Let's talk about skinny people.

Not too long ago, a fashion blog I follow posted a photoshoot starring the usual skin&bones models. It was further emphasized by "artistic" nudity, wherein you could see every single rib. (Below the jump, for work-safe purposes)

Now, this is nothing new - models are held to a completely different standard than the rest of the female population in 2011. There once was a time when runway and fashion models were the beauty standard. There was a time where teenage girls were obsessed with "supermodels" and tried to imitate these icons of perfection and impeccable fashion. That time has long since passed. Instead, we now look to the still-skinny-but-less-bony and most-likely-severely-photoshopped celebrities and pornography models to standardize "beauty" for us. There's been a lot of (rather late to the party) rhetoric to the effect that men prefer curves than stick-like women; that men find curves sexy - as long as they are feminine curves on an extremely fit body, that is.

Uh huh. Thanks guys, without you I wouldn't know what to consider beautiful and sexy, and therefore I wouldn't know what I need to change about myself before you'll find my presence acceptable. At least you don't want to see my ribcage any more. I guess ribcages aren't sexy.

Anyway, I posted a comment on that photoshoot to the effect that I was disturbed by the clearly underweight models, and that perhaps, as fashion consumers, we should rethink out support of unhealthy body images. The community on that blog is quite polite and inoffensive, so it was followed with a few comments to the effect of "I'm sure they're fine". Excerpt:

Photographer Leia:
Oh wow. These are stunning. Yes the models appear to be quite underweight, but I do actually know people who eat their weight in food but manage to look much the same. Just thought I’d throw that out there.

Ellen Darker:
And I think the models are great, I have the same body type (which is DEFINATELY not from under eating) and I’m sick of the media/society demonizing skinny people, yet they don’t say anything about overweight people because they don’t want to offend. It’s silly. Also, keep in mind that most fashion models are very tall so they naturally have thin frames.

I'm going to address the more obvious one first, namely, the hilarity of
I’m sick of the media/society demonizing skinny people, yet they don’t say anything about overweight people because they don’t want to offend.
I don't know what society Ellen lives in, but it's definitely not mine. We're talking about a society that is waging a war against fat - crazy diets, making trans fats straight-up illegal, banning happy meals because it makes children fat, re-hauling cafeteria food in schools for the same reason... where it makes tabloid headlines when a celebrity gains five pounds. A few people tut-tutting over skinny models, and very legitimate concern over the mental and physical health of people who have bodies like that is not nearly on par with the schizophrenic relationship our current society has with fat.

Moving on...

He turns to the side and vanishes...

While I don't personally have a small frame, my dear boyfriend T does. We've been struggling with his weight for a long time. The most he has ever weighed was 110 pounds, and he's 5'7". In first year university, he was 95 pounds. He only broke the 100lb mark in his second year of university. Last summer he had corrective jaw surgery, where his mouth was going to be wired shut for a month. We tried so hard to get him to gain weight - successfully. He put on ten pounds in time for the surgery, and promptly lost fifteen pounds in the three weeks following. Several months later, he is back to what seems to be his stable weight of 100 pounds.

He does have a small frame - his shoulders and ribcage are narrow, his wrists are tiny. He also eats very little. If he eats a "normal" sized meal, be becomes too full and feels sick. Due to being easily distracted, he also doesn't eat very often. We've discovered that he doesn't seem to get an endorphin rush from eating - he eats because it tastes good and prevents hunger, not because it feels good to eat. He accidentally keeps himself on a very strict, low-calorie diet.

So, I do know someone who stays skinny regardless of what he eats (quality-wise, not quantity-wise). But that doesn't make me any more disturbed when I notice very skinny models. (It's most noticeable when you can see their rib cages, but their arms are also a good giveaway.) The reason it still concerns me is that the modelling world has a disproportionate percentage of underweight or skinny individuals. I only know one person in real life who is "naturally" that thin - out of the thousands of people I've encountered. And yet, here is an industry with a high concentration of them - why? Clearly, it's glorified or desired in the fashion industry. That is the thing that should change. How likely do you think it is that every single model is just like T? Genetically has a tiny frame, eats small portions because that satisfies his hunger? And how likely do you think it is that many of these girls have eating disorders, and body image issues? Hmmmm...

