I recently read an article about “full bodied Mannequins” that have in Swedish clothing shop windows. These Mannequins, unlike their traditional counterparts are made to the model of a much fuller and bigger woman. Clad in skimpy underwear these mannequins received a lot of praise in mainstream media praising Swedish retailers for breaking the norm and highlighting a more realistic kind of beauty. This article then went on to speak about how many overly skinny and tall mannequins promote anorexia and are detrimental to the notion of beauty in many Western countries.
It is not uncommon today to hear people speak up against the media, and clothing retailers for imposing an impossibly lean and toned female body image as the norm for what is beautiful. People complain that capitalism is running people perceptions of true beauty and inducing eating disorders and such upon vulnerable young women who think that beauty is defined by the skinny scantily clad girls that appear on the cover of a Victoria’s Secret magazine So we blame the media, blame the evil corporations and blame marketing campaigns.
However, think that society is overlooking something very important, that is that we as a society are also partly responsible for propagating these images. The reason that clothing companies shave a few inches off the thighs of a ‘size zero’ model is because this is what sells their products. A few people with a strong conscience may protest and get a company to change their marketing line slightly once in a while but the bottom line is that much of America would prefer to see a model who fits into a size ‘small’ on the cover of the catalog than someone who fits into and XL.
An article on CNN Living begs the question “are we really ready to look at ‘real women’? The author talks about plus size models and about how companies label ‘normal sized’ women as plus sized. In this case it is about a Ralph Lauren model that is 6 feet tall and wears size 12 clothing. Labeling her as ‘plus sized’ is grossly unfair as she is not at all overweight for her height. Yet, a lot of people see this as a victory for ‘real women’ who are finally being represented as beautiful on a commercial scale.
But then the question becomes: Who are ‘real women’? If they are the women who are neither overweight nor underweight who maintain a healthy BMI? If so what of the 64% of the female population in America ( according to the Weight Control Information Network) who are obese or overweight, what about those women who are a size 2 or a size 4? Are these not real women?
I believe that when people criticize the body size of the ideal model they are trying to break away from a strictly definition of beauty to a broader definition of it. However it is ironic how our society’s quest to get the ‘real woman’ represented in media more often is once again serving to exclude a very large population of women from this category of a ‘real woman’.
Here are the links to the CNN article and the article on the mannequins.