February 10, 2007

From the comments section

Lynne posted a comment on my last post (which was about waif-like models) that I think is worth following-up on, because I agree, it is a serious issue. She says:

Serious issue here. Come on, you can't tell me that you didn't grow up with the pressure to be so thin that your bones protrude? All the fashion magazines I remember as a teenager emphasized this image. That has an impact. There must be other women out there who were exposed to that (80's and early 90's) and have a hard time accepting it's not a good look? How many of us have checked to see if our hipbones stick out further than our stomachs? How many of us have felt better about ourselves if we looked in the mirror and saw our clavicles without shoving our shoulders forward? How many of us permanently now stand with shoulders hunched forward from practicing that as a teenager to get "The Look"? If you can say that you weren't and aren't influenced by that, I think you are in the minority. Really, would you look at a realistic nude photo of a woman which shows her real cottage cheese thighs and/or cottage cheese butt and think it looks better than the woman who's so thin that doesn't happen? I'm just being honest here; I think people right now want to jump on the righteous bandwagon, but it's not necessarily the look they would prize for themselves (I'm not saying you are one, I'm speaking more of the fashion industry right now).

I understand that Lynne isn't referring solely to my opinions, but I thought I'd share my experiences on this topic. First, let me clarify a few things about my teenage years. I can only speak for myself here, but I wasn't really exposed to many fashion magazines as a teenager, and we didn't even have cable t.v so I wasn't exposed to any of those fashion shows on MTV and the like. Don't get me wrong, I knew that being thin was much more fashionable than being a "healthy" midwesterner...I wasn't that naive, but generally speaking, fashion was not something I knew much about. Plus, as a pre-teen, I was one of those sporty, lanky, skinny kids - so while I may have been teased for wearing my Lee jeans from Fleet Farm instead of the much more cool/fashionable Guess or Esprit jeans from the store formerly known as Dayton's, I was never teased about my weight (which I know can be traumatic and life-changing for some kids). But once I hit puberty, I started getting all kinds of curves that I wasn't comfortable with, and I added quite a bit of poundage. But I can honestly say that I've never looked in a mirror to see if my hip bones stuck out further than my stomach (although now I will!) - again, don't get me wrong, I was certainly self-conscious about my new curves, my new ponch and my new weight as a teenager (and as an adult), but I guess I never knew about the hip bone/stomach relationship. Nor did I ever once pay attention to my clavicles. I recognize that teenagers are much different now - it's clear they have much more pressure on them to be thin and fashionable. And perhaps I was in the minority as a teenager - if so, I give all the credit to my parents and my friends during those years. My parents never pressured me to be thin, but my family was very active and there wasn't any time of the year that I wasn't heavily involved in sports. And all of my friends were the same way. We didn't spend much time (if any?) looking at fashion magazines or shopping for tube tops, mostly because we never had time - we went to school, went to volleyball/basketball/soccer/softball/etc practice, traveled for games and tournaments, and a lot of us had jobs (I started working when I was 16). And for the record, when I was in high school, I weighed 20 - 25 pounds more than I do now...same goes for a lot of my friends from junior high/high school. In fact, the nights we had away-games during basketball season, we'd go to Subway before we got on the bus to travel, and we'd each buy a "meal deal" - foot-long sub, chips, cookie and a soda - dinner #1. Then we'd play our game, and go out to eat at a fast-food joint on our way home, so we'd eat dinner #2...and ice cream. So long-story short, no, I did not grow up with the pressure to be so thin that my bones protruded. And I'm extremely thankful for that. That kind of pressure came later in life for me...the college years...although I still don't recall ever wanting my bones to protrude. I lost a lot of weight during those years, but those were the unhealthiest years of my life.

And yes, while I hate to admit it, it's true that I'd rather see a nude photo of a thin, non-cottage-cheesy woman than an average/normal woman with some hail damage. It sucks that I feel that way, and it sucks that woman expect men to think differently as well, but it's the truth. But here's the thing - I'd much rather see a nude photo of a fit, muscular female cyclist (or other athlete) than of any thin model with zero muscle-tone. And I'm going to guess that even most of the men reading this blog would agree. (e.g. Do you see the photos that Skibby posts on his blog? He's always posting pictures of hot women, but rarely are they uber-thin and waif-like.)

