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.
— Daily Star (@Daily_Star) August 4, 2017
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.
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.
Why would they? After all, we live in a world where fat-shaming is strangely socially acceptable and size discrimination is well-documented.
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.
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.
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