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Modeling and Its Effects on A Woman’s Health Modeling is when a person is used as a visual aid to advertise or promote goods or services. Modeling took on this definition around the 1850s when the camera was invented because mannequins were being replaced by people (“A Quick History of Fashion Modeling.
It was only considered to be a hobby rather than a career until the 1940s when real agencies started, and the industry flourished (“A Quick History of Fashion Modeling.”). The 1960s is when the stereotypical model look and figure began. Twiggy, a successful model of that time, was said to have given influence because of her petite size, big eyes, and blonde pixie haircut (“Supermodel Status..”). Despite the fashion industry’s insistence that models should fit clothing and become unnoticed so clothing can shine, women who look up to them as the standard woman, and the models themselves, face serious physical and mental health risks.
There seem to be two main ideas the fashion industry follows when it comes to their models and looks.
One being that “models are made to fit clothes; clothes are not made to fit models” (“Two Shocking Dehumanizing..”). This is inaccurate because clothes come in a variety of sizes.
Granted, some brands do only appeal to smaller women because their sizes stop at a certain point and are overall smaller fitting than most brands, such as Victoria’s Secret, but most women do not meet the standard requirements of a model! This industry saying means that clothes are shaped so that it may hang the best way it can in a store to appeal to the consumer, regardless of the size it requires one to be to look best.
When brands are showing their garments off to retailers, they are generally displayed in sizes 0-2 (“Two Shocking Dehumanizing..”). Once again, most women do not fall under this category! Foe example, the average body mass globally is 136 pounds (Quilty-Harper). Depending on how tall a woman is, they may be able to fit the size 0-2 range, but more than likely won’t since women tend to be on the shorter side. For women in America; however, the average weight is 140 pounds, and the average height is 5”4”, which means the average size are sizes 12-14 (“Body Image”). The difference between sizes 0-2 and 12-14 is a significant one, and the modeling industry needs to take notice. Models are very misleading examples of what women should look like.
Modeling longer articles of clothing such as dresses and skirts are said “look best” on tall and thin models by the industry (“Two Shocking Dehumanizing..”). “Models are often called hangers for this precise reason” since their purpose is to mimic what the clothing will look like displayed on a hanger in a store- straight with no curves (“Two Shocking Dehumanizing..”). One can tell very easily that smaller sizes are shown off more in retail than larger sizes. Sizes are usually in order from the smallest size to the biggest, and mannequins are usually just as tiny as models are. Mannequins, like models, tend to not display any diversity or average sizes.
Another concept used in the industry is that “models disappear so clothing can shine” (“Two Shocking Dehumanizing..”). Models are often chosen for looks as well as their figure, but the thought process of some modeling employers is to choose girls who may not be considered a “wow factor.” This is so that the clothing may out compete the model with looks. If the model is too stunning, then the clothing has competition to live up to. How shocking it is to think that what someone wears and their body size are the only things that determine how beautiful they are.
Today, the average dimensions of a female model are smaller than those of Twiggy’s time. The average height is 5’9”-6′, bust is 32″-36″, waist is 22″-26″, and hips are 33″-35”.
There are exceptions to these set numbers depending on what kind of product or agency you are modeling for (Taylor). The proportions seem very unrealistic unless you are actively working out every day, not eating enough, or not eating the proper nutrition required. In fact, this is one of the major arguments that has been broadcasted the past few years. The public always want to encourage healthy eating and bodies, but small, model-sized figures are not always truly healthier. As long as a someone who is considered overweight is metabolically fit, they are just as healthy as someone who is considered average and fit (“Can You Be Fat..”). Studies have proven that “those who were fat but fit had no higher death risk than metabolically healthy normal weight participants” (“Can You Be Fat..”). Thin figures are still preferably required in the modeling industry even if both body types are considered healthy. There are many possible explanations, but it all comes down to what people think looks best and healthiest, which is being thin.
Bodies of the women of society are physically at risk. Many eating disorders have developed due to the modeling industry and can cause detrimental effects to the human body, some even resulting in death. The pressure to be thin is no secret. A study conducted to distinguish the pressure differences between men and women “showed that women’s magazines contained 10.5 times as many diet promotions as men’s magazines” (Spettigue and Henderson). Women are the specific targets of the fashion industry! Women who are critically harsh on themselves for not having the thin figure of a model have a direct association with eating disorders (Angela Michelle Perrier). There are many health issues that occur because of eating disorders. When the body does not receive proper nutrition, bone growth is stunted. Osteoporosis is the result of bone growth being stunted which causes life-long complications (Wack, Treasure.
and Roberts). Anorexia, a severe eating disorder, has damaging effects on the brain (Wack, Treasure, and Roberts). The brain can shrink in a person with this disorder, and it is possible that it will not go back to normal (Wack, Treasure and Roberts). Menstruation cycles and fertility can stop because of the lack of leptin, the hormone that tells the body it is full from eating, from the body’s weight decreasing (Wack, Treasure and Roberts). The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders found that about twenty-four million people of all ages and gender suffer from an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating from media influence in just the United States (Gonzalez)! A person’s career should not be causing these dangerous and life-threatening issues! These are not illnesses that should be taken lightly. Eating is essential to the body, and the facts prove how detrimental not having proper nutrition can be. It is alarming that the industry does not acknowledge the consequences of their actions and standards more. There is a fine line between being a healthy thin and an illness thin.
