Starving women, American chic style

Barely have the baubles of the Oscars faded into Hollywood history, when the bleak news of the real world comes flooding back in.

School shooting in a high school cafeteria in Ohio.

Keystone XL pipeline permit back on the table.

Rick Santorum is arguing against the separation of church and state, and thumbing his nose at the idea that young people should go to college.

And in case you haven’t noticed, the snowdrops are blooming now in New England–about a month ahead of schedule.

But you know what I found most truly disturbing in my cursory glance at the NY Times homepage today?

The prominent Giorgio Armani ad campaign, depicting two different women, each one more pitifully emaciated than the other.

Look at those protruding collar bones!  The jutting cheek and jawbones!  The stick-thin arms and legs!

If this young woman was in Darfur or Ethiopia, we’d be wondering, with compassion, when she last had a meal.

But because she’s a highly paid model, we relax that compassionate muscle and not only don’t worry about her, but actively admire her beauty.

What kind of beauty standard is it when a young woman has to be literally wasting away to make the grade of approbation?

It would be one thing if the male models were similarly emaciated.

But no.  Look at the male Armani models and you find something else entirely.

These guys are solid, well-muscled, athletic hunks.  Nothing underfed or waiflike about them.

In fact, they’re star athletes!  That’s David Beckham on the left, and a couple of tennis stars below.

The point is that attractive men are strong, athletic and powerful, while attractive women are starvation-thin, and even if they’ve got some attitude, their jutting collarbones give them away.

You know they go and gag themselves to throw up their breakfasts every day.

When they eat breakfast, that is.

Meanwhile, Giorgio Armani himself looks quite hale and hearty.

Does he have a clue of the kinds of destructive stereotypes he is reinforcing by presenting his models the way he does?

There is nothing beautiful about skin and bones. Ask any concentration camp or famine victim.

It would be one thing if our society projected its thin beauty fetish equally on both men and women.

By presenting women as vanishingly thin, weak, waiflike creatures, while men are robust and muscular, the fashion industry sends an unmistakeable message: beautiful women are weak, admirable men are strong.

Don’t like it?  Who cares, you’re ugly anyway!

Well, Mr. Bones and Sixpacks Armani, since when are you the arbiter of beauty and strength on this planet?  I’ll take a strong woman over a waif any day, and I hope those hunky athletes would do the same.

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  1. Ugh. That six pack thing is weird. It’s another invention about how humans look, that’s been appropriated, marketed and made mandatory. Eeew- all that working out at a gym and prescribed diets/exercise/ supplements/hormones. All that relinquishing of real life to adhere to the all important exercise regime. All that body grease and pouty posturing. All that narcissism on photographic record for the analytic generations of the future to laugh and despair at. “Look at how Celebrity distracted the people ((and themselves) while starving people cried for help, animals were desperate to be rescued from the meat abomination, one of the wars left one little girl bleeding to death beside her raped sister in a bombed village (over and over again) and our very home, the humble inconsequential Earth said, “For Fucks sake, I’m a planet dying before my time. STOP”.
    That’s not sexy, it’s embarrassing.
    Good on you Jennifer.

  2. Eeep. Wrote that last comment after a friend visited for a drink or seven last night….I suppose the sentiment (if not the hyperbole) stands though.

    • Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

       /  February 28, 2012

      I loved that comment, Angie! No apologies necessary!!!

  3. I guess I haven’t been paying much attention to this lately. I don’t subscribe to the Times anymore and don’t look too closely at billboards because I usually have my eyes on the road. It’s so distressing that nothing seems to have changed in the 30-plus years since I, as a young girl, felt compelled to diet dangerously to make myself “better.”

    There are voices in the wilderness, though! I particularly like August McLaughlin’s blog. She is a former actress/model-turned-writer who doesn’t shy away from tackling this stuff head on (

  4. Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

     /  February 29, 2012

    Thanks for the link! Yes, sadly little has changed. Working with a teenaged population, I see cases of anorexia and bulimia every year, and it’s very sad. Just wish the media and fashion industry would see the destructive effects on young girls of their fetishization of thinness and CHANGE!


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