Saturday, January 8, 2011

"The Industry Standard"? YOU are what I'm fighting.

Have you ever come across a sizist that just made you want to rage? On Model Mayhem, the main site that I currently go through for shoots, I was browsing images (and there are some truly stunning ones) when I came across a very interesting one. I clicked.

Begin rageface.

Not only did the photographer, in his profile, come across as very rude,but his ideas about beauty embody everything that is wrong with the industry. Embodies everything that I fight against when it comes to the media's abuse of women and young girls. His requirements for working with models? 5'9" or taller and no more than 120lbs- he stressed that this was the absolute max he would take a model at. More so he stressed the need for 100% flawless skin, "politely" informing us "don't waste your time if you don't fit the description".

size 4 model
Okay, for a moment, let's ignore the flawless skin comment. While it's beyond moronic to require flawless skin for an image that you're going to retouch anyway (and he does retouch his photos, of course) the weight and height requirements which, he points out, are the industry standard, are what really got me going. Just for fun I decided to type in his minimum requirements of 5"9 and 120lbs into a BMI calculator. While I don't advocate using one of these on yourself as they are, by and large, pretty useless on measuring health, it was interesting to see that it came in at a status of underweight. Of course, he prefers models who are thinner and taller so let's try 110lbs and 5'11" and you begin getting severely underweight,.

Ana Carolina Reston Marcan size 0 model
who was still modeling until her death due to
 complications from anorexia. 
Now, I want to take a moment to point out that some people are naturally very tall or very thin or both. They eat well, they exercise, and they are healthy. Their bodies are simply no good at storing energy and they should, in no way, be belittled for their natural shape or size. However, the problem here is that the occurring of people like this naturally is fairly rare. The average size of a woman in the US is 14. That means that half of all women are over this and half are under this. I don't know the statistics on just how many people are a size 0-4 (extra small and "the industry standard") but I can assure you, it's not most women.

There is just something a little disturbing about a photographer who requires his models to be underweight and contributes to the attitude among female models that they must starve themselves in order to achieve this magical fantasy of thinness. In 2006 Uruguayan fashion model Luisel Ramos finally reached the coal of size zero and, shortly after a fashion show, died of a heart attack as a result of her extreme dieting. 
size 12 model

Add to this that 80% of elementary age girls feel like they're too fat or need to lose weight and that eating disorders are becoming an epidemic in this country and you have to wonder how people like this can sleep at night.  Seven million women and about a million men in the US are estimated to have an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa or bulemia. These numbers don't even count disordered eating like over eating or binge eating which have less severe physical effects but similarly severe psychological and emotional effects (especially when considering these tend to be dismissed and even mocked leaving the victim feeling more at fault and less likely to seek help). 

This is exactly why I decided to try my hand at modeling and why my profiles all say that I'm here to knock down societal walls. Women need to be evenly represented in the media. They need to know that they should not try to attain anything more than health and happiness and that this "standard" is impossible, ridiculous, and unattainable. More so, they need to know that all bodies can be beautiful and sexy and wonderful.

I'll end this post on a more comical note- the photographer in question also refers to himself in the third person. Yes, you can feel free to laugh and commence eye rolling. 


  1. Peter would like to see that profile. Can Peter please see it?

  2. Peter, as much as I'd love to post his profile all over the place and send in the attack dogs I've decided not to. Firstly because the guy may be an ass, but that doesn't warrant me soliciting harassment- after all he's right.. it is the "industry standard" and he's just one brainwashed sap of thousands. But also because I don't want some New York douchebag photographer trying to take legal action for liable or something. >.< It's taking a lot of will power to keep this jerk's identity to myself though.

  3. Fair enough ... (sorry to sound like a guy, but isn't the size 12 model above SO much more "attractive" than the poor emaciated girl next to her?)

    One of the funniest things Peter remembers from the first series of Beauty and the Geek was when one of the geeks couldn't understand how anyone could be a size 0. If you're a size 0, he mused, does that mean you don't exist? There may be an element of truth to that, tho. (And I promise not to refer to myself in the third-person any more)

  4. I agree- I find the average sized woman to be more attractive- although everyone has different tastes. Less than 5% of the population (from the stats I've seen) is a size 6 or below.. and I imagine most of that 5% stays more or less around the 6. These types of women are simply not representative.

  5. You do know that sizes don't mean anything, right? I'm a "size 0." I'm also 5'5'' and have an extremely petite frame; I'm probably "fatter" than those "size 12" models. I don't deny that having a 25'' waist (my actual measurement) is unhealthy if you're 5'11'', but being "size 0" doesn't always mean you're starving yourself. I happily ate an XL pizza by myself just yesterday! (Not that I suggest this, as it is unhealthy.)

  6. Laura- I hoped that i made it clear that I don't begrudge anyone who is naturally small- the problem is holding up people that small as the standard and expecting everyone else to be the exact same size. the fact that the photographer required models to be that small when a very tiny fraction of the population actually is.. well that's damaging. I never meant to say that naturally thin people are unhealthy or starving themselves

  7. OK, I'm late to this party but I've just got to say: It's not that we need to redefine the industry standard size to be a more normal, achievable body instead of a unusually tall, unusually thin shape. Rather we need to make it so there's no industry standard at all. No one shape is right, they're all equally valid. So often I see this debate framed as normal vs skinny. I want to scream it's not a 'versus' issue - they're all good.

    And please, will people stop trying to score a blow for the average woman by saying they find skinny models less attractive. It's fine as a personal point of view we all have our prefereneces of course, but it's not relevant in this debate. When you start evaluating bodies, especially womens bodies on how attractive they are, how sexually attractive they are, it's objectifying. Even well-meaning objectification is a problem.
    I know that sounds like a crazy thing to say on a blog about modelling, but I think modelling is objectification of the body in an acceptable and focused scenario. Basing the value of a woman on the attractiveness of her body objectifies *all* women all the time. Not saying anyone here was doing that, it's just something I see a lot of.

    OK sorry Heather, I'll stop hijacking your blog comments for my drive-by philosophisisng now. :)