Monday, May 17, 2010
Six is the New Fourteen
Every so often some reporter writes an article citing research that showing that every woman in the Western World has a poor body image (except for Heidi Klum) and these articles and reports are all followed by much teeth gnashing and wailing from normal women and duplicitous and defensive rejoinders from fashion and advertising land. Researchers point out that even very young girls are worried about dieting, and the fashion industry counters with a model over size zero. (Look, she has flesh on her bones! It must be the token normal woman!) Remember when Stanley Tucci tells Andy that Six is the new fourteen? Didn't we all laugh in recognition?
Ma'am, do you have this in the next size up?
Saleslady: Sorry, we only carry sizes 1, 3, and 5. You could try Sears. (SEARS! Oh the horror of that comment.)
I have had co-workers tell me that they were told in fashionable New York boutiques that, "we have nothing for you here." They were size 16. I wonder, how is that really any different than being told to leave because of their race or ethnicity?
When Thurgood Marshall argued before the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education, one of the studies his team cited was Clark's doll studies, which showed how African American children had developed feelings of inferiority that caused life-long and lasting damage. There were no pictures of children like them in textbooks or class materials. There were no dolls or toys that looked like them. They were always made to feel invisible and second-best.
Even now there aren't enough faces from different races and backgrounds in our media. I'm sure this has an effect.
Now flash forward to 2010. When you watch television, or look at a magazine, the majority of faces are young, slender and attractive. While you occasionally see a plump man on a sitcom, he is almost always paired with a younger, much hotter spouse. Notice on 24, how everyone at CTU is more attractive than the norm, and never even slightly overweight. In the movies the fat, plump loser guy always gets the hot skinny girl. There are very few movies that feature women over size zero, and even fewer that show women over thirty. If you don't have a strong self-image yourself, you certainly aren't going to see a reflection back from TV, movies or magazine ads. If you are in your forties and over size ten, you might as well be invisible.
The fashion people pay lip service to diversity, but they don't do much to achieve even token diversity. Take a look at Burda- how many models of color do you see? Not very many - they barely even include brunettes in some issues! You know that this is a real problem by the fuss that was made when Italian Vogue did an issue with all women of color. It was so unusual.
In a perfect world, we'd see magazine issues where every single model was not size zero. And I'd be happy if I never saw the term "plus size" again. To me that means that those sizes are outside the "normal" range of sizes. They are "extra", they are "different", in some stores they aren't even there. "Oh those sizes? those are available only on the website." Why is that? Do they think they will get size 14 cooties on the size zeroes? (I don't mean to pick on my size zero sisters. They have their problems too, Everything is too big and too long on them.)( A digression -I recently lost 40 plus pounds, but no matter - size 16 is still plus size to our fashion friends! And I don't think it would be humanly possible for me to ever be a size 0-6, I'd have to have surgery to remove some bones.)
A fellow blogger commented that it bothered her when she saw the ads that said that real women have curves, because she felt like she was just as real, even though she was curve-challenged.
Since both men and women come in a variety of shapes and sizes, it would be refreshing to see that variety reflected back at us in our media.
What examples of size discrimation have you seen? Do you think we can ever get beyond it?