Last week, Soraiya Fuda published an opinion piece for Rendezview on why she believes that “fat size 20-somethings” do not belong on the fashion runway. She was referring to a Sports Illustrated fashion show that showcased plus-size models in swimwear last month.


Fuda was quick to point out that she wasn’t fat-shaming. She did so in the first paragraph, in fact, mentioning that there were models in the size 12-18 bracket. She said that those models demonstrated that women of “every size” deserved lovely swimwear. Every size, it would seem, except those above a 20.

BUT…

This was the first word of the second paragraph and also where the fat-shaming began. It’s funny how, so often, nothing good comes after that word.

Fuda’s article said that models larger than that bracket embody a society-wide problem; obesity. Women who are size 20-26, Fuda says, don’t represent the average woman. Presumably, this means they don’t deserve lovely swimwear because the fashion industry is only there to represent “average” women.

I don’t know about you, but I have never looked to the fashion runways for a representation of “average”, myself.

The Australian Medical Association

Brad Frankum, head of the New South Wales state branch of the AMA, seems to agree with Fuda’s position.

He is reported to have said “It’s a difficult message but just like we don’t use cigarettes to promote products, I don’t think we should have unhealthy weights promoting products.”  Geez, Brad, offensive much?

The thing is, everyone needs to be able to buy clothes. Yes, even obese people! That’s what they’re selling. Clothing for larger people, modeled by larger people so that consumers get an idea of how it looks on. No matter how fantastic these models looked (and they did), I don’t think this one fashion show will see a wave of young people attempting to gain weight.

Plus size and looking amazeballs, Rebel Wilson!

Why would they? After all, we live in a world where fat-shaming is strangely socially acceptable and size discrimination is well-documented.

Suddenly Concerned

Fuda discussed the long-term possible implications of obesity such as diabetes and shortened life expectancy. Apparently, “glorifying size 20-somethings” is “irresponsible” if you want everyone to have a long and healthy life.

Okay, sure. However, why the focus on fat alone? Other than an “I’m not fat-shaming” caveat about models “starved to skin and bone” also not belonging on the catwalk, Fuda had little to say about underweight models. Something that is a much more prevalent and long-standing issue in the fashion industry.

Obesity is associated with health conditions and shortened lifespans, as Fuda says, but being underweight is certainly not without risks . There is even evidence that shows underweight adults are at a greater risk of premature death than obese adults. I wonder why Soraiya Fuda didn’t even mention this?

In fact, I couldn’t find any articles written by Fuda that address the fashion industry’s usual penchant for models far thinner and lighter than the average woman. It’s almost like Soraiya Fuda, like many other people, wasn’t really concerned about anyone’s health at all until she saw these “size 20-something” models rocking swimsuits on the catwalk.

Which is pretty weird, because surely we all know that being skinny isn’t the same as being healthy? I know at my thinnest, I was smoking a pack a day (sometimes more), drinking alcohol most nights and eating very sporadically. I was also depressed and under enormous stress. Hardly the picture of good health but definitely thin.

Fashion and Health

Stories of models using drugs, starving themselves and developing eating disorders are not uncommon. Fashion has a lot to answer for when it comes to unrealistic standards of beauty, that’s for sure. But none of this is new. I’m almost 36 years old and I’ve been reading about it since well before Kate Moss said that “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” was one of her mottoes.

Health, it’s fair to say, has never been what the fashion industry is promoting.

And this is where I believe that Soraiya Fuda and the AMA have missed something. Something important.

Swimwear

The runway show in question was for Sports Illustrated, a magazine that relies on sports for content. The plus-size models were wearing swimwear. Nice swimwear, made for larger bodies.

Swimming is, if  I am not mistaken, a form of exercise. In fact, it’s an excellent form of exercise that doctors often recommend because of the low impact on joints. This is something that can be a concern for us plus-size women looking to improve our health through exercise.

I’m Calling BS.

I don’t think this fashion show upset anyone who had concerns for anyone else’s health. People who really care about others getting healthy do not want to limit their opportunity to buy exercise gear.

This is just another opinion piece that aims to shame people for their weight under the guise of concern. But being made to feel badly about one’s weight doesn’t actually help. In fact, research has shown that overweight people who are shamed about it often find it even more difficult to lose weight.

You can’t have it both ways. One might claim to be concerned about obesity from a health perspective but that is difficult to believe when their actions contribute to the problem.

 

#IBOT @ Capturing Life

Gifs via Giphy

Cover image: Pixabay (A place called Lake Constance is home to that glorious statue!)

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  • Absolutely. The fashion industry is not the health industry and never has been. Compare the impact of girls starving themselves to death to the VERY occasional inclusion of a larger built woman. It’s complete hypocrisy.