It's true that there is a lot of pressure for women to be thin - I don't think anyone, male or female, would argue that. And yes, that pressure can sometimes be devastating for women, especially teenagers. But I think there's a huge difference between being healthy-thin, and model-thin. My point for posting that article was that the women in those pictures looked sickly-thin/emaciated, and it's hard for me to fathom that some clothing designers and fashion magazines actually find that attractive and desireable. So I give props to anyone in the fashion industry, a la the aforementioned Spaniards, that are trying to take relatively small steps to make that industry more healthy (e.g. requiring a BMI higher than 18).

I'm curious what kind of "pressures-to-be-thin" other women have experienced. Anyone care to share?

And then there's the obesity epidemic in our country...an even bigger problem...but I'll save that for another day.



pattycakes said...

Hail Damage-sounds technical

karen said...

I have to go with you on our exposure to fashion magazines. Although (I'll be the first to admit) I could have used some help in the hair,make-up, and clothing department, I don't remember me or most of my friends reading fashion mags. or watching any fashion forward shows. But also remember, when we were young, there was not( or not many) networks on tv just dedicated to the fashion industry. M-TV started I beleive in 1984, so we missed alot of the "video babes" that some girls are now constantly looking at. Now, there are numerous music networks(even if they don't play music anymore-but that's a different blog topic), fashion networks, fitness shows, celeb. shows and magazines that all show tiny models. I myself like the show "the biggest loser " for the fact that the trainers show that diets are not a good idea-that it's a life-style you need to choose to maintain a healthy weight. The show also does not promote losing weight until your a size 0.
As my husband and I have been attending sim lessons with the boys, one fact has hit us in the face-as a society we are getting larger. The small children in the tots classes to about the 7-8 year range are thin(with the exception of some baby fat-but that's cute). But as you look at the older kids in the other classes, they are a lot larger than I would expect. I learned that children only eat until they are full, overeating is a LEARNED behavior and these kids a learning well. I'm not saying that they are all obese, but they are 10-30 lbs. overweight. Even the instructors, who are mostly high school students are a little chubby. But I digress to yet another blog topic. I guess my whole point is as parents and a society, we really need to monitor our kids and teach them proper exercise and eating habits-which a constant batle in our house. And yes, I know this is easy for me to write about exercise and diet when I'm
a thin person who truthfully doesn't have to exercises alot to stay small. But part of that is true because I'm always active and prety much always have been.

StevenCX said...

What strikes me as ironic is that I find that most of the pressure on women to be extra thin comes from other women.

Strats said...

PCakes - you're too young to have seen much hail damage...I'll show you sometime.

K - since you were my role model, I guess this explains why I had such bad hair/makeup/fashion. We did have some sweet leg warmers though. :)

Steven - you are absolutely right.

Lynne said...

Oh no! Do NOT look in the mirror at your hip bones!! Don't even go there.

Anyway, I wonder if it made a difference that I grew up on the west coast? There was a huge, regular influx of Californians and Arizonans, so maybe it was different. We definitely looked at magazines all the time and we watched MTV non-stop in college-it was mesmerizing. And we went to the malls to buy Guess and spent $100 a pair on jeans. We mourned when our thighs got too big to fit into men's Levis 105s.

So, the media definitely left an impression on me and on my friends. But my family undoubtedly also had a huge influence-not a positive, supporting style. However, like you guys, I was very, very active. I walked miles every day, biked, I was always wandering somewhere. I had a HORRIBLE diet (I'd still eat twinkies and root beer for lunch if I could!!!!), but I burned a ton of calories every day, so I could get away with it. Not so with today's kids, I think. We didn't have TV either-no Nintendo, no video games, no computer (hey! In fact, how am I managing not to balloon up now that I'm an adult??? LOL!).

Anyway, thanks for the really interesting post. I am enjoying it.

StevenCX said...

I don't know how many people saw The Devil Wears Prada, but it was a hilarious movie. However, it was quite the eye-opener for a naive guy like me (even if people do call me metrosexual!). Granted it's just a movie, but whenever the entertainment/fashion industry takes a satirical look at itself, it's pretty much spot on. That Anne Hathaway's character could be called 'fat' was shocking. Now of course, in many Hollywood movies 'ugly' characters are still cast by beautiful people that are just superficially ugli-cized (i.e. Ugly Betty), but in this case, it was pretty much the case that a size 4 is considered fat, which is being borne out by the current debate. It was really interesting how they couldn't find anything for Andi to wear because everything sent by the fashion houses was size 0 or 1.

