Natalia Vodianova took to Facebook to defend her inflammatory statement that “everyone knows skinny is better than fat” made at the Vogue Festival last weekend, shifting the blame for eating disorders onto the food industry and world economy. Although her argument—that there are industries other than fashion that profit from body image issues—is valid, we think her most salient point was simply that the media took her quote out of context. Instead of backpedaling on her work against the fashion industry’s warped standards, we wish she’d simply stuck to her guns.
Vodianova first deflected criticisms by lashing out at the food and diet industries, explaining that her own line of work isn’t the only one that profits from scrutinizing women’s bodies:
I felt angry actually now I think about it. Our industry is scrutinised for giving false image and criteria of beauty and provoking eating disorders however there are other industries that might be even more to blame like food industry that constantly reinventing ways of pushing food on us. Makes people stuff fridges with food, buying pills, millions of books on diets, shopping for the right clothes to hide those extra few pounds, beauty products. I guess some would say that’s what makes our economy go around. Yes, I choose to do more and eat less. Sorry world economy, I am a bad client!
Which is all valid…but not unrelated to the standards set in fashion and entertainment.
But then she gets to the part that—I think—is her best defense:
It makes me feel even more sad that so much has been taken out of contexts by tabloid media [...] This time a really fun two hours I shared with Lily, Eva and Jourdan and our audience, where we had everyone laughing through most of it and where for 5 minutes I felt like a stand up comedian and had to add NHS and Daily Mail into it just to lighten the heavy subject of body issue up, turned into a sour one.
Again taking into consideration that the format of the event was not a speech by me but interaction with the audience it is clearly been blown out of proportion by some journalist/s to create a scandal. If I was giving a speech I would have chosen my words more carefully of course but considering the format and that so many people came up to me afterwards and told me how happy they were to have laughed and were glad that I was so “normal” and direct at the conference I doubt I offended someone there and if I did I apologise because I surely only meant to highlight a different point of view.
Of course her comments were taken out of context by the media. And of course she would have spoken differently in a speech; she may be just as confused as the rest of us about body image and health, but she’s smart enough to know that it’s nearly impossible to talk about it without offending someone—especially for a celebrity.
People could misinterpret Vodianova’s statements for several reasons, not least of which is the fact that the words “skinny” and “fat” can mean several different things—and both can be defined as “unhealthy.” But there is no innocuous way to discuss women’s bodies or health, at least no way that moves the discussion forward and gets people to talk about the real issues at hand. These discussions push buttons for many of us, if not most, and they’re even triggering for some men and women who suffer disordered eating. But does that mean that we shouldn’t have them at all?
Personally, I’d rather models like Vodianova make the occasional stumble in the name of talking about the issues, rather than just shutting up.