With Lady Gaga reacting to recent criticism over her weight gain, is there a slim chance for change in the fashion industry?
With the culmination of London Fashion Week 2012 still fresh in many textile and trend-loving minds, the resurface of the ongoing and seemingly interminable debate about eating disorders was inevitable.
When I was 14 years old, a mean spirited boy (who happened to be a friend of a friend) took one look at my then athletic, yet borderline size 12, frame and with all of the disdain and malice he could muster, called me fat. Fat. Three little letters forming one big word that has the power to desecrate the self-esteem and confidence of adults and adolescents of any gender.
The irony of the situation was that the percentage of fat I had in my body was very low thanks to numerous and varied sporting activities, coupled with the fact that I never ate to excess. I appeared the way I was thanks to a combination of genetics, puberty and happenstance. But that didn’t stop someone who knew little or nothing about me making a judgment on my size and vocalising it.
This incident sparked the beginning of a long and unnecessarily difficult relationship with food, not to mention birthing a very warped view of myself but, luckily for me, that is no longer my story. However, the sad reality of the society in which we currently live is that malicious comments, although an issue, aren’t solely responsible for a growing population suffering from body dysmorphia.
Long before the callous comment and my teenage years, I was all too aware of size and the importance of being slim because a number of the model and magazine-obsessed girls I went to school with thought anyone above a size 12 was fat and an object of ridicule. This misguided notion was unequivocal in their minds because the media had told them so.
Fast forward to 10 years later and I see the same problems, but on a greater scale, as a result of social networking and our ability – plus willingness – to share more readily with complete strangers. Prior to its crackdown in February of this year, Tumblr was rife with ‘thinspo’ (short for ‘thinspiration’) sites.
The thinspo sites developed into an intimate and comforting pro-ana (pro-anorexia) space for young women and men to post photos, mottoes and brief notes urging on all who sought to lose excessive and unhealthy amounts of weight. Those posting on these sites featured goal weights and words of encouragement, as well as photos idolising Kate Moss, Karlie Kloss, Nicole Richie and other celebrities with slender figures.
Following Tumblr’s lead, Pinterest later banned all content that explicitly encouraged self-harm or self-abuse, namely ‘thinspo’ pinboards, which I believe to be a step in the right direction, but by no means the cure, as thinspo content is still rampant online. Irrespective of the current adoration of more curvy shapes à la Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez and Christina Hendricks, it’ll be a long time before you see a model with their figure gliding across a high fashion catwalk.
According to Disordered Eating “at least 1.1 million people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder, with young people in the age-group 14-25 being most at risk of developing this type of illness”. The age range of 14 to 25 also happens to be the most active age for fashion models, therefore this statistic is far from shocking.
Having said that, the reforms of Tumblr, Pinterest and even Vogue – perhaps the world’s top style arbiter, which earlier this year crafted new guidelines to ban models that are too skinny or under 16 – are a big step in the right direction.
Nevertheless, until there is a paradigm shift and the involvement of industry specialists, such as casting agents, talent scouts and designers – who, rather incongruently, are larger than the models they act as judge, jury and executioner for – this debate will continue to rage on with little change.
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