Friday, May 02, 2008

Stop blaming the models and put that doughnut down!

I’m really sick of people bashing models and thin people for causing everyone else to have low self-esteem. These people claim that models and magazine pictures distort the idea of what beauty really is. To some degree, I agree. Magazines do Photoshop, edit, and airbrush their subjects to make them look skinnier, prettier, and generally more attractive. In this scenario, I do believe these images are detrimental to the minds and confidence of young women, and I think Spain was correct in banning models with low BMI’s (healthy is around 18.5-24, anorexic is 17.5.) But sometimes they go too far.
One well-known example is the Dove “Campaign for Real Beauty”; featuring “average” sized women who want beauty to mean more than size 0-2. These people (and supporters and other groups) claim that since the average pants size of an American woman is 14, there should be size 14 models, and that size 14 should be considered “sexy” and “hot”. But does beauty really have a number? Are we so materialistic that we define our beauty by numbers? And what does beauty really mean?
To most men, a woman’s beauty coincides with health. But oh no! Those anorexic models aren’t healthy! However, do you really think guys look at models? Most of the time they have those pert faces and no shapeliness. And have you ever heard guys say, “ ‘Man, that second girl on the Versace runway show last night was hot!’ ‘No way! I definitely think the headliner for Gucci was better’ ‘You guys are whack, that Donna Karan chick was soooo much hotter!’” Somehow, I don’t think that’s going to happen. The only model guys probably have even heard of/seen is Giselle Bundchen (Sunglass Hut) , or maybe Adriana Lima in a Maybelline ad on the back of his girlfriend’s Cosmo. Models are thin and tall because clothes look better; layers are easier to assemble when the person is taller and the CLOTHES (not the person, models model clothes not themselves) look better. Models are to designers as mannequins are to department stores. Have you ever seen a small mannequin? They are tall to show the clothes more prominently.
So, back to health’s relationship with beauty. What attributes do we as a society (and the men we try to impress) consider beautiful? Some would be: healthy skin, healthy nails and hair, toned muscles, curves (including le derrière and le décolletage), lean (not thin or skinny), and a positive attitude. Most guys don’t like stick-thin twigs, they like some t*ts and a** (T&A).
Now, back to the Dove campaign. Have you seen the women they advertise as being “normal”? I’m not trying to be offensive, but almost all of them are overweight, and it looks like they don’t take care of their bodies by eating healthily and vigorously exercising. You don’t have to be a size 0-2 to be healthy (or sexy!), but unless you are very tall, (the US average is 5’4”), a size 14 is most certainly overweight. If size 14 is average, and the average women is overweight (two-thirds of the US is), then what does that say? Simple math, hello! The last time I heard, the average woman was 5’4” and 145 pounds, and apparently, a size 14 (that’s what Dove says.) Size 14 and 5’4??? That’s CERTAINLY not healthy! I’m 5’4” and I am not anorexic. I am on the lower end of the healthy range for my height (the range is from 110 to 125), and I have an athletic/muscular build, not a twig build. I am between a 0 and a 2. Even if I expanded as I aged, I still can’t see myself being healthy and above a size 4. I’m 10 sizes below “average”, and am considered healthy. Somehow, if I gained 10 pants sizes (or even 5!) I doubt I would still be healthy.
I am sick of overweight, inactive girls criticizing me and people like me for being “too thin” (healthy) and making me out to be the cause of their low self-esteem. If they played 3 Varsity sports a year and ate healthily (vegan or not, though vegan is certainly very healthy), they wouldn’t have muffin tops and jelly rolls. While stick-thin, unhealthy, and anorexic models make being thin seem unattainable because they are soooo thin, people have to realize that most people don’t consider models hot, or even use them as comparisons!
So pretty much, there is a bunch of overweight women complaining that healthy and fit women are considered more attractive than they are. I’m just taking a wild guess, but I think the root of this is jealousy, because they don’t have the motivation to treat their bodies well.
I don’t blame overweight women for being upset that they aren’t as “hot” or “sexy” as their thinner counterparts. But they can’t try to overthrow the system and make everyone think that size 14 is attractive. Besides the fact that beauty should be on the inside (men look for personality, too!), if overweight is considered the new thin, people will be switching salad for ice cream because their weight won't matter to them anymore, and we’ll see an increase of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other horrible diseases that are already on the incline because of the unhealthy trends of this era.
Instead, these women should be trying to see that they are attractive, with their curves, attitudes, and personalities, and understand that they have a health issue. I see plenty of overweight women who are happily married. You don’t need to be the stereotype of “hot” and “sexy” to be attractive and lovable. If anything, these overweight/ “normal” girls are the most materialistic because they are judging themselves based on size. They should realize that by becoming healthy, they will no longer have the problem of being what they perceive as unattractive and will only be bettering their health.


