A Weighty Issue

I watched part of the latest Bones episode on Wednesday. During the show, they conducted a loose experiment to help determine the size of a murderer – several different people had a go at a dummy with a knife. The “winner” then had to reveal her height and weight. She did, and it was “5’8″, 135 lbs…(pause and look defensive) but that’s all muscle!” Like being 5’8″ and 135 lbs. put her in the “fat” category and was somehow embarrassing to her. Something she needed to defend. I was left completely dismayed by that whole scene, and the message it was giving off.

On a side but somewhat related note, I was browsing around at lunchtime and this headline caught my attention “Models Flunk BMI, Get Spanish Boot”.

Brown of the Elite agency said fashion shows reflect the tastes of clothing designers, who for now prefer the Kate Moss look as opposed to the curvier dimensions of models such as Cindy Crawford in years past.

“They don’t want voluptuous girls any more,” he said. “It would be nice if fashion got back to that.”

Yes. Yes, it would. Cindy Crawford wasn’t exactly that voluptuous to begin with, but at least she looked (looks)  real. I really don’t understand why fashion designers wouldn’t want to design clothing that would look great on many people, not just the amazingly tall and terrifyingly thin.

Your clothes don’t look fantastic on a 5’2″ curvy girl? That problem stems from your messed-up mentality, not her body.

And I know this is a topic that comes up regularly. It just really, really bugs me. ;)

Comments

  1. says

    You should see Project Runway. A few episodes ago, there was bitching going on by one of the designers (who got booted in that episode) because the model she ended up with was sooooooo much fatter than the other models. Like probably a size 2 instead of a 0, I forget exactly.

    In some sort of wacky design karmic revenge, a challenge after that forced the designers to have to work with their fellow designers’s female relatives, most of whom were definitely not thin. Hah.

  2. says

    135 pounds on a five eight frame is not very much muscle! Good lord. My goal weight at WeightWatchers (which is a realistic weight goal chosen in consulation with my meeting leader and from a range on a healthy height/weight chart) is in the 140′s, and I’m only 5’5″.

    It’d probably be lower (I know women around my height who can comfortably maintain a weight in the 130′s), except that, y’know, I’m all muscle. Like, for reals.

  3. sbg says

    Oy. I just don’t get it. Size 2 too fat? That is unbelievably messed up.

    I actually saw the one where the female relatives were models. I found it annoying that the thinner moms/aunts/sisters were snatched up first. I also found it annoying that some of the designers seemed so distressed with the task at hand. Their heads are so trained to design for sticks…

  4. sbg says

    I know! I was so taken aback by that. It’s like people have no concept of actual body height/weight ratios. Anything above 130 for a woman is “too big.” Huh? That’s an erroneous conclusion the writers of the show jumped to, and a terrible message to perpetuate.

  5. Jennifer Kesler says

    135 pounds for 5′ 8″ would be skinny. Not toned, just skinny.

    I’m almost 5′ 2″, and my ideal weight is in the low 120′s. A good bit of mine is muscle, but only because my body naturally tends toward building and retaining muscle tone. I don’t work out regularly.

    And at the moment, I weigh, er, more than 135, and according to fashion, I have a “huge ass.” But I’m aware that a number of actual men find my backside rather appealing.  In fact, it’s not “huge” in proportion to the rest of me.  I do need to lose weight to reach my optimum health weight, but I don’t need to lose it to look good to guys.

  6. sbg says

    I like big butts and I cannot lie…sorry. Sir Mix-A-Lot took over for a second there.

    I actually rather like my butt, which is pretty huge as far as the fashion standard goes. It can be a pain to find proper fitting clothing, but the butt’s here to stay.

    The least I’ve weighed as an adult was 125, and people were conflicted about whether I looked good or too skinny for my particular frame. I’m short, but not all short people can weigh 100 lbs.

    I wonder…if 135 lbs at 5’8″ is supposedly on the larger side, according to the show, should I as a roughly 5’3″ woman weigh…85 lbs? Anyone in their right mind would know that would be unacceptable for most people.

  7. scarlett says

    From what that weight translates into metric… this girl is tall and slim. Why is she defending her weight? If I were 62 kg and 172cms ( what my phone translates as five-eight and one-thirty-eight) I would have women rounding the block to ask me WHAT’S YOIR WEIGHT TIP???

  8. MaggieCat says

    I feel like I should start with a disclaimer here; I don’t support the practices. I have been a costume designer (when I can finally afford to go back to school, I hope to do so professionally) and have studied the fashion industry. I just hope I can add a little bit of context, for whatever it’s worth. :-)

    I really don’t understand why fashion designers wouldn’t want to design clothing that would look great on many people, not just the amazingly tall and terrifyingly thin.

