The Weight Debate: Why the world is going crazy


Leafing through the magazine I glance at the latest YSL campaign, a thin model is looking back at me from the pages. Her loose-fitting clothes give her an almost childlike appearance while her cheek bones appear to be the only things giving her face shape. Underneath the image of this model is a picture of YSL’s elle perfume, a purple and gold rectangular bottle oozing femininity and glamour.

I love fashion, or to add to my dramatic tendencies, I devour it. I read through Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar as though my life depends on it, I soak up all of the lastest season’s runway looks and keep a close eye on predicitions for next season’s looks. I glance admiringly at the clothes, I marvel at the beauty tips which I think are genius at the time of reading but am just too lazy to bother doing. I judge Kate Moss and Alexa Chung’s outfits as though I know what I’m talking about and I try to think of ways to transfer these styles into my own look.

Topshop model

I’m a fashion lover, and I’m not afraid to admit it. One of the most well-known and supposedly desirable jobs in the fashion industry is modelling, but it is also the most contentious. For years the size zero debate has raged on, a furore which has given the Daily Mail many chances to complain about the fashion industry yet use headlines like “Good job she’s a size zero” too. Recently pictures of models have been used on the Topshop website who have skeletal and gaunt appearances, it’s caused outrage among eating disorder groups who appear to believe that such images can cause and promote eating disorders.

Here’s some home truths: fashion is an industry, models are an integral (but ultimately replaceable) part of that industry. Models aren’t meant to be a reflection of people you see everyday walking down the street, the majority of models tend to be very tall, striking and, well, awkward. In essence they’re just clothes horses for the designers who want their clothing collections to look high fashion and desirable.

An acceptable image?

The notion that images of models alone can cause people to develop eating disorders irritates me. Can people not be trusted to make their own decisions and not be so easily influenced by the unrealistic appearance of an airbrushed model? Could it be that this is just another attempt by the Nanny State to tell us how things should and shouldn’t be? Because the only message that I’m getting from this furore is that us, the public, can’t be trusted to make our own decisions.

There’s more to an eating disorder than merely looking at a picture of Lily Cole and suddenly deciding you’ll stop eating. In most cases there’s underlying issues, such as low self-esteem. The question that really needs to be asked is why do so many young people suffer from eating disorders, why are they so uncomfortable with who they are that they feel the need to drastically and dangerously change themselves. I get the distinct impression that models are just being used as a scape goat. While there’s a chance they may influence people I find it hard to believe that they alone should be blamed for eating disorders.

Wrestlers and body builders don’t receive as much criticism as models, when arguably they should also receive the same amount of criticism. Don’t they too promote an unrealistic body image? But wrestlers and body builders work in a specific industry, it’s expected that they have a particular appearance. Most people can accept that if someone sees a picture of Hulk Hogan they’re unlikely to drink their body weight in protein shakes, but clearly few of us possess the ability to stop ourselves if we see a picture of a waif-like model. People don’t hunt down Johnny Vegas and Phill Jupitus and accuse them of promoting obesity, but for some reason it’s perfectly acceptable to target models.

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