Anonymous said...

I know what a dichotomy of fat and thin! Come visit me at

Deisy said...

You could not have said it better, I'm right there with you.

Anonymous said...

you are horrible example of a woman.

Allie B said...

You are a horrible example of a literate person. And may I ask why I am "horrible example"? Because I actually realize the root of this whole controversy?
I'm not saying anything bad against overweight people, except for that they need to stop blaming healthy people for being underweight and need to recognize that they have a disease that is obviously controlling them.

Anonymous said...

2 things:
First, i know sizes are different in the US to the UK, but i am a UK size 14 and i am NOT overweight (well maybe by a few pounds, but i am NOT fat!). My BMI is 23.
Second, believe me, from experience it is a lot easier to stay slim when you are 16 than when you are in your late 30s as i am. We can't all be athletes.
Judge not lest ye be judged (i am not religious, but i think it's a good principle)

Anonymous said...

Hi! I just found your weblog. I'm Dutch and vegan too. I love the way you write and I totally agree with you. Healthy is not overweight! I lived in California and the difference between the people on the street in Fresno and Amsterdam is huge.
I will visit your blog more frequently, I'm curious for your next post.
Oh, and yes, UK size 14 is really different than US size! :-)
Greetings, A.

Nora said...

I hate that you refer to a BMI of under 17.5 as "anorexic." Anorexia is a disease, not a BMI range! Grow up kid!

Allie B said...

Yes, anorexia itself is a disease but to be legally considered anorexic you must have a BMI of 17.5 or lower. Otherwise the eating disorder is called ED-NOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified). Just as being under 18 is considered underweight, anorexic is below 17.5, and emaciated is below 15. If you want to be rude, you should grow up again and take a health class and be assigned a project on anorexia, which is how I know this.
And the UK sizes differ very much from the US sizes.

Nora said...

I believe you that to be considered anorexic you have to have a BMI of under 17.5 but what I'm saying is there are plenty of people who have a lower BMI without an eating disorder.

Saoirse said...

" if overweight is considered the new thin, people will be switching salad for ice cream because their weight won't matter to them anymore, and we’ll see an increase of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other horrible diseases that are already on the incline because of the unhealthy trends of this era."

I'm not so sure about this. Right now thin is in and it isn't resulting in people having healthier habits overall. I think the shift has to come from a more positive place: show people that healthy eating can be easy and tasty (cruelty free for bonus points!), emphasize that, as you said, beauty comes from the inside, because people who feel good about themselves take care of themselves, and educate people from a young age about healthy lifestyles. I don't see anything wrong with fat acceptance, because I believe you have to accept your body in order to take care of it properly.

Veghead said...

I would definitely not agree that the models and stuff have nothing ot do with it. I htink the problem is that our society has built up a belief that thinner is (generally) better. You look at magazines and they all tout "weight loss" miracles or diet foods and wahtnot. It's a billion dollar industry. We are conditioned to think that we all need to be thin. Some of us won't be. Some of us are going to be chunkier and that is FINE. I think it really needs to not be about the sizes, the BMI, or anything. If you eat reasonably healthy foods and do some exercise regularly and you're still "chubby" you should still be considered beautiful.
I'm a little incoherent, but I'm not blatantly disagreeing with you, simply saying that I do think that our society places too muc hof a focus on being thin and also on food in general. eat what you want, stop when yo'ure ful. that's the idea. (please excuse typos, I can spell really well I'm just too tired to edit atm)

vegandarling said...

you're so right!

Vegan Blog

Shannon B. said...

Hm, strong words. I believe that people shouldn't shut their eyes to anything.

I think any kind of lookism is bad for everyone involved. Noone shouldn't blame models for having thin genes or punish others for not. It all comes back to putting things in your body that you can be proud of. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the sweeter things in life, and not every salad is created equal, healthy, and good for you.