  • As you can imagine I have many thoughts on this. I see it from many angles. I love that society is encouraging the industry to push the boundaries. I applaud the diversity in appearance. Personally (and this is just my narrow view because I’m the mother of a model), I just want the industry to be healthy and embrace and reward good health and HR practices (for the sake of my daughter and so many like her).

  • Agreed. The average woman on the catwalk is not an accurate representation of the ‘everyday’ woman. I think it’s great to see women of all shapes and sizes modelling. Beautiful comes in all shapes and sizes.

  • Good call! It beggars belief that the fash industry are suddenly concerned about people’s “health”. What a crock of shit.

  • I no longer actively partake in anything to do with the fashion industry. Ok, so yes I buy clothes, but I do my best to source these from companies that use real women in their campaigns. I also no longer purchase any kind of magazine, I prefer to take my inspiration from real women, often on Instagram for help on how to dress. Many of these women would be considered to obese but the fashion industry, but to me represent real women. This is particularly tricky when trying to instill positive body image, into our teenagers, so we do not allow music videos, and are very selective on what they watch. Not the popular choice for them or us, but we feel it our responsibility to contribute positively to their self image. Great post!!

  • LydiaCLee

    I’m a bit all over the place on this. When the fashion industry used those anorexic looking models for the heroine chic look, they were called out for health reasons – part of me thinks this could be the same, and part of me thinks this is just old wiring prejudice. Like the beer companies, at least the fashion industry is trying to change and improve, so that has to be applauded. Whether it’s more complex than that, I have to think about it more to decide where I sit.

  • I hear ya! If the fashion industry were so worried about people’s health, then they wouldn’t use underweight models, who not only are not healthy but are not an accurate representation of the “everyday” woman. It’s the ultimate in double standards. Grrr!

  • I totally agree!

  • People come in all shapes and sizes so it would make sense that so should the clothes being modelled. I don’t believe the fashion industry is a good representation of the ‘everyday’ woman. Although I have to say I don’t take much notice of the fashion industry or go with the trends, I just buy clothes that suit and feel good on me. #teamIBOT

  • That article sounds gross and tactless! I’m glad I didn’t read it. Good on Sports Illustrated for depicting a cross section of women across the sizing spectrum! Everyone needs activewear. Just because you have a higher BMI doesn’t mean you don’t exercise or want to wear comfy clothes.

  • We need a cross selection of all models when it comes to showing clothes. I didn’t read the article, but it seemed one sided to discuss the health of the bigger models, and not make mention of models who are underweight. All shapes and sizes need to be considered when modeling clothes. The fashion industry often forgets who buys the clothes in the first place.

  • That the AMA is giving comment on body shape and size (which have immense variables influencing them) is quite irresponsible in my view.

    And yes, you couldn’t make a better point than swimming is exercise! Do we have to will ourselves to size 14 before we’re allowed to exercise? What a crock of shit.

    I’m currently looking into water-based activities for regaining my health and fitness,exactly because they are low impact and I was sick for so long. I guess because my clothes range from size 14-20 I should just give up and fuck off until I look more socially acceptable.

  • I absolutely love and stand with how well you’ve expressed your point of view here. These women need to buy clothes! I have never been above an Aussie size 12 but I am technically overweight (at 5 ft tall) and have had depressed, unhealthy times in my life where not being fit hasn’t helped and where sadly, I bought into the idea that I didn’t look good enough and didn’t deserve nice things. At those times ‘activewear’ for all was not really a thing. It was just what the ‘serious’ athlete types wore. I would tell myself I wasn’t good enough or worthy of buying the stuff and then I would use not having the right activewear as an excuse to not go out in public to a gym or out on the footpath to exercise. When it became more accessible for all women of more body types and fitness levels, I was so relieved. Hallelujah – what do you know – my exercise and confidence in exercising increased. To suggest that selling and advertising these types of clothing for larger women is detrimental seems absurd. Every woman needs to feel confident and to love herself however she is. That doesn’t mean she can’t/won’t work on her health. It means she will do so because she loves herself enough to. Not because she’s ashamed.

  • A great perspective on this. Pursuing a healthy lifestyle is one thing, but healthy people (or people working towards being healthy) come in all shapes and sizes.

  • Well said!

  • Healthy looking has always looked more appealing than skinny gaunt models that seem to fill up the runways. Ever noticed fuller sized models have beautiful genuine smiles – my guess it’s because they’re not starving themselves and are confident about each and every curve. I really hope the world’s fashion leaders focus shifts to fuller sizes real soon, it’s a more realistic view on whats out there. I think I read Australia’s average size is size 16. That is miles away from our runway models – so why no roll with reality??