According to PLUS Model Magazine, most runway models are considered anorexic judging by their body mass index (BMI). That’s just one of the shocking statistics accompanying their controversial shoot, titled “Plus Size Bodies, What Is Wrong With Them Anyway?” meant to provoke discussion of the damaging body standards set by the fashion industry. The shoot features size 12 model Katya Zharkova, and in some photos, an anonymous “straight”-sized model. In an accompanying editorial, editor Madeline Figueroa-Jones also makes some good points about how the debate over beauty and fashion should be separated from health. The editorial makes some great points, but to be honest I’m not sure the photos themselves really do all women justice.
In the accompanying article, Figueroa-Jones says the answer to problems with body image is to stop believing that there’s something 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.
But I’m skeptical that photos of plus-sized models like Zharkova are necessarily going to heal us all from a size zero-centric ideal. Plus-sized models are also a fairly unrealistic standard to go by: Not only are they perfectly proportioned in a way that most women (big or little) aren’t; they’re also airbrushed and styled to a point that makes their bodies just as removed from reality as thinner models in Vogue.
The photos of Zharkova cradling a stick-thin model are condescending to anyone who’s naturally thin: It’s implied that because she’s thin, she’s anorexic, helpless and infantile, even though we don’t know anything about her diet or health. Figueroa-Jones is right: Not all skinny people are healthy. But they’re not all unhealthy or starving themselves to look that way, either.
Instead of creating a battle between size 12 and size zero, or judging someone’s health by their BMI (a measure that more and more doctors agree is rudimentary and outdated), I wish we could just see a greater diversity of body shapes and sizes across the board. (And find ways to make them look good that don’t involve airbrushing out their waists or unsightly dimples.)
These are some of the statistics that accompany the photo shoot; if they’re not a good argument for better diversity in models, I don’t know what is:
- Twenty years ago the average fashion model weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today, she weighs 23% less.
- Ten years ago plus-size models averaged between size 12 and 18. Today the need for size diversity within the plus-size modeling industry continues to be questioned. The majority of plus-size models on agency boards are between a size 6 and 14, while the customers continue to express their dissatisfaction.
- Most runway models meet the Body Mass Index physical criteria for Anorexia.
- 50% of women wear a size 14 or larger, but most standard clothing outlets cater to sizes 14 or smaller.
Photos: PLUS Model Magazine