I think that size is relative, too and people should come to terms with their body type and educate themselves on what a healthy person looks like and what decisions they make.

I'm a bigger girl, overweight and learning how to eat better. It's wrong for girls my size to criticize smaller girls and vice versa. If there is ever to be any growth, the confident women will have to educate their less confident counterparts on how to achieve health through education and action.

Fitgirl said...

I agree with you but some models and actresses are far too thin, yet they are put on pedestals in todays society as an ideal beauty and that is wrong. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I don't find boney models beautiful.

Anonymous said...

It's clear from your entry that you are very young. Not that I fault you for that, but staying fit is a lifelong process for many people.

Speaking for myself only, I am 31,exercise regularly and vigorously (spin and yoga), eat a vegan diet, and raise a vegan household. I work hard to ensure that all of the food that goes into my body is healthy. Still, I am 5'6 and a size 14. When I was 16, I was a size 2. I have not changed much about my diet since then, but other things have changed - I had a baby, for one, and my metabolism has definitely slowed with age.

However, I'm happy, healthy, and look pretty good in a bikini.

So, here's the thing: a size is just a number, and it's no one's place to decide for anyone else what "overweight" means. No fat person needs you to tell them they're fat - they already know that. Instead, focus your energy on living a healthy lifestyle. Some people will be inspired by you and make positive changes in their own lives. Other's won't.

Anonymous said...

I think it's very sad that you actually think of the Dove-models as mostly overweight.

But I wouldn't mind if there were lots of different size models. Just like there are all different bodytypes of people :)

(oh and just as a BTW as a health care professional: being a bit "overweight" is healthier than being a bit underweight)

Anonymous said...

Have you seen the documentary America the Beautiful? It came out recently and after seeing it a few days ago I have been contemplating many of the issues you discuss here and for the most part I agree with you. The doc questions why in American we are so obsessed with beauty and why we aspire to something that is often unattainable. You may find it of some interest.

Also, Congrats on being vegan. I have been vegetarian for years and go through phases of veganism. I am going to start again soon and hopefully I can make it last!

Anonymous said...

Dude, thanks for writing that. I definitely agree with you. Women should stand up for being curvy if that is what they are but certainly NOT at the expense of being healthy. Aside from the Dove ads, the recent remake of Hairspray really gets on my nerves. The main character is obviously very obese but the movie puts out the message that that is ok. No, one shouldn't strive to be too thin, but it's wrong to encourage overweight people to accept an unhealthy body and lifestyle.

Anonymous said...

Typical thing for an image obsessed, immature, self-centered teenage girl to say. About 15 years or so from now you'll be thinking much differently.

Anonymous said...

Good writing and it's great to see people thinking and sharing their opinions in full sentences :-)

That said, I disagree with some of your statements. As others have pointed out, age is a massive factor. You'll find out soon enough, I promise. I'm a guy so I found out a little later -- 23, 24 or so and all of a sudden I've got a little belly where none was before. Damn!

As a man, maybe I can sway your opinion with some direct evidence. I am very much into Kate Moss type skinny girls and am not happy about that. I am generally attracted to girls who have or had eating disorders, and just can't seem to have a sexual appetite for your "normal" T&A woman. I feel that my preference is a direct result of the marketing and images which I saw and sexualized as a child. And that image is reinforced, daily, by the sexy women we see in the media. Since I will never be dating a supermodel (especially since I'm rapidly declining in hotness myself), I wish I could be more into average girls (say, BMI 22-24).

My current girlfriend has a BMI around 20/21 and I have a hard time finding myself attracted to her these days (she used to be anorexic, but I helped her beat it). Kind of ironic, eh?

I support organizations which strive to normalize public opinion of beauty. And I think they have to go a little too far just to pull things in the right direction. Example: PETA is incredibly extreme, but they have pulled public opinion towards the vegetarian/vegan side, and I think that's great, despite the fact that I tend to disagree with PETA's radical philosophies and prescriptions.

Rereading past comments.. a lot of people have pointed out that you will have a different opinion come 10-20 years. They are, of course, right, but that shouldn't stop you from developing and sharing your opinions NOW.


Sara said...

