Culture Shock on the Catwalk
In Australia, there has recently been uproar yet again about the size of the models on the catwalk. Sporting what have been described as ‘Paris thin’ bodies, waif-like figures with protruding hipbones illustrate the “clothes hanger” physique as they strut down the runway. While it’s impossible to determine whether these bodies are “healthy” based on appearances alone, the most troubling thing seems to be the industry’s continued insistence of using only these bodies.
We know this, and the continued shock about the ever-shrinking size of catwalk models is completely understandable and necessary. However, it is super important to direct the criticism correctly and make arguments appropriately. Directing the criticism towards the models themselves (and their respective bodies) is not helpful. Making arguments about how it looks unattractive, unappealing and even ‘disgusting’ is not useful. This only adds to the idea that women’s bodies only serve their purpose when they are deemed attractive. Criticising and pulling apart women’s bodies simply does not create a culture for healthy body image.
The oft-used argument that men do not find skinny women attractive certainly needs to be retired. It again allows the value of women’s bodies to be based upon their ability to be appealing. Additionally, naturally slender women take this criticism to heart – and rightfully so. The logic seems to be if you aren’t curvy, you aren’t sexy and therefore aren’t womanly. However, don’t be too curvy or you’re fat (and all the stereotypes that accompany that word). This is simply incorrect, but it is a myth constantly reinforced by media commentators.
So let’s phrase our arguments differently; let’s talk about health and about the real dangers of eating disorders. Portia de Rossi has a brilliant section in her book, The Unbearable Lightness, that juxtaposes photographs of herself at her thinnest with the concerns her doctors had for her health. This forms a true picture of the risks of extreme dieting and other unhealthy behaviours.
Certainly, a culture that worships a figure that requires unhealthy and damaging habits to maintain needs to be criticised and interrogated. This culture is created by industries, and industries are supported by the consumers; so it’s us, the audience, that has the power to change this culture, because we created it. Changing this culture means turning it into one of celebration. Celebrating the diverse healthy figures that women can embody, celebrating feminine beauty in all its forms, which means the slender and the curvy, the so-called ‘boyish’ and the voluptuous. All these body types can be sexy and womanly and beautiful.
It’s important first and foremost to be healthy and happy, whatever shape or form that comes in. Let’s create a culture that reflects that.
Bio: Kimberley Veart is an English and History graduate from Perth, Australia currently working on a History dissertation. So when she isn’t buried under books in the library she can be found at rooftop bars or in cafes compiling her open notebook project, Fractured Reverie.