Italian Vogue editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani would like you to do as she says, not as she does. See, she’s been a crusader for the end of eating disorders. She’s started a petition to take down pro-ana websites. She pulled that one photo, that one time, because the model was terrifyingly thin. She wants women to feel good about themselves! But, as she revealed in a recent speech at Harvard which she published online, she wants to do all of that–without actually making salient, body-positive changes to the magazine she runs. It’s supremely frustrating.
She starts off pretty strong (though she basically immediately starts with the “why is this hotter than this” nonsense). Bolding is hers.
One of the reasons why a girl starts a too-strict diet is the necessity to correspond to an aesthetic standard which rewards thinness, also in its excesses. According to numerous psychiatrists, in fact, the current inclination to embrace a female beauty standard that exalts thinness has devastating consequences on many adolescents’ eating habits. And this is where fashion comes into play, alongside models, fashion magazines and everything regarding aesthetics. What lead us to establish that thin is beautiful and that thinness is the aesthetic code we should follow? Why the age of supermodels, who were beautiful and womanly, slowly started decreasing and we now have still undeveloped adolescents with no sign of curves? Why is this considered beautiful? Marylin Monroe, Liz Taylor and Sophia Loren today would appear in our Curvy channel and be defined shapely.
Oh, so she’s going to start casting more women for conventional spreads and in features? She will begin putting more curvaceous bodies on the cover? She will stop using 13-year-old models who are poor role models?
We cannot generalize, of course, and accuse the girls we see walking runways of being anorexic. They are still undeveloped. And are taken as role-models, for instance by girls who may already have personal issues and are therefore easily influenced…
Last year I released an issue of the magazine entirely devoted to curvy girls which was a real hit. They were beautiful and sexy. The Vogue Curvy channel on our site, which was initially accused of marginalizing curvy people, today is super-popular because curvy girls, and happy to be so, are now able to find trendy clothes without getting frustrated about not finding their size.
Well, no…she’s going to put them on separate pages, in separate issues. You know. Where fatties belong. Not with the “normal” models. Ugh.
Sozzani (and other Vogue editors, like Britain’s Alexandra Shulman, who actually has taken steps toward curbing designers away from making such teeny clothes) is in a position of great power. She could easily be a huge influencer in changing the way that the fashion industry (and the world) view the female body. She could use her editorial sway to include more images of real-looking women all year, instead of one month out of 12 (a popular tactic in women’s magazines to offer hollow, false support of body-positivity). She could cast healthy women of all sizes in spreads and have them stand next to each other as if it were normal for women’s bodies to come in all shapes and sizes. She could insist that advertisers use a variety of body types.
But instead, she silos them away. She touts the “curvy” channel (but keeps it separate from the “regular” one) and pats herself on the back for the occasional “healthy” women issue–all the while, undermining it by consistently sticking with the status quo of the fashion world the other eleven months out of the year. She notes that she is trying to get pro-ana websites taken down–while publishing images that are basically pro-ana bait every month.
It’s great that Sozzani is using her influence to be part of the solution–but as long as she continues to be a silent part of the problem (without acknowledging that she is), it’s just not that worth applauding.
Image: Vogue Italia, by Steven Meisel