    First, it depends on whether the subject is haute couture (custom made and fitted) or prêt-à -porter (ready-to-wear). HC is custom made, hand sewn requiring thousands of hours (there are guidelines for what can officially be considered couture), one of a kind, and a huge money loser for the design houses- its purpose is more art than clothing and the shows are to enhance the prestige of the house’s name and image. It’s not practical and it was never intended to be; most of it is never even sold.

    Ready-to-wear is what you find in the stores, and it’s where all of the money is to be made. The items you see on the runway are the same design but usually a different fit than the items that will eventually hit the stores. I don’t personally have any experience with that process, but there are ‘fit models’ who supposedly (and I do mean supposedly) represent the proportions of more normal women that are used for RTW designs. (The best fitting lines actually use a different model for each size, since every woman who’s bought jeans can tell you that you can’t just add X inches everywhere, but that’s unfortunately rare. Fit models range from size 2-14 but size 8 is the most in demand.) So the shape is the same, but what shows on the runway isn’t really what’s being sold. Also the fashion models in the show have gone through numerous fittings to wear it perfectly. If everyone had that many alterations done to their clothing, everyone would look fabulous.

    Part of the reason for using thinner (and in my opinion blander) fashion models is that they are not the reason for the show – the clothing is the star. You don’t want anyone to notice the model, ideally you’re looking for a blank slate that does not detract from the clothing. An ambulatory hanger (which you could argue a lot of models these days actually look like…;-) ) that can carry the clothes well and show the movement of the fabric, but won’t overshadow the clothing. The idea is to make the audience think “what a great outfit” not “she looks gorgeous”. The problem is that normal humans who don’t spend hours debating the depth of a kick pleat are going to see the person as a matter of course, and that ends up being pushed as an ideal that no one can meet. And when you look at it like that, who would want to?

  9. Jennifer Kesler says

    “Ambulatory hanger” – perfect phrase!

    I’ve heard some aspects of what you’re saying here before, but your comment puts it all together nicely. That’s why my solution has never been to censor or to remove practices from culture: my solution is to educate people on just how little these things have to do with reality, thus decreasing the sense of, “Oh, um, okay… is this what I’m supposed to aim for?”

    When I was a kid, almost every girl I knew dreamed of being a model. So they had good reason to need to be 5′ 9″ and 25 pounds, LOL. In that context, the problem was the girls’ inability to see themselves as powerful and successful in any other career. Supermodels were the only women they perceived as financially independent of men. So strangely, they were going after the right thing (financial independence) but seeing only a near-impossible method to achieve it.

    Is that the fault of fashion designers? Hardly. It’s the fault of every adult who’s in a position to open a girl’s eyes to her potential, but doesn’t.

    For reasons I don’t comprehend, *I* was all the time being told by my mother and various teachers how good I’d be at practicing law, writing novels, writing TV and film score, etc. So from an early age I thought of myself as having many potentials. Even when I got all the same messages as other girls. Even when adults tried to put me in my “place” by encouraging other kids to put me down for being smart. If every young girl had even one person firmly in her corner, making serious appraisals of her abilities, this world would be unrecognizable in 20 years.

  10. MaggieCat says

    I recently found a paper I wrote when I was 7 that said I wanted to be a model. In my defense, I thought they made the clothes in addition to wearing them and once I got the ideas of ‘model’ and ‘designer’ clearly defined I figured out where things had gone astray. ;-)

    Your childhood sounds a lot like mine. Before I started school there was never anything I was told I couldn’t do, gender didn’t even factor into it. There was a running joke that I was going to be a lawyer because after learning to talk, the next thing I did was start to argue. My mother has said that part of the reason she chose my full name is because she thought it would look good embossed on a book cover. If anything my family was alarmed that I loved all of the frilly, pretty, girly things- my grandmother had been hoping for Little League games.

    Even when adults tried to put me in my “place” by encouraging other kids to put me down for being smart.

    I can’t even imagine that. Damn, I knew I’d gotten lucky in the parent lottery, but I frequently forget that I had amazing teachers and other adults around. I lost count of the number of teachers who basically said “yeah, kids suck. But things will get better when you get out of school.” My neighborhood didn’t put people down for being smart (past a certain playground mob age), my parents lived in an area way too expensive for them to keep me in one of the top school districts in the state. Oddly enough, being given a chance to show that I was smart was one of the few times I was accepted because it was one of the few situations I was confident in. The reason I was made miserable was for being painfully shy and insecure. I think at some point I had figured out that everything I had been raised to believe about what I should be was at odds with what other people believed- I didn’t (and to some degree, still don’t) have any way to judge what they wanted from me. I’ve been stubborn since the day I was born so there was no way I was giving up my belief system, so I never fit in with the group. To me it was easier to back off until I could convince them I was right than to change just to be accepted.

