of finding a wedding dress). And obviously I love Madeline Figueroa-Jones’s statement that weight is not an indicator of health. But that goes in both directions, so as well meaning as the overall message might be, the delivery is a bit flawed.

source: Plus Model Mag

The spread includes a photo of their featured model sexily intertwined with one of the industry size standard, along with the warning “Most runway models meed the Body Mass Index physical criteria for anorexia.” The skinny model is facing the other direction, only her bony body can be seen – objectification much? If a premise of size acceptance is that you can tell nothing about a person’s health from her size, then we probably should stop attacking skinny people too, right?

Yes, models are getting skinnier and skinnier. Beauty standards are almost impossible to meet. Today, the bombshell Marilyn Monroe would be considered fat. Eating disorders in young girls are at an all time high. Our perceptions of our bodies are becoming warped at younger ages. This is all largely perpetuated by the media’s fat fear-mongering. It’s all very sad and depressing. But, how does anyone think attacking skinny models will somehow raise opinions of plus sized ones, or of body-acceptance in general? And more importantly, how is all this talk about weight really helpful at all?

What frustrates and upsets me most is the controversy spurred by the mag. The Daily Mail cited that some concerned readers thought “that positively endorsing a fuller figure is as dangerous as advocating a skinny one.” Reading through all the posted fat-bashing comments left me reeling. I am so sick of hearing that being fat is dangerous to not only your health, but the health of those around you — that showing larger people in a positive light (you know, like as happy, healthy human beings) can be damaging to society. A world where only one type of woman is glorified in the media is what’s dangerous – regardless of what that type happens to be.

Complex issues of genetics, pre-existing health conditions, medications, etc all contribute to a person’s weight. Skinny people and fat people get all the same diseases. There are fat people who are award winning athletes and skinny people who die from heart attacks. Not all models have eating disorders. Not all of them compulsively exercise. You know, just like that myths we are trying to dissolve that all overweight people binge or are lazy.

Being overweight or underweight is not a health high risk factor, being unhealthy is. What matters is your lifestyle. Indicators (some within our control, and others not) like cholesterol, blood pressure, nutrition, activity level, and medical history are all much better measures of health than a scale. So can we please stop pretending we are doctors? Can we please realize that physical appearance cannot tell us anything about a person’s level of health? And as women of all shapes and sizes can we please stop putting each other down? We are not facing an obesity epidemic, we are facing a body-image one. And it is dangerous and damaging for everyone.

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