Body Image & Hash Tag Revolution - 15 Minutes of Fame or Equality?

In a world that revolves around social media now more than ever, it seems that at least once a month there is a brand new, hypocrisy ridden hash tag that's is placed on a pedestal by the likes of the Metro and Dazed and Confused, not only wrapped in a pretty click bait bow, but also promised to be the next big revolution for the fashion industry. But as these 'revolutions' are so common, and often seem to contradict one another, perhaps we should consider whether or not these hash tags are for equality, or for the 15 minutes of fame, that are so easy to achieve on the internet. We know that all it takes is to send one funny tweet to a supermarket and you're all over the internet's biggest newspapers. We are in an online society of revolutionary attention seekers, all competing to do the next big outrageous thing in the name of equality. But as we're all sharing and discussing the shallow coverage of cultural and historical topics that have been around for decades, why aren't we doing our research and understanding why instead of asking when will it change? And more importantly, are we going about it all wrong?

The thing that has brought this most to my attention is the situation of body image and models. Just to clarify, models are people of a certain categorised look which are selected to model certain products, because they will appeal to a companies target demographic. They are not hired to be your role models, their job isn't to represent you, it isn't to make you feel good either. Their job is to show off a product. There is a distinct amount of pressure placed on models to set an example, when really that's not their job at all. It is unfair to place that kind of responsibility on the shoulders of someone who just so happened to fit a style a company was looking for.

There was one woman who became a signed model after she released the hash tag #effyourbeautystandards and had a massive response from the internet worldwide. Doesn't it seem very strange that a woman who is competing against these big bad beauty standards, suddenly wants to be a part of the industry that made her and many others feel terrible in the first place? I might even ask, is it a great achievement to have a size 20 something model in your books anyway? Are we all supposed to say, 'Well done Milk Management!' Does this make you feel like you stand a chance of being a model too? Why do you want to qualify to be a model, because it's definitely not easy money. What is it that makes this a positive thing. Millions of models, of all shapes, and sizes are signed every day. So what is the cultural significance of Tess Munster?

It is the age old argument that involved sayings such as 'real woman have _____' 'real men like ______' and my old favourite 'MARYLIN MONROE WAS A SIZE 16 YOU KNOW'. Yep, that was in the 50s. That's the equivalent to a size 10 or 12 nowadays, so calm down, and come back when you have done some decent research. We have discussed at decades long length the negative impact on young girls who see skinny models in magazines. It's so boring I'm tired even having to mention it now. Don't get me wrong, I have studied the topic at great length, as someone who has done cultural and historical studies I am all to familiar with it. And I don't mean the sharing-memes-on-facebook familiar, I mean reading thesis, countless books, and marketing reports on the matter from credible authors and analyists. Another thing that really gets me is the discussion on Photoshop and how unrealistic it is. Would anyone else like to come forward and name the other hundreds of industries that also use photoshop, or is it just refined to us poor women and the beauty industry? I think not.

We called for bigger models to be put on the catwalk and in editorials and advertisements. In 2014 Calvin Klein cast a size 10 model. Well, good for you Calvin Klein, do we applaud you too?No we don't, you did it to sell more clothes and gain publicity. Again, you never did it to make everyone feel good. We had a healthy sized model in an advertisement, and what was the internet's response? 'WHY ARE THEY CALLING HER PLUS SIZE, THIS MAKES US FEEL EVEN WORSE'. Why is it that we place so much of our personal worth on what brands are doing, and how they're using models to sell products. I hate to burst the bubble of all you emotional internet users out there but companies don't exist to massage your ego and make you feel nice.

A new hash tag that has emerged is the #DropThePlus. So, we have fought for plus size models to be more a part of the fashion industry, and now that they are, we do not want them to be referred to as 'Plus Sized'. Dazed and Confused Online reads - 'Australian model Stefania Ferrario is fed up of being called a plus-size model, and #DropThePlus is her call to arms. Together with Ajay Rochester, the former host of The Biggest Loser, Ferrario is calling on the fashion industry to stop using the term "plus-size" to describe women. They believe that the "misleading label" is "damaging for the minds of young girls" – and judging by the hundreds of women who have tweeted and Instagrammed under the hashtag, it seems like they're not the only ones. '

Can I just ask what interest the former host of 'The Biggest Loser' has in body image positivity? They hosted a show that took the piss out of larger people for the entertainment of others. What a faux pas already. The face of Dita Von Teese's lingerie line, has come forward and made a perfectly reasonable point. But let's consider why we have the category 'Plus size' model and what other categories exist.