"there is a bunch of overweight women complaining that healthy and fit women are considered more attractive than they are."
-- I love this.
To me, the topic seemed very well- thought out and you included all of the elements revelant to the topic. You didn't close your mind to how other people think. I agree with your stance about jealousy; it is a subconscious feeling and I've experienced it before even though I am not dissatisfied with my weight/image.

Hunter said...

**Snorts** live sucks doesnt it? that we are ruthlessly judged for what we look like. What about guys in all this? Guys care too. but women only find them attractive if they've got muscles everywhere, so we cant even be skinny, thanks society

Clare said...

I think the whole problem is self-perception. I am a size 6 (brought myself down from a size 14 :] ) and I think I am beautiful, even though I would like to lose a few pounds. But I don't go around criticizing other people's body weight. If larger people are comfortable with being larger, then that's fine. But if all they do is complain, then they need to shut the hell up about it and start looking at themselves rather than other people.

However, if someone is so overweight that they have health problems, then its just not beautiful anymore. Beauty IS health. If you're a size 14 but you exercise everyday and eat a good diet (preferably vegan), then ok. You're beautiful. But you can also be beautiful if you're a size 0 and do the same things. What's not beautiful is eating disorders- and it doesn't matter if that disorder is UNDEReating or OVEReating.

marrissa said...

I can't believe you think the Dove models are overweight. Naturally stick thin people will never understand, but at least have some respect. How old are you anyway, 12?

Allie B said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Allie B said...

Excuse me, I'm 16. I'm far from stick thin. And as a matter of fact, when people have a large amount of abdominal fat overhanging their underwear, its a clear indicator that they are overweight. I'm not saying that they are bad people because of that, if you had really read the article you would have noticed that I don't have a problem with overweight people, except when they try to put me down because of their health problems.
My problem with campaigns like Dove is that they are trying to make obesity seem ok. Yes, you should be comfortable with your own skin, but promoting an unhealthy and dangerous society is not ok.

Anonymous said...

As someone who is 5'4" and 103lbs AFTER having a baby and in her 20s ok late 20s there i said it. I can relate. I have had many many overweight people say rude things to be that i must be starving or go eat a steak etc. However if roles were turned and i said stop eating steak i would be a b*tch. I dont buy the whole i cant help that i am 200lbs... If that was really true how come i know so many women who lose weight only to gain it back. Sorry they got tired of trying simple as that. And YES I do eat a healthy vegan diet and work out.Honestly they are the ones who need to grow up!

Megan said...

This is idiocy. I am 5'5", my BMI is 23, and I have boobs, thighs, and everything that comes with it, including a ton of muscle. I eat well and work out five days a week. My body fat is somewhere around 21%, nice and healthy. By your standards and by the prevailing standards of beauty, I'm way overweight. By my doctor's standards, I'm completely healthy. I think I look pretty good. What's the rub? I LOOK LIKE A DOVE 'NATURAL BEAUTY' MODEL. OH NOES! I have big thighs and short legs. I have broad shoulders. And yet, somehow, I have low blood pressure, low cholesterol, and regularly run 5ks.
My point is that your comments on your blog don't recognize the point of the Dove ads. The point is not that obesity is awesome and we should all be fatties. The point is that healthy people come in a range of sizes and that people like you need to adjust your vision a teeny bit. Hint: the Dove models are not fat. Some of them may be slightly overweight. Most of them are just kind of normal. Get used to it, because the odds are excellent that some time in the next 20 years, possibly after a child or two, you will look in the mirror and realize that you, too, have breasts and hips and thighs and that you look like a Dove Model.
And seriously? You're 16. I absolutely support your efforts to express yourself on this blog and I think your opinions shouldn't usually be discounted because of your age, but as a teenager with a revved-up metabolism (just wait until your 20's, love), you have no business telling grown women what you think their bodies should look like. I'm sorry sister, but you just haven't walked that road yet.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I think it's a problem to look at beauty as contingent upon health as it relates to size. It is possible to be a size 14 and be healthy and fit. I'm 26, so women my age are a little more hippy (etc.) than teenagers or even women in their early 20s. I have friends in the 10-14 size range who exercise daily, eat sensibly, and truly take care of themselves. They are not unhealthy, but are not size 0-2. There are certainly women who wear a size 14 and stuff themselves into it like a sausage casing, and that probably isn't healthy...but only a doctor can judge that, and that should be irrelevant in determining "beauty."

