Friday 23rd September 2011by Casey King
It’s like butter and margarine. We’re always arguing over who’s to blame? While the research flip-flops faster than John Kerry, we’re still looking for the culprit in the link between eating disorders and the fashion industry. Or if the industry even has its fingers in this. A few years ago the Council of Fashion Designers of America released a Health Initiative addressing their concern for unhealthy models within fashion. The initiative goes on to say, “we [the designers] cannot fully assume responsibility for an issue that is as complex as eating disorders and that occurs in many walks of life, the fashion industry can begin a campaign of awareness and create an atmosphere that supports the well-being of these young women.” (Ahem…what about men, as well?)
Hm…so the CFDA has crossed out their name on the list of suspects? Fair enough. They are taking a formal stance against eating disorders, while recognizing how impactful the fashion industry is among young girls. The models have to come from somewhere though, right? Modeling starts at the agency. The initial filter of eyes that decide who stays, and what type of work they’ll receive. Sun TV producer Miranda Frum knows exactly how daunting that experience can be. In her online forum, she tells the story of her first Wilhelmina Models Agency meeting. After a while of anticipation, Miranda was told, “You’re quite pretty, have you ever considered plus size modeling?” Now to some this is flattering, but when you’re already extra skinny, this can be shocking. She goes on to express her aghast toward the situation. As well as stress the message that agencies are sending to already slender women. So is it modeling agencies that are encouraging eating disorders, and then sending these models out to be put on billboards and in magazines for all the impressionable to see? Well, when images like this are being portrayed as “fashion,” it’s difficult to think otherwise….
No. There hasn’t been any bulletproof research conclusions that can specifically point the finger in one direction. Yet, I think it’s safe to say that the fashion industry has some responsibility in this issue. Especially with their militant expectations placed on “straight models,” and an imposition of physical uniformity on the runway. One that seems to be fueled by a “size zero obsession.”
Although, I did recently read a BBC article with accounts from a local hospital about this issue. Its title starts off with, Models ‘not to blame’ for eating disorders in children. A specialist explains that children as young as 5 years old have been admitted to the hospital for some sort of disordered eating habits. Dr Rachel Bryant-Waugh explains, “Models and other society influences are, in our experience, rarely a contributory factor to the development of eating and weight difficulties in young children.” Then the article continues with a few statistics and influential statements. Given all the expertise, isn’t it odd that not once is an assumption to the cause of this eating disorder phenomenon ever offered up. ::cough. cough. pay off::
That’s a pretty bold statement, Dr Rachel Bryant-Waugh. Especially, when you offer no facts as a foundation to your circumstantial statements.
So what is it then? Fashion designers have jumped ship, doctors are claiming it’s not the models or societal contribution. Where do we go from here?
The Huffington Post article “Fashion And Eating Disorders: How Much Responsibility Does Industry Have?” reports on research done in Fiji where the emergence of television and other media has caused an increase in eating disorders. Drawing a parallel between said evidence and the United States’ media saturated society.
“With Fashion Week, and all of those thin models, and clothing that looks best on a size zero — what that does is set a standard of what is socially desirable and prestigious that is likely to have a powerful influence on social norms,” she said. “If one day we had a Fashion Week where there were size 16 models, I suspect that would be very influential, too.”
After digesting many views concerning the connection between the fashion industry and eating disorders, it seems that the hard facts have yet to be uncovered. If there even are any hard facts to warrant blame. To me, it seems that this is a social responsibility that we have all been lacking to improve. From the parents that produce bullies on the playground to the higher powers that control the media flow. This is one of those issue that requires agreement, and then action. If we can stop placing blame in order to separate ourselves from the dirty truth, we have a chance to help the women that are constantly suffering body hatred.
I’d like to offer up my favorite non-profit organization that is doing exactly that. Please check out About Face. As well as Plus Size Steals, where we promote size acceptance by spotlighting our favorite plus size clothing companies.
Tags: about face, anorexia, BBC, BBC UK, bulimia, CFDA, Dr Rachel Bryant-Waugh, eating disorders, fashion, fashion industry, fashion week, frum forum, huffington post, miranda frum, plus size, plus size clothing, plus size models, sun tv, wilhelmina models