Angie said...

Great post Sarah! I'm in your camp in that I didn't really feel pressure in high school and was too busy running around to various sports to care about fashion magazines. And I also had similar "fast food" eating habits all justified in my mind by the fact that I was athletic. The one exception to that was gymnastics....my coaches were never that bad, but it was well known that it was desirable to be thin, which was understandable given that we had to prance around in not much more than a swim suit. I gained the freshman 15 in my senior year of high school, and in my freshman year of college, I started obsessing about it and adopted the “low fat”, fad diet of the 90s. I went an entire year w/o eating anything over 20% fat….if I didn’t know what was in it, I didn’t eat it. I lost the 15 lbs but was hardly healthy on my diet of bagels, frozen yogurt and cereal. Fashion of the early 90s was far less revealing than it is today (flannels and baggy jeans), so I’m sure the pressure is much greater now than it was then. It’s ironic that the more pressure there is on us to be thin, the fatter we get as a nation. There was a really good article in the NY Times recently regarding this topic. (if the link doesn’t work, I can e-mail it to you) http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=FA0910FA34540C7B8EDDA80894DF404482

I couldn’t agree more that a healthy athletic woman is far more attractive than a waif-like model. And I think we’re fortunate in that our circle of people (cyclists and athletes in general) often share that perspective.

I think it’s a bit disturbing that BMI seems to be the primary tool for determining whether someone is overweight though given that muscle weighs more than fat. It’s a good guideline, but it seems a bit misleading if you ask me.

(dis)pencer said...

the sad/ironic thing is i'm pretty sure the fashion industry started using paper thin models becase they didn't distract from the clothes... (i.e. you weren't susposed to even noctice her), and how that led to girls and women striving for that look as well...

they also have used girls as young as 12 and 14 as models. there is no way an adult woman can expect to look like that, but people feel like they should.

i think that it is great that the world is starting to realize that this is unhealthy for the models and that it has a huge negitive for women in general.
i wish it would have happened long ago, and i hope it is not just talk.

it is a pretty serious issue, and a sad one.

a very close friend of mine nearly ended her life via anorexia.
she was my roomate at the time, so i got a very first hand experience of how quickly a "diet" can get out of hand.
she was definately what you would call "skinny" to begin with.

she is a very smart girl too.
and has always been aware of body image issues, and the negitive effects, and has been (and still is) very active in the feminist-activist community.
but she fell victim to the mentality that skinny=better and ended up with a situation now that she has to be aware of, and deal with for the rest of her life.

it is a slippery slope and can happen to anyone. and very quickly.

Anonymous said...

it's sad that girls/women are aspiring to be clothes hangers-that's what i've decided models really are.

and sadly, athletes do it too... as a high school xc ski coach it was scary. we had a talented skier who we thought was way too skinny. she was a more talented runner (don't even get me started on the female athlete triad..) and was surviving on carrots to maintain a pre-pubescent body weight. we caught her puking in a bathroom before the sections meet at the end of the ski season. we talked to her, her family (luckily she had a very supportive family and good doctor), and by the next season she had gained 25 pounds and was much stronger. this athlete went on to college on a running scholarship but couldn't run beacuse she had double stress fractures... thanks to her athletic-induced aneroxia and later bulemia, she hadn't fixed any calcium into her skeleton in years.

it is a slippery slope! i like to think most of the time i'm pretty easy on myself, but even i start thinking about "being skinny" vs. "being fit" way too often. especially when i'm trying to find clothes that fit my ski/bike butt and legs! we aren't meant to be clothes hangers!!! the pressure on girls is immense. it seems to lead to extreme reactions, like eating disorders or the other end of the spectrum where you give up exercise/effort (because they feel like it makes no difference). i'm just glad i've had sports i enjoy, that make me happy, and keep me distracted from this topic most of the time.

Gilby said...

I'm lucky: my family couldn't afford cable tv while I was growing up, and the mean income for most of our community was low enough that fashion & beauty weren't huge priorities.

Since I started college, I surrounded myself with friends who are comfortable in their bodies, no matter what their size or shape. For what it's worth, the attention paid to weight and diet by cyclists was really a new thing to me. It scares me that I personally have started paying so much attention to these things. I realize that with cyclists it's not a desire to be "skinny", just the pressure to get one's self to any kind of ideal.