Anyway, I am probably more able to speak to the existence, and life, of "naturally" skinny people. Frankly, I worry about T. The few times he's been sick enough to not eat, he dropped weight he can't afford to lose. He's very frail, he gets cold very easily, and I worry about other health implications. Yes, he's "naturally" skinny in that he doesn't consciously diet or binge, but that doesn't make it any more healthy.

5 things about

  1. Wow your boyfriend has almost exactly the same body as I do! The only difference is I'm 5'11" (or thereabouts) and I'm starting to grow a bit of a belly lol, but that's the only place you'll find fat on my body.

  2. It's interesting, eh? Most people assume guys are all 200 pounds and built of muscle... haha, definitely not. I know more waifs than tanks.

    Finding clothes that fit him is really difficult, though.

  3. My friend Zack is about six feet tall, and he looks like he weighs under 100lbs, but he actually weighs more than I do (115lbs). Sometimes people just look like they weigh little, but they can weigh more.

    My friend Nhan is probably as thin as I am, but weighs 160lbs. You wouldn't ever think it. Just depends on the person, really.

    I, like everyone else apparently, know a few people who eat enormous amounts and gain nothing. So really, I don't think you can judge a model correctly.

    Some of them are rail thin, and there are plus sized models out there, but I do agree with Ellen, people don't want to offend anyone who's "bigger." I've seen some fat people who say they're just "curvy" when no, they're just overweight.

    I've asked a lot of my guy friends about it, and they DO say that "curvy" is more attractive than stick thing girls. They're afraid that they'll break them. The guys said that appearance wise, they like girls with some meat on them. I've never heard them say the girls had to be extremely fit. Ever.

    HOWEVER, there is a difference in thinking someone is attractive and liking them. Just because a guy says that he thinks one thing is more attractive than another thing, doesn't mean he won't like what you have. If he's not a douche, he'll like you for you, even if you don't look like the super hot porn star or celebrity he used to fap to. With me, there's a few guys I think are highly more attractive than my boyfriend, but I wouldn't want him any different.

    So really, I don't care if a model is super skinny or plus size. There's both types, so what's there to complain about? Where do they say, "this chick here, who's probably about 100lbs and six feet tall is what beautiful is. You're not beautiful unless you look like her. You should look like her, because it's what guys want." Where has it EVER said that? All models do is wear clothing from a fashion designer who wants to show it off. They're wearing and walking forms of art, but never did I see the media say that what they are is pretty and what you are isn't. The only time I've seen them say thin is prettier is around the 1900's and before, but everyone knows that back then, everything was ridiculous.

    Plus, those pictures are highly edited. The effects they used to make the colors so jagged also deepens the dark colors, so her ribs are probably not bad as it looks. Here's an example of that (I'm on the left) http://i54.tinypic.com/k03mz8.jpg I'm pretty sure most people on here have seen me, and we all know my cheek bones and eyebrow bones aren't as put out as in that picture. It's just the effect. As much as we'd like to defend it, those pictures are still highly photoshopped. In this case, it looks a lot more for the sake of the art than to make them look rail thin.

  4. I find it interesting that you've found an example of someone who stays thin regardless of what they eat. The rest of society should notice that you can stay overweight regardless of what you eat too; this is really the difference between being thin and being healthy.

  5. Very true Ash. Though I know what he eats and it doesn't follow under the usual "I can eat a whole pizza and stay skinny" claim. I guess I'm just wary of people who say "I have a friend who..." because they really don't know how healthy that friend actually is - only how much they eat on a few occasions. For example, T usually only eats one or two small meals a day. It's no mystery as to why he's only 100 pounds; but it is also true that he has a small frame and were he to eat properly he'd still be small.

    I think you're absolutely correct that there are perfectly healthy people who are called "overweight," but that it's not a danger to themselves and it just a result of their genetics.


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