Weight and clothing size seem to be issues that we cannot get away from, both here on Zelda Lily and in reality. Looking back through recent posts — and reading the intelligent and well thought-out comments provided by you — gives a lot of food for thought, but very few hard and fast conclusions.
The sad truth is that, wherever on the spectrum she falls, almost every woman struggles with her weight. The spectrum extremes are morbidly obese through anorexic; both are medical terms since these two deadly conditions have detrimental effects that should be avoided at all costs.
Thankfully, most women fall elsewhere on the spectrum. It’s a good thing, too, since being too far over on either end of the weight loss spectrum puts you at serious risk for a variety of dangerous medical conditions, and judgement from peers, both of which can result in ill effects for the person in question, like it or not.
Looking at this longtime debate from a feminist standpoint isn’t always easy. You don’t want to say, “Go sit on the couch watching TV and eating bonbons all day if that’s your prerogative,” and yet it is impossible to condone the fat-shaming that goes on in virtually all aspects of the media.
Last spring, for example, there was something of a blow-up between Lane Bryant and Victoria’s Secret. Lane Bryant, a plus-size clothing store (although they regularly use models that barely meet the “plus-size” threshold, perpetuating the idealism of the women selling their clothes, albeit on a larger scale), released an ad for a new bra that was refused by several news networks … news networks that were all too happy to air ads from Victoria’s Secret.
Victoria’s Secret models are ridiculously skinny, and the message sent out by the company’s ads, shows, and catalogues is that this is how normal women should strive to look. It’s sickening! And the fact that networks are willing to allow Victoria’s Secret ads on the air but not Lane Bryant’s lingerie offerings is a completely unacceptable double standard.
The reason that this lingerie feud was declared a draw is because normal-sized, healthy women are by and large (haha) ignored. As numerous wise commenters pointed out, you can be a small clothing size but need a bigger bra size that isn’t targeted by Victoria’s Secret. You can be technically plus-sized but don’t look it, so you’re treated rudely by salespeople at both Lane Bryant and Abercrombie and Fitch.
Family-friendly retailer (and creator of a large portion of my wardrobe when I was in high school) The Gap is also playing a dangerous game with the recent ad tagline “Put some pants on, because we can’t all look good in shorts.”
In an attempt to bolster sales on their Fall jean/pant line, The Gap has resorted to telling people that their bodies are not acceptable. It reminds me of something a snarky thirteen-year-old would say in an attempt to make you feel inferior, only it’s far worse because clearly this advertisement was the brain child of someone long past puberty. A company like the Gap should know better. In essence they are shaming consumers into putting on a pair of their sweat-shop factory-made jeans.
And not even pretzels, America’s snack, are exempt from the disturbing message sent that women should be thin, with Pretzel Crisps using slogans such as, “You can never be too thin” and “Tastes as good as skinny feels.”
Oh, and the UK’s Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone suggested that all women should shoot for a UK Size 14 (which is a U.S. 10/12).
Featherstone has stated that women should not be made to feel inadequate by stick-thin models staring out at them from advertising billboards and magazines, and has suggested that all too often women are made to feel wretched about their size as they constantly compare themselves with ‘unattainable’ figures of celebrities and models.
But wait a minute here. Are we protesting too much? Are we overanalyzing the messages sent out by companies ranging from attire to appetizers? And (gulp) is there any sort of legitimacy to the arguments presented by these companies? Should we all take a long, hard look in the mirror and aspire to be Gisele Bundchen? Fit exclusively into American Apparel or something?
No. Nope. Hell, no. Pardon me while I laugh.
Consider this. Lynn Hardy, former editor of Cosmopolitan, admitted last spring that pictures are often airbrushed to add weight to models.
As many famous designers tend to only make their clothes to fit tiny, shapeless bodies, magazine editors feel under pressure to continue to select thin models so as not to lose these exclusive deals and be passed over by their competitors. The models, of course, also feel this pressure, as they believe they need to be small enough to fit into these clothes. This leads to many of these models showing up emaciated and unhealthy for photo shoots, as they have often been subsisting on diets of coffee and vodka, yet all parties feel they cannot cancel sessions, due to the availability of sought after photographers.
The bottom line is that there is a disturbing mixed message coming from advertisers great and small. That the target seems to be on “fat-shaming” is why we seem to be doing a lot of defending in that direction.
If there was an ad for ice cream that said something like, “Indulge … once you go fat, you’ll never go back,” I would fight against that as vehemently as I speak out against ads portraying the ideal woman as wearing a size zero.
Speaking for me personally, I think it’s as tragic to see an overweight woman who can’t climb a flight of stairs without puffing like a dog in heat as it is to see a skeletal woman shivering in a track suit on an August day at the beach.
We shouldn’t aspire to be thin and fit some crazy undefinable ideal of perfection, nor should we be willing to slack off because “looks don’t matter.” We should aspire to be healthy (and “healthy” is not automatically equated with “skinny”).
Your first step to find out if you are at a healthy weight is to find out what your BMI, or body mass index, is and what your waist size is. For most people, these are good clues to whether they are at a healthy weight.
If your weight is not healthy, your risk for weight-related problems is higher, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
Why is this topic one that stirs up more nastiness than perhaps any other, particularly with women who live life under the “feminist” moniker?