Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Is it worth the je ne sais quoi?

As I read “Hunger as Ideology”, I could not help but relate it back to my own knowledge and experience in the fashion industry. The industry is one that is plagued with an obsession with thinness and aesthetics. The dominant view of what is trendy, chic, and beautiful is represented on the runways and in magazines, as women around the world look to these authorities on fashion for the “right” perception. Unfortunately, the women used in magazines and runway shows are all professional models, whose job it is to maintain a specific image- an image of androgynous thinness. This image is exuded in photo spreads and runway walks as they exude effortless beauty and grace. To me, this almost ethereal and idyllic perception of models is similar to the FibreThin ad where,

“Eating has become, for her, no big deal. In its evocation of the lovely French mother who doesn’t each much, the commercial’s metaphor of European ‘difference’ reveals itself as a means of representing that enviable and truly foreign ‘other’: the woman for whom food is merely ordinary, who can take it or leave it.”

This image of a thin, elegant, beautiful one is depicted in fashion and in advertisements. The woman always moves with ease, making her decisions seem like they take no contemplation. However, this image can easily be argued as false if one looks to the countless controversies involving eating disorders among women. In the modeling world, some turn to consuming coffee and cotton balls, using cocaine and Adderhal, and smoking cigarettes to suppress their appetites. There have also been numerous instances where models have died due to complications associated with Anorexia Nervosa.

I suppose the point is that advertising world, the movie industry, and the fashion realm perpetuate images of the “it girl”- the girl who doesn’t need to try to look and feel amazing. But behind closed doors and behind the camera lies a different story. 

- Barbara Lin


  1. Barbara, I liked how you related the reading to the fashion world. When you stated "However, this image can easily be argued as false if one looks to the countless controversies involving eating disorders among women." I also thought of the countless controversies surrounding "photoshop" techniques that are utilized in advertisements to create that "it girl." Photoshop is blatant proof that the images seen in advertising are not representative of real life.

    Thus, even if the models are unfortunately pressured to be "consuming coffee and cotton balls" to be skinny, they are still further doctored by the photoshop and airbrushing. This only speaks to the same argument that the advertisements create this image of the effortless, perfect women only by means of tampering with the real images. Regardless, the advertising world holds an “authority” position that women follow.

    I couldn’t help but think about the Kim Kardashian photoshopped images being leaked:

    And take a look at all these fashion, photoshop bloopers where the advertisers attempt to create these “perfect” distorted images:

  2. I think that it is interesting how some magazines and fashion publications are reacting to backlash regarding women being too thin in their magazines. Some notable fashion publications have vowed not to photoshop their models in order to promote better body image for women. They realize how their portrayal of women as being so skinny is often incredible negative, as Bordo points out. Some choose to use plus sized models to make a point that they feature 'real' people too. However, many magazines and publications choose to not care about this issue and the stereotype is still pervaded.

    Magazines like Vogue have adressed this specifically, and recently have formally took a stand against using models who are too young or too skinny. People are still reading the magazine, even as their models look a little healthier. But even then, their models are still scary thin and a size no normal girl will be.

    - Allie Zimnoch

  3. The image that advertisers depict in magazine print ads, commercials, and other forms of advertisements are unrealistic. It is rare for women to be that thin, that tall,and still have all those curves. It is definitely not seem in the streets everyday. It is because of these images that are programmed mentally in our brains that we believe that is the norm when it is clearly not. It is the reason why so many women, and even some men, go through eating disorders. Their perception of reality is completely false. As Stina mentioned in the comment above mine, magazines use photoshop to standardize the models to how they want them to look because it is impossible for all models to fit even that criteria. There is too much pressure for women to look, act, and desire.

  4. Great post Barbara. This actually reminded me of an article that popped up on the Yahoo! front page a couple weeks ago. The video shows how a healthy looking woman becomes transformed not only through make up but also through photoshop to not only elongate her neck but also to narrow her face into that desired v-shape. As both Jean and Stina mentioned, the perception of reality is false in all the advertisements we see and its sad that through photoshop, our idea of what a woman is supposed to look like is shaped. I suppose in the future, there might not even be models in the industry as technology has allowed for women to be created through photoshop. Hopefully if this ever comes around, there may be hope that the standard for weight, height, and beauty becomes actualized as a false reality for everyone to see.

  5. All great thoughts here, and it helps that some of you have direct experience of the fashion industry and can speak to its dirty little secrets. Eileen also brings up an interesting possibility... that as technology evolves, we eventually may not even rely on real models at all, but rather on composites of existing images or entirely computer generated women. Do you think we'll notice? Will that result in a backlash against the impossible standards of female beauty in contemporary advertising/media?