Additionally, I'm not sure I am a fan of beauty being labeled as something judged by men (or "men we're trying to impress). I like men just as much as the next heterosexual woman, but I refuse to allow my or any other woman's subjective sense of "beauty" to be dictated by anyone else, men included.

This is a touchy, touchy issue. For heavy women, they probably feel much like you do, but on the opposite end. While you are lucky/smart/whatever in that you eat well, exercise, and have whatever genetic inclinations that allow you to be thin, to be a good athlete, and to be a healthy person, others simply may not. Someone may diet and exercise and fight and fight to fit into your idea of "healthy" (equated with thin, or "lean," as you say) and just fall short. Yet, they may still have amazingly healthy blood pressure, cholesterol, sugars, lipid levels, liver function, resting heart rate, etc.

Personally, I am 5'10". I ran track in high school, played rugby in college, and ran 6 miles a day, 5 days a week throughout college. I never sank below a size 10, even at the height of my athleticism. Now, 5'10" is tall, but not remarkably tall. Size 10 is on the larger end of "normal," but I am certainly extremely healthy. Even now, as my workouts have lessened to weight lifting and 30 minutes of cardio 5 days a week, my cholesterol is 167, my resting heart rate is 62, and my blood pressure is 100/55. I am a size 10 to 12 now, and I am extremely physically healthy. So for people like me, who fall in some gray area of body type, seeing criticism from either end of the health spectrum and reading about how one or the other is the definition of health or beauty...I just feel frustrated. Very thin, or very voluptuous.

There seems to be no middle ground that's acceptable, and I think this black and white view of beauty has serious implications for self-image among women, which creates self-esteem issues that *can* be so severe as to lead to unhealthy perceptions of relationships, unhealthy relationships themselves, etc. It's really unfortunate that something as subjective as physical beauty and something as custom-fit as physical health can affect the way people see themselves. Fat, skinny, or somewhere in between, women in westernized countries face this loaded issue every day, and too many lose important pieces of themselves because of the opinions of others. =(

(Not that I have any long-term solutions or anything to offer. I'm just as guilty of scrutinizing myself in the mirror, regardless of the fact that I'm physically healthy, searching for flaws, for reasons I'm still single...I can intellectualize it all day, but the point is, insight doesn't change the problem).

Brittany said...

I totally agree with you on the Dove model campaign. When I see the commercials I think to myself...."why are they putting overweight people in these commercials." i know there's going to be a post under this one telling me that I'm young and dumb and immature and that's OK because everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I have read through the comments that were left and a good portion of the people leaving the comments of "you're young and stupid and you'll be fat when your older" are size 14, 170 pounds. To me, the people that are leaving those comments are doing exactly what you are saying in your blog, blaming someone else for them being overweight.
Yes, there are adds all over magazines about the latest diets and diet pills, but there is no such thing as a "magic pill" that you can eat whatever you want and still lose weight. I think they put the adds in the magazines to get people motivated to be smaller and healthier. Just my opinion, and I know people are going to say, "you're wrong and stupid" but hey, I'm not the one who is overweight and blaming other people for it.

JEN_2 said...

WOW idk allie thisis a tough one. But im fat and i dont really give a shit cuz peopleshould like for who you are not wt u look like.

Anonymous said...

Huh. Your healthy weight range for someone who is 5'4" seems to be a bit off. I'm 5'2.5", 128 lbs, at a very healthy weight (muscular, and a size 6).

Oh, and I'm 38. You want to know how to be healthy and still have a roll hanging over your underwear? It's called "have a baby in your 30's". Honey, there's nothing you can do to get rid of the loose skin, save getting surgery.

Anonymous said...

I will let you know that a size 14 is about a size 8-10 in the US.

Not exactly obese, honey.

Anonymous said...

And also that the Dove campaign's purpose is to display all sizes. They have women models who are anywhere from size 6 (size 0 to you in the US) and size 14.

And I'll also say that I think the worse problem is not models in the media, but clothing companies changing their sizing system so people feel like they are a lot smaller than they really are.

Jeni Treehugger said...

WOAH! Loved reading the comments as much as I loved reading your post.
I think you have a wonderful way of expressing yourself and you have a real talent for writing.
I'm happy I found your blog.

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