Here is a list of model categories, which 'Plus Size' also is a part of -

High Fashion Model
Fashion Editorial Model
Runway Model
The “Commercial Print” Model
The “Fit” Model
The “Showroom” Model
Plus Model
She is usually 5’9” (175 cm) and up in height, starting at a standard U.S. size 8, up to a size 22. Plus models should have proportionate measurements based on their size,
between 34” – 25” – 37” and 40” – 31” – 42”. The waist should be at least 9” smaller than the hips and bust.
Petite Model
The “Glamour” Model
Lingerie and Swimwear Model
The “Sophisticate” Model
The “Parts” Model

And this isn't even the whole list. If you want to check out the whole list, then check out the bottom of this page. As you can see, I included the guidelines for a plus sized model, which is a size 10-22. It seems that critics would inevitably be paying more attention to the lower spectrum. Whether they said it was a size 10 or a size 18, the people who are that size, would not like to be categorised at 'Plus' because it has negative connotations of being 'fat'. But what about 'Petite' models. Do you think we will campaign to drop the 'Petite'? And the 'High Fashion' and the 'Runway' and the 'Showroom'? I mean, you don't like to be categorised, right?

So, in our new ideal world of scrapping labels, where do we end up? Let's say I am a fashion brand who designs clothing for people who look like, and love Rhianna. (Just a random suggestion)

'Hello everyone, my brand is in search of a model.'

Well, what size is the model to model the clothes? What height do they need to be? Do they have tattoos? What kind of skin tone do they have? WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?

Categories exist in everything, and they exist so that we can find what we're looking for easier. If I didn't say 'I am looking for a mixed race, high fashion model with tattoos to model my brand's clothing' we would be on an ENDLESS search for the right model, just to avoid offending a few people's egos. It is simply impractical to drop the model label. It's not something that exists to put you down, it's something that exists to make casting models easier. There's millions of models out there. Just imagine a future of easily offended campaigners ditching all our labels. Does it sound good? Sure on a few levels, but then you are defined by nothing. You have no noticeable traits that people can label or recall about you. 'In search of a genderless, colourless, shapeless and identity lacking model to sell clothing to my non labelled as to not cause offence demographic?' It makes no sense if you look at it this way.

On that grand scale of things, think of what your hash tags are actually doing in the long run. Just making one other standard, the next standard, the new standard. It is worth as much as your appearance – which should be nothing in comparison to talent, intelligence, and many other permanent traits, unlike beauty. Hash tags last as long as the latest trend, beauty never lasts forever either.

Now let's look at some figures, shall we. The most common argument, is the fashion industry's negative impact on younger girls body image, and how it encourages eating disorders in order to achieve a look created on Photoshop. But also, catwalk models are criticised for their size. Even Victoria Secret models are criticised, despite the fact they eat healthily and exercise.

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, An estimated 0.5 to 3.7 percent of women suffer from anorexia nervosa in their lifetime. Research suggests that about 1 percent of female adolescents have anorexia.

According to a study done by colleagues at the American Journal of Psychiatry (2009), crude mortality rates were:

4% for anorexia nervosa
3.9% for bulimia nervosa
5.2% for eating disorder not otherwise specified
This is highly unfortunate to see. Now let's look at the statistics on obesity and related illness.

39% of adults aged 18 years and over were overweight in 2014, and 13% were obese.
    Most of the world's population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight. With this information in mind, do we really need to be encouraging 'Plus Size' any more than we already are? That being said it is worthwhile to note that obesity is based on BMI, which we all know does not work out for everyone. Jessica Ennis is classed as obese for crying out loud according to BMI. However, we cannot ignore the stats that sure, magazines create a negative body image in young women, but why then are we all just getting bigger? That argument is for another discussion entirely. But the point I'm making is that we shouldn't be encouraging or discouraging size or appearance or even looks. We should be encouraging lifestyles. You have seen all the Victoria Secret models posting on instagram bragging about their workouts. That, is positive. It's not about body image, it's about health. Physical and mental health. If we focused more on health, than 'beauty standards', which everyone is setting, not just industry workers, then perhaps our society would take a much more positive turn.

So, when taking all this into account, which surely a person who is a true advocate of positive body image and whatnot should have done, is it really worth setting up a hash tag to 'raise awareness'? Does it do anything? Nothing positive. And do you know why?

To constantly argue about beauty standards and to dedicate so much time to redefining beauty, you are still only suggesting that appearance is worth. While you say 'Drop the Plus!' and 'Make the models bigger...smaller...bigger!' The younger women of this generation are hearing 'it's how you look that matters'.

Most females would probably jump at the chance of being a model, being beautiful (whatever that is, you're never happy, face it) but what about jumping at the chance of being something else? Don't try get an industry to change for you. You aren't entitled to everything you want. Encourage our young girls to take part in more discussions than body image. Because no matter what you have to say about it, you're still only defining their worth on their appearance.

Over n' Out. 


Research Sources 
Crow, S.J., Peterson, C.B., Swanson, S.A., Raymond, N.C., Specker, S., Eckert, E.D., Mitchell, J.E. (2009) Increased mortality in bulimia nervosa and other eating disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry 1661342-1346.

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