Earlier today, our sister site The Gloss reported on an unfortunate remark made by supermodel Natalia Vodianova in which she said it’s “better to be skinny than to be fat.” The outcry on various blogs and websites has been predictable–It’s a terrible thing to say! It’s offensive! She’s just a fashion industry parrot who worships at the altar of thinness!–but I can’t help but think it’s also kind of all for show. We’re supposed to be offended by statements like that…even if, in much of media, that exact sentiment is echoed in almost every image we see.
Vodianova, who has been outspoken about the fashion industry’s toxic effect on body image and her own experience with eating disorders, uttered the offending line while sitting on a panel of other models at London’s Vogue Festival, during which the other panelists were talking about body image, perceived beauty, and how, in some cultures, a more shapely female body is considered preferable. It was at this point that Vodianova interjected with, “C’mon guys, you know it’s better to be skinny than to be fat.” She then went on to note that what she meant was “obese,” and that obesity is unhealthy–but the damage was done; upset was inevitable.
Vodianova dropped a truthbomb which, on its face, is kind of a terrible thing to say. We know that. We’re supposed to read a line like that and be upset and concerned and angered, because when a thin woman in the fashion industry touts thinness, it sends off all of our body-positive, health-aware alarm bells.
But here’s the thing: In a country where, on any given day, 45% of women would describe themselves as “on a diet,” and as many as three out of four have experienced some for of disordered eating, it seems pretty likely that the majority of American women actually do believe, in their heart of hearts, that they would be happier/better-looking/somehow different in a positive way if they were thinner.
Vodianova’s statement sums up a sentiment that has basically been culturally agreed upon for a really, really long time–that we equate thinness with health, vitality, and correctness–but it also breaks a relatively recent social more, which is that you aren’t supposed to say that out loud. In fact, you are supposed to be outraged when you hear it. Even if you kind of agree. Which, statistically speaking, a lot of people probably do.
Despite our cultural obsession with thinness, “it’s better to be skinny” is more than just offensive–it’s also incorrect and a dangerous statement. But people seem less mad about that. Being “skinny” doesn’t necessarily indicate a greater level of health…but I have a feeling that a lot of people (including doctors, nutritionists, fitness instructors, and health bloggers) probably agree that, for whatever reason, it’s still preferable to being “fat.” Even if being “fat” means eating a balanced diet, moving around a lot, being in great shape, having lots of lean muscle mass, and being genetically predisposed to having a body shape other than “bean pole.” By that definition, being “fat” can be “better” than being skinny. And yet…
Tell the truth, and check your political correctness and beliefs about what you “should” think: Do you agree that it’s better to be skinny than to be fat?
Sorry! This poll is now closed.
Image: Natalia Vodianova for Vogue