Curvy. Voluptuous. What a real woman looks like. Meat on the bones.
Can we please stop it? My ire has been fully stoked after flipping through a copy of W magazine that my sister left at my parents’ house. Well, to be honest, my ire is always stoked after reading those kinds of publications. This one, however, really got me going. The W issue was for this month and the cover girl is a Dutch model named Lara Stone. The headline blazes “Fashion’s It Girl: Why she is the most-wanted face — and body — in the business.” Meanwhile, the table of contents has a blurb touting Stone’s “untraditional look” and her profile promises to discuss the fact that she has “curves galore.” Her untraditional look apparently just means that she doesn’t look on the verge of emaciation.
While I am occasionally reluctant to wade into the debate over how thin is “too thin” based on my longtime (and ongoing) struggles with anorexia and the knowledge that an eating disorder cannot be boiled down to a number on a scale, I don’t think I’m stretching the truth if I say that the models who appear in magazines such as W can be frighteningly thin. Sometimes I cringe as the photos conjure up memories of what it is like to torture yourself in the name of meeting an impossible ideal, as I have to imagine many of these models do. I am also reluctant to hold Stone up as a model fashion model because of whatever her dress size may be; again, it’s about the pitfalls of defining women solely through numbers.
To quote from the Letter From the Editor (Julie L. Belcove):
With all the fuss in recent years over the prevalence of supremely skinny, seemingly underfed models — “Let’s give them healthy snacks!” “Set weight limits!” “Make bigger clothes!” — it’s a wonder to see who actually rises to the top. Lara Stone, a Dutch 25-year-old with a little meat on her bones . . . is the model whom designers, photographers, and stylists are clamoring to work with, and she graces W‘s cover this month.
Here’s the thing: even if Stone has “curves galore” and packs “meat on her bones,” making that into a huge deal will not get around the problem of treating a woman as the sum of her body parts. And that may be par for the course in the fashion industry, but they clearly want a pass when it comes to Stone. Tough luck.
What does Stone look like, by the way? Well, she doesn’t look “untraditional.” She’s white, blonde, thin, and tall. If that’s untraditional, then what the hell is traditional? I guess traditional models look like the extraordinarily thin ones who graced Prada’s runway last summer, who I only remember because just seeing the pictures on Jezebel was enough to trigger me into a symptom-filled weekend. Throwing Stone onto a runway is not going to change industry standards, and this fawning over her in W comes across as duplicitous. Pilgrim Soul has already written about the problematic nature of modeling, and I have to agree. Those who hold Stone up as a gesture of appeasement by obsessing over her curves rather than another model’s visible ribcage — “Look! A ‘curvy’ woman! Now leave us alone and don’t make us give up our super-skinny models!” — are not working toward a solution, but merely compounding the problem.