no one wants to see ‘curvy’ women?
“No one wants to see curvy women. You’ve got fat mothers with their bags of chips sitting in front of the television saying that thin models are ugly.”
– Karl Lagerfeld
German fashion designer dubbed King Karl stated this in response to German women’s magazine Brigitte’s decision in 2009 to use only real women rather than models, in protest against the prevalence of emaciated models and airbrushing. Every time I think of that arrogant, pretentious ponytailed dude I have to laugh. Guess what Karl, it’s not just ’round TV watching moms’ who think that the fashion industry and mainstream media perpetuate an ugly, unhealthy and unrealistic concept of beauty that is damaging to the emotional, physical and mental health of women and girls, there’s plenty of skinny women who think so too.
And they especially need to speak out against fatism, rather than perpetuate it. Many women sadly have internalized sexism and take their own insecurities out on others, projecting their fears and judging other women who are rounder than them or thinner than them. But does it matter what I look like when I speak out against this misogyny of fashion, against the extreme depictions of a very narrow definition of ‘beauty’? It seems to matter only in as much as there being so few women speaking out. Those that do get chastised and dismissed as angry fat moms by obnoxious women hating dudes like King Karl. If you’re ‘overweight’ then you better not say anything about models, because then people will accuse you of being bitter, self-hating, insecure and fat. And you’ll get more fatism from mags, ads, and TV telling you need to drop some pounds, diet, count calories, starve yourself, staple your stomach, lipo that shit, exercise obsessively. Shame on you, you let yourself go. Shame on you, you’re fat, you’re lazy, you eat potato chips. And if you’re skinny, you get reverse fatism, you must be anorexic, and aren’t you ashamed of yourself for not eating more (though some of us skinny ones are healthy and passionate about food).
Most celebs or fashionistas wouldn’t dare criticize King Karl and the industry for fear of the fashion police’s judgment. But I couldn’t give a hairy rat’s a** about what he’d think. He’s no king to me. I’m an eco fashionista who also happens to be a feminist. And I think it’s time that we made a concerted effort to do something about this bullshit shame game. As women we need to come together no matter what our size and speak out collectively against such misogyny, shame talk and judgment. We should not be made to feel ashamed because of our bodies, whether we’re a size 2 or a size 16, and we need to stop the negative fat talk in our own heads and learn to love our bodies and feel beautiful, and not judge other women for how much they weigh or what size they are, but rather evaluate whether they’re contributing to this culture of superficiality and fatism or working to empower and change it.
The average woman in the US is a size 14 and 5’4″ – this is AVERAGE, ie this is the norm. And plus sized women should not feel ostracized by having to go to a different section of the store, or buy from different brands. Though the fashion industry as a whole has made efforts to increase sizes and plus size lines, and use more plus size models, let’s face it, what they call plus size models are size 6 or 8, which is actually Small/Medium. How about we do away with normal and plus size distinctions and show more diversity in body shape and ethnicity? It is not encouraging obesity to say plus size is the norm, no, because guess what, you can be healthy at different sizes. Skinny does not equal healthy. Yes, extremes on both sides equal unhealthy. But only the extreme skinniness is what we are served up over and over in fashion and media.
The focus should not be on you have to lose weight so that you can look like a teenage boy with a bobble head and fit into some misogynist douchebag’s overpriced unsustainable clothes. And why would you be motivated to bother, if you still won’t be good enough, and they’ll photoshop your hips and thighs out. The focus should be on you should get healthy (if you want to) so you can be strong, feel great, and live a happy, long, balanced, healthy life full of energy, for yourself and your loved ones.
The women’s magazines in the US have not had the guts to do what Brigitte has done in Germany (and Marie Claire France did in one issue last year) and go photoshop free. It was a huge deal when Glamour ran ONE pic of unphotoshopped plus size model Lizzie Miller (naked pic on right). Great baby step, but how about MORE! They are still 99+% full of photoshopped ads and pics and articles promoting weight loss rather than health, and it seems to be getting worse not better.
