Is this really what a model--or any woman--should look like?

julia

Hi, Elite Models? 

Great.

This is Audrey calling.  

In regards to what, you ask? 

Oh, just the fact that you’re all COMPLETELY INSANE and clearly out of touch with the groundswell of supportdemanding that the media feature models and celebrities who look more like real women than emaciated skeletons.

I'm sorry, but do you not recall how Spanish fashion week made news a few years back when it banned extremely skinny models from its catwalks? 

And how just a few weeks ago, even the Victoria’s Secret models had to back pedal after hyping their restrictive diets to the media?  In the past, everyone would have sat up and taken notes when a model shared her weightloss tips, but today (thankfully), people are concerned about the message such extreme regimens send to girls and all women who are trying desperately to not spend all their time and money copying the looks held up as ideals, and not to hate themselves when they inevitably fall short.  Hell, even Tyra Banks has morphed from one of the original Supermodels to a body peace warrior (and her tips for self acceptance aren't half bad.)

So please, please tell me how you could possibly think it was a good idea to choose Swedish contestant Julia Schneider, age 15, to win the Elite Model Look contest a few days ago in Shanghai.  And yes, I can wait as you come up with a response. 

Now, I don’t know Julia and I’m down with the fact that there are lots of naturally skinny girls.  And I’m not making any undocumented assertions about how Julia achieves her look.  What I am saying though is that Julia’s look is not (nearly) attainable for most young women, and I worry about the effect such an image can have on so many of us when it’s held up as a standard—even an aspirational one.  (Media folks LOVE to use that word.  “Our magazines [and ads and tv shows etc] aren’t meant to be realistic!  They’re aspirational!”  Riiiight.  Only that means we’re supposed to aspire to them.  Which is the crux of the problem.

It may not be breaking news, but it’s certainly worth repeating that constant exposure to media populated almost exclusively by women who resemble Julia normalizes the idea that emaciated is beautiful and desirable.  In fact, according to Nada Stotland, a professor of psychiatry at Rush Medical College in Chicago and vice president of the American Psychiatric Association, that the prevalence of extremely slim women in the media helps convince those with eating disorders, like anorexia, that their emaciated frames are normal.

To that, let me just add that according to research conducted by the Girl Scouts, 9 out of 10 girls say fashion industry (89%) and/or the media (88%) place a lot of pressure on teenage girls to be thin.  Then there's the fact that 42% of first- to third-gade girls want to be thinner and 81% of ten year olds are afraid of getting fat (those are from the Dove Real Beauty Campaign).  So I ask you again, Elite: out of all your contestants there wasn't one single talented, striking, promising girl who also looked like she actually eats who could have won?  Because by crowning Julia, you underscored the idea that extreme thinness is an advantage, when by choosing someone else you could made it a disadvantage.

Ultimately, this post is just another one of my rants about the problem of limited beauty ideals being promulgated by the media, which is nothing new, but something that we now definitively know wreaks havoc with girls’ and women’s self-esteem and self worth….not to mention boys’ and men's ideas of which women are desirable and valuable. 

So don’t mind me if I’m not ready to move on to a new topic just yet (because it seems there's a tad more work to stll be done around this one).