The mental effects modeling causes on the women of society are just as sad and harsh as the physical ones. The glorified body figures of models can cause self esteem problems. From there, depression, criticism, bullying, and judging others based on looks form (Wack, Treasure and Roberts). “Self esteem, body image, and psychological well-being of average women are thought to be jeopardized with repeated exposure to unattainably thin models in advertisements” (Perrier). This creates a vicious, competitive cycle for women striving to meet the modeling industry’s definition of beautiful, or even sadder, the definition of a woman. Not only is the pressure to be beautiful high, but so is the price that comes with it. Americans spend an average of $7 billion on cosmetics each year (Ann Marie Britton). There has been a 500% increase in the last ten years with the amount of surgeries performed to “enhance” beauty (Ann Marie Britton)! Now that technology has advanced so much, this could have a major impact on the amount of influence, negative and positive, women receive. It is easier now more than ever to follow what models and celebrities do and look like each day through social media. Seeing how glamorized these famous people look every day and what they do could cause others, specifically the women looking up to them, to strive and take any means possible of being more like them hence the increase in cosmetic surgeries and self esteem issues.
Models’ physical health can be, and usually is, even worse than the women they influence. The lifestyle of a model is one that involves little sleep and eating and constant travel (Hattam). These are two essentials for a human to function correctly yet they are being extremely compromised. Models are not measured by their weight, rather it is inches. Being told to lose two inches seems like a small number, but this could be equivalent to losing fifteen pounds (Hattam)! Losing that amount of weight in, more than likely, a short amount of time adds stress to the human body, especially if it is something that a model needs to continuously do. The hidden facts of eating disorders are scary. Models will starve for days at a time and may even eat tissue paper so they will feel full (Gonzalez). Tissue paper has no nutritional value so it is the same as not eating anything. Models should not have to resort to this in order to be accepted by the industry. Drugs have also been used to distract the feeling of being hungry and starving. A study done in 2012 by an advocacy group called Model Alliance found that 76.5% of models said that drugs and alcohol were exposed to them on the job (Holt). In a normal job setting, drugs and alcohol are extremely frowned upon. Why should it be acceptable for models to use them to hide the struggles they are facing by not eating and being sleep deprived? Surely these substances are only making matters worse.
Models themselves face mental battles and issues. Models are unsatisfied with themselves even though women look up to their image. A study done by psychologists at City University in London compared models’ mental health with that of an average woman, and it found that models mental health and satisfaction with life is worse (Laurance). “In the past decade, at least 20 models have committed suicide” (Hattam). Twenty may seem like a small number, but that is only the deaths that have been recorded and accounted for, more than likely because they were well-known. Take into consideration that this number is only for those who willingly decided to end their life- not those who end up passing because of physical health. The advocacy group, Model Alliance, found that “68.3% of models admit to suffering from depression or anxiety” (Hattam). That is a significant number considering how large-scale the fashion industry is all over the world. More than half the models people see each day are suffering mentally. The looks models give off can easily hide their mental illnesses causing the public to see false happiness.
Steps to fix the issues models and women face from the modeling industry have been initiated and broadcasted to the public often recently. Body image is a rapidly growing concern to the public and those in the industry. The British Fashion Council made a striking move to influence other countries and the industry. Starting in September of 2008, models became required to be screened for eating disorders and prove they are not dealing with illnesses such as anorexia by having a medical certificate (Radford). Although this may seem beneficial, it can be considered discrimination because of illness in places like America (Radford). France also made an influential move in 2015 by passing legislation that prohibits underweight models, and photos that are edited to fix the model’s body size must say “retouched photograph” (Zarya). Fines for breaking this legislation can be up to $80,000 (Zarya)! Other countries like “Israel, Italy, and Spain have all adopted measures that prevent extremely thin models from walking the runways” (Zarya). The United States was influenced by France and is looking into establishing similar legislation (Derla). It is great to see so many countries wanting to take a stand, but the industry itself needs to make their move. Legislation can be disregarded by them so who knows what percentage of the industry in these countries actually follows it. Some companies; however, are starting to change from thin models to models of all sizes and looks in their advertisements, such as American Eagle, Dove, H&M, and Vogue. The more the issues of the industry are made known, the more people will push for change. Acceptance of the body one is in has become highly advocated thanks to companies participating in the movement. Major changes for women and the industry are happening and hopefully will continue to grow.
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