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Can Models be “Body Positive”?

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The reality of the situation is the image models present to us is an unattainable ideal. As a person of the public it is unrealistic to believe that we can achieve the tiny frame and beautiful faces of women in the fashion industry. Through the history of fashion and art the ideal body has fluctuated in size from the curvaceous naked bodies of the Pre-Raphaelite period to the American size zero bodies that we see on today’s runways. This variation in the female ideal creates uncertainty in women’s perception of what is beautiful. We continually hear people telling each other what body is acceptable to be a women in the 21st Century. As the Fashion industry presents us with a body image that fewer than 3% of females can naturally achieve we are also presented with the polar extreme in plus size models such as Tess Halliday. In my opinion on either side of the spectrum we are presented with unhealthy and unachievable body ideals. A size zero model seems to promote malnourishment and a size twenty two model appears to advertise overeating.

These extremes are not healthy and they are not desirable. Modern day’s excessive preoccupation with the ‘right’ look has created more confusion than clarity. This is not helped by the increased use of Photoshop as people are airbrushed into impossible body shapes. The way in which the consumer responds to these images depends completely on the individual and their attitude towards themselves. When asking a group of girls their opinion on whether they are affected by models I was surprised by the overall response. All of them agreed that they consider the face and hair more desirable than focusing on a model’s body. It was also suggested that they don’t really compare themselves to models as there seems to be more of an awareness of the extents in which airbrushing can alter the appearance. One suggested that she preferred the body image promoted by underwear models such as Victoria’s Secret as they appear healthy and toned rather than bony. There was also a unanimous agreement that both designer and high street stores should use more models in sizes 8-12 as this shows a more realistic representation of the every-day woman.

Realistically we cannot expect the Fashion Industry to change over-night and we as consumers need to remember that models are only human and have insecurities like anyone else.

 

Against

The modeling industry has been heavily criticized over the last 10 years for promoting unrealistic body expectations. Modeling agencies are continuously accused of pressuring models to lose weight or to look a certain way. What may appear as a glorious route to beauty and fame, and supposedly a ‘simple’ route, has in fact a darker side.

An important aspect of modeling that is not emphasized enough, is how agencies control a model’s body and the way it looks. In extreme scenarios, a model’s body is essentially owned by an agency. The shape of your eyebrows, the width between your hips; these simple things are all in control of an agency and how it determines you to look for a brand. We are very familiar with how models are photoshopped in photographs to look a certain way, but we do not consider how the models in everyday life have to adapt and change their lifestyles to fit with agencies standards.

Models cannot be body positive, as they are part of an industry where their bodies are owned by agencies. Body positivity is defined by how you learn to accept and love your body the way it is. Your own personal values are part of body positivity and it is having the choice to change and own your body to these values, whether it is to be a heavy weight lifter or an accountant.

The extent to which agencies own model’s bodies is still unclear, however it can definitely be said that agencies do have some impact upon the model’s lives. It is difficult to admire models as ‘body positive role models’, when at some point, they have most likely had their personal looks determined by an agency. It is important to emphasis that this is not a personal attack upon models themselves, but rather is a critique of modeling agencies in general.

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Eleanor Hirst

Fashion Editor 2014/15

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