    If everyone could be given the idea that they don’t have to live up to anyone’s ideal other than their own, and that it’s better to find people who can see things from your point of view than to betray who you are to fit in with the mob, the world might start making some sense.

  11. Jennifer Kesler says

    I grew up in very rural areas. Some teachers were thrilled by my intelligence, while others resented me for out-performing their kids (or their friends’ kids) without trying very hard. So on the one hand, I had a little fan club of supportive adults, and on the other hand I had adults who resented me and harrassed me very much like the schoolyard bullies who hated smart kids.

    Instead of trying to sort out which group was right about me, what I got from the whole mess was that adults couldn’t be relied upon – I was on my own. And no matter how I believed in myself, I was still going to have a fight on my hands when it came to dealing with the attitudes of those who can’t see potential when it’s packaged in a woman.

    • littlem says

      “Instead of trying to sort out which group was right about me, what I got from the whole mess was that adults couldn’t be relied upon – I was on my own.”

      Personally? I think it’s actually better to find that out earlier, as opposed to later.

      • says

        But people who figure that out early on are “just being negative/difficult” and “have trust issues” and are “clearly psychologically damaged.” Not only is there no support network for people who figured it out early on, there’s ignorance on such a massive level that it might as well be a conspiracy to thwart anyone who speaks truth.

        Look at what happened in the 90s when people started coming forward despite the shitstorm to say they’d been sexually abused by close family or trusted authority figures. They were just vicious lying ungrateful spoiled brats putting those lovely adults through hell.

        Now, 20 years later, at least experts realize they weren’t lying. But the public backlash – the general ignorance backlash – still adds to the pile of shit people have to recover from when they go through stuff like that.

        • littlem says

          Point taken.

          Perhaps it’s about being aware and maybe journaling it and not *sharing* it with anyone till later …?

          ‘Cause, y/k, imo it’s still a powerful useful piece o’ knowledge.

          • says

            I didn’t mean to come across like I disagreed with you. I really don’t know what’s best anymore. I just know it doesn’t work out like in “The Emperor’s New Clothes” where one little child acknowledging reality is all it takes to break through a mass delusion. You intrude on the mass delusion with reality, and people lash out, even viciously, to protect their delusion.

          • littlem says

            “You intrude on the mass delusion with reality, and people lash out, even viciously, to protect their delusion.”

            Horribly true, in way, *way* too many situations.

  12. MaggieCat says

    Something jumped out at me while watching Bones tonight. The episode was about a child beauty queen (which is just a scary subculture anyway), and x-rays showed that the girl had obviously been sleeping in a corset* to get an hourglass figure that she shouldn’t have because she’s nine and had actually caused deformation of the ribcage. Anyway, the lines that caught my attention were “Anything that compromises our underlying architecture demeans us” and “our culture places a premium on beauty, a common aspect of declining societies”. I’m probably paraphrasing the second one, but I think it’s close. That’s an interesting contradiction to the 5’8″/135-I’m-not-fat message from a few weeks ago. Or maybe the whole ‘inner beauty is more important’ ideal only applies to children since they obviously don’t know any better. We can wait until they’re older before telling them what’s really important.

    *That was just the most painful thing that had been done in the name of beauty pagents: she also had bleached hair, veneers, and false teeth replacing baby teeth that were missing because she was nine. I just cannot get over that.

  13. Jennifer Kesler says

    I like your insights there – they may be trying to send a different message, perhaps even to make up for the 5′8″/135-I’m-not-fat message, or they may simply not get that adults don’t deserve that conditioning anymore than children did.

    You’re right; that’s all horribly depressing.

  14. MaggieCat says

    I was being slightly sarcastic towards the end there, I hope that was clear. I also hope that they were trying to make up for the previous comment. There was a nice bit at the end where Brennan was talking about how she doesn’t understand the importance focused on appearance and Booth pointed out that it’s much easier to be oblivious when you look like she does. I really liked that, and it was interesting to hear it coming from a man- it seems like that sort of thing usually comes from a slightly less attractive female character where it’s hard to ignore the faintest hint of envy that might be behind it. (They were also using it to push the relationship angle, but it’s good thing to hear regardless.) I think I forgot to mention it before because I was distracted by the whole child beauty queen thing which really freaks me out.

    In general Bones is usually fairly good about representing both sides of any body modification. Since it’s about an anthropologist there’s sort of an intrinsic “in” to that sort of topic. And there’s almost always a correlation mentioned to a different cultural/historical context that shows we aren’t the only people to come up with unnatural ideas about what people should look like. If we think those practices are barbaric (foot binding and neck lengthening were specifically mentioned tonight) then what does that say about liposuction and butt implants?

