Monday, January 11, 2010

A quick assignment

1) Take a look at this picture.

2) Read the accompanying short article.

3) Then read the comments. Yes, I know, there are over 300 of them. Here's a handy trick I learned in college: Pay attention to what comes first and last and skim what's in between. Or, to get straight to the point, relax your eye to see only the word "health/y."

Whoa, right? Who knew it mattered that women who are paid to look a particular way are "healthy" -- and also that we all agree about what that word means? Maybe I'm sensitive to this issue because I've been so recently immersed in the randomness of cancer. My father was far less healthy than my uncle and he died three years older. From farther away, their deaths are indistinguishable, despite one's purported health and the other's neglect.

Another example comes courtesy of Jezebel: Carrie Fisher, who, as she puts it, used to be "pretty" and isn't anymore. Of course, when she was bikini-ready, she was on ten kinds of drugs, and she's now fat because of psychiatric treatments that keep her moderately sane. ("This is my medication overweight. I barely eat anything and I wind up looking like I've been combing the city for donuts.")

All of which is to say: Health is not as easy to read as we assume it is from a person's physique.

Okay, I hear you saying, rolling your eyes. But these people are exceptions! Or, as my friend Jenn put it, "The AMA would disagree with you."

I'm sure it would. But that doesn't make the AMA right. Jenn and I went on to discuss the issue:

me: these things are averages, not destinies. in any event, i don't think a woman's health has any impact on her ability to model clothes. skinny or fat, i think the only question is Does she look good? and Do the clothes appear to advantage on her body?

Jennifer: I agree. Also, i've seen enough runway shows to confidently say that size zero models still have cellulite

me: ... thank you, honey.

My favorite comment, which I think takes the health fixation to its natural extreme, says, without any apparent irony, "Models ideally would be women who ate right, exercised regularly and managed their stress."

ROLE MODELS, ideally, should eat right, exercise regularly, and manage their stress. MODELS should show up, look purty, date Leonardo diCaprio, and be of whatever size works for them professionally. Models are more than billboards. But they are less than superheroes. I don't care if Kate Moss has a coke habit the same way that I don't care if politicians get their kicks from necrophilia (though I draw the line at screwing with socks on).

Diabetes! Heart disease! OBESITY EPIDEMIC! I'm just saying it so you don't have to. But feel free to say anything else.


TLC said...

I have no comment on any of this except to say that I love the way you said, "these things are averages, not destinies" and I plan to use it in a song or a poem or something. Fair warning. It's a beautiful sentence. :)

ester said...

thank you! you are welcome to it.

Amelia said...

me == 20 pounds heavier than three years ago; "overweight." also, by literally every single actual indicator of health, about 20 times healthier. stupid, stupid, stupid fat-scapegoating.