Personally, I choose not to buy women’s mags because of this, and only browse them rarely at the mani/pedi place or a friend’s house. In fact the last time I bought a woman’s magazine was May 2010, the Marie Claire issue where Jessica Simpson allowed herself to be pictured without photoshop, and without makeup because I thought she kicked a** for doing that, that takes guts, and most celebs are so insecure that they wouldn’t dare do that. But who knows if she had botox or plastic surgery? How would we ever know the truth when there’s so many layers of distortion? At least it was an effort, a step in the right direction. If only more ‘role models’ could have the confidence to speak out like that, and insist on every shoot to be photoshop free. If only Marie Claire had the balls to go totally photoshop free or at least label every ad/pic as airbrushed. I’d subscribe.
As primary consumers we women have POWER to be conscientious consumers, to vote with our money, to not to buy from companies and designers that airbrush already skinny models into aliens (see first pic above), pollute nature with toxic chemicals, allow workers to be treated like slaves and inflict horrendous cruelty to animals.
Instead we could start supporting sustainable eco fashion designers who are trying to save the environment, pay workers fair wages and source eco friendly fabrics. Nobody is perfect, but we can at least take a step in the right direction. Maybe we swap out only 10% of our wardrobe with second hand or clothes from sustainable labels- that alone would cause a revolution in the fashion industry.
I’m very frustrated that eco fashion is still a nascent industry in the US and there is so little awareness about the hideous human, environmental and social cost to producing conventional clothing.
Let me end this post with some more wisdom from King Karl: “In a meat-eating world… the discussion of fur is childish.” (In the north, hunters) make a living having learned nothing else than hunting, killing those beasts who would kill us if they could kill us.”
You’re right Karl, I too am scared of bunnies, mink, chinchillas and other such fluffy killer beasts- that’s why we should kill them by anally electrocuting them for fur. Right?
This is a great post. Media, and especially print media, plays a huge role in molding what not only adult women, but teenagers and even young girls believe to be what they are supposed to look like. We need to stop perpetuating these fairy tales and teach our children and sisters that their true beauty comes from within.
Shame on you, Karl Lagerfeld. You are the king of Never, Never Land!
I give this a hearty amen! I like how you pointed out the sexism inherent in statements like the one Karl made and the way internalized sexism works. Another way I see this playing out is that sexism turns women against other women; it makes us “compete” for male attention and/or access to power. This is where all the “cat-fight” tropes come from; it’s not that this is inherent to women biologically or some BS like that but rather that our patriarchal society sets it up as foundational for people who have limited access to power via other routes. What I prefer, and what you discuss here, is solidarity. Women (and our allies of other genders) can come together and declare just what you’re sharing here–that we celebrate, love and want to see people of all shapes and sizes.
Thanks for this!
Thanks for the supportive comments ladies! It’s so true that this latent sexism drives women to compete and judge each other. And totally don’t agree with the biological explanation either, I think most of it is social conditioning. Why else are curvier women praised and admired in other societies and throughout most of history? Bottom line is if we judge, it should be the inside, the kindness, compassion & love a person brings to the world- traits usually associated with femininity and dismissed as weakness…
I just joined and read this post. Thank you! It is sad that not only are we bombarded with this stuff, we start to believe it. A very pretty form of brainwashing and I’m definitely mesmerized. As a health coach, (and future yoga teacher!) my only hope when I work with clients is that they start to understand and listen to their own body and what it wants. We are all the same but mostly different, and no one diet or size works for everyone. Though this is true, we are moving at a rapid rate as an unhealthy society, and so regular sizes have moved in an upward direction in the department stores, while the models move downward in their size (then they get photoshopped anyway, as we know!. That, IMHO, is a huge red flag! None of us can measure up to that, for sure, and we get unhealthier by the minute by not enough food or too much. I’ve been there done that, and so happy to be on the road out, and hoping to take people with me.
*Btw, remember us petites and the tall ladies too! I’d love to buy more eco-friendly clothing, but they are huge on my small frame!