  15. Jennifer Kesler says

    I was being slightly sarcastic towards the end there, I hope that was clear. I also hope that they were trying to make up for the previous comment.

    YOUR sarcasm was clear, yes. But I do think it’s possible that people who recognize unfair conditioning when it comes to kids might not recognize that it’s also wrong to treat adults that way.

    If we think those practices are barbaric (foot binding and neck lengthening were specifically mentioned tonight) then what does that say about liposuction and butt implants?

    Exactly the same. I’m in favor of people modifying their appearance in any way they enjoy, so long as it’s not a health risk and it’s not purely from social pressure. But foot-binding and implants both carry health risks (IMO – I know there’s some debate, but stunting growth and implanting foreign objects in the body seem intuitively risky to me). And who the hell has the right to declare average-sized feet unattractive? My word, men can have the ugliest big honking feet and no one pressures them to feel embarrassed about them. Women deserve the same level of acceptance, and appreciation for traits beyond beauty.

  16. Patrick says

    My feet resemble hobbit feet very strongly, and yet I have never been made to feel embarrassed about them. Apart from occasionally being referred to as “Mr. Frodo.” But certainly no one has suggested that I shave my toes or anything like that, and the only foot surgery I’ve had recommended was purely medical.

    But having seen all the stuff relating to women’s feet out there? It scares me. Probably the most purely functional part of the human body, and women are told that it has to be “beautiful.”

  17. Jennifer Kesler says

    Probably the most purely functional part of the human body, and women are told that it has to be “beautiful.”

    Nicely said! That’s it, exactly. There is no centimeter of the female figure that’s spared the beauty critique. Women are getting cosmetic surgery to make their labia look more youthful, for heaven’s sake. I don’t think it can get anymore ridiculous than that, but I believe that’s what I said about breast implants, too. *sigh*

    Girls are encouraged to center their entire sense of body-pride on their ability to fetch men or make babies, while men derive body-pride from things like sports or physical labor, and EXPECT women to find them beautiful because they can do X pushups or run X laps, etc. And that’s how it should be: a woman who can seriously play a sport should be sexier than a woman who has the exact right shoe size, as determined by someone’s navel-gazing session.

  18. MaggieCat says

    Probably the most purely functional part of the human body, and women are told that it has to be “beautiful.”

    I’ve been complaining about this for years. It’s completely ridiculous. I happen to wear a rather large shoe size and have been teased for it. I was even teased about it as a child, by adults. (These would be the same relatives who made fun of my height. Which makes sense given that there’s usually a corollation between shoe size and height. Hmpf.) The day a woman at a shoe store looked slightly amazed when I had the gall to ask if they had a particular pair in my size, and then informed me that they tend to sell out of the larger sizes to drag queens was the last straw. A) It’s not that uncommon of a size for women. B) Why would you try to make a potential customer self-conscious about something you perceive as a flaw? I’ve worked retail and that’s just wrong in so many ways. C) Can you tell me where else the drag queens shop, because hopefully they’re more polite to customers?

    Okay, maybe I’m a little sensitive about being judged about something so arbitrary and superficial. Now if anyone would like to make fun of the fact that I can’t seem to use my less-than-petite-feet to walk down a flight of stairs without sustaining serious injury, well I can’t really argue with that. ;-)

  19. Jennifer Kesler says

    You’re not over-sensitive: I’ve heard this story from quite a few women I know. Even the drag queen comment. Sizes 11 and up are becoming increasingly common as the average height goes up, and yet people feel entitled to make fun, because they’re assholes. (Sorry, I can’t draw a nicer conclusion.)

    I’m on the other side of the spectrum, where I’m constantly being told what cute little feet and hands I have. I try to take it in the spirit it’s offered, but I’m 34 years old! Surely there are things I’ve accomplished and/or survived that are more noteworthy than what size my feet were when they stopped growing!

    No wonder women give up on the accomplishments and focus on meeting the beauty ideals. But even that’s a trap.

    The ideal woman is close to 6 feet tall, but with the footsize of a petite woman like me. She’s skinny as a teenage boy, but with breasts the size of beachballs. Whatever!

  20. MaggieCat says

    The ideal woman is close to 6 feet tall, but with the footsize of a petite woman like me. She’s skinny as a teenage boy, but with breasts the size of beachballs. Whatever!

    And presumably immobile, since the laws of physics and gravity are not on that mythical woman’s side. ;-) I’d prefer to be functional human being rather than a purely decorative one, myself.

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