As I flip through my March issue of Vogue Magazine, I see 405 pages colorfully filled with images of clothing, models, and celebrities. Vogue is a staple of what fashion is in America. With Anna Wintour as its infamous leading lady, it predicts what we will be trending in the following months or even year. With more than half the pages being advertisements (275 of 405 to be exact), we are being told what to buy. With the colorful pages of Ralph Lauren to the more demure and basic black and white images of Celine, as consumers we are seeing what the top designers are putting out. These elite designers produce clothes people aspire to wear, just as the way these models look and the people that fill the pages of Vogue are what people aspire to look like.
Page after page models do look different. The fashion industry has become more inclusive of different backgrounds and “looks”, as long as the model is skinny. Today, the average woman weighs 160 pounds while a model weighs about 123 pounds, which is 23% less. The models are also often very tall, and around 5’10. According to the BMI scale this makes models just around or at the underweight mark. When most of the woman promoting these brands look a certain way, how are regular women supposed to feel when they don’t look the same way as the models? Young woman are seeing these ads and thinking that this is the way they are supposed to look in order to be beautiful and accepted. Society and the ways we are used to are putting so much pressure on girls and women to look a certain way.
Although there is no single cause for unhappy body image, research is clear that media exposure and pressure produced by the media leads to an increase in dissatisfaction about body image. The obsession with thinness has links to body dissatisfaction and also an internalization about striving to be thin. From personal experience, I have seen countless friends and peers go to extreme lengths to keep a certain weight. From only eating salads for months at a time to going on 10 mile runs every single day, people are putting themselves at serious risks to look a certain way.
Even models within the fashion industry are feeling pressured to look a certain way and stay below a certain weight. Charli Howard, a London-born model, wrote an open letter to people that were criticizing her body. Even standing at 5’8” and wearing a UK size 6-8 (smaller than an American 6-8) she was told by her agency that she was “out of shape” and “too big”. Howard in her video preaches that mental and physical health is more important than the number on the scale. This story to me was eye opening. Howard is young, skinny, and beautiful. She is everything that every day people aspire to be. However she was being told wasn’t good enough by not only modeling agencies, but also every day people. If someone like her is being criticized for the way she looks, then what are people saying about the way “average” people look?
Although we hear mostly about girls and their struggles with body image, boys are also struggling. Boy’s bodies are also under scrutiny by media. One third of boys have tried dieting. Every year there are 20 million pounds (287,82,000 USD) on marketing and filtering and editing images in the fashion industry to both women and men. We are constantly being shown images that are not even real, how are we supposed to keep up? This also proves that models don’t even truly look like “models”.
Models do understand what is going on. Supermodel Cindy Crawford has been quoted saying, “Even I don’t wake up looking like Cindy Crawford.” Also, Victoria’s Secret model Doutzen Kroes had some words to say about the pressure put on girls to look like models. She said in an interview,
“I feel I’m such a big part of that insecurity that some girls might have because of my job, that girls think they have to be that picture. And even boys, they think that that picture exists and it’s so frustrating because I don’t look like that picture — I wake up not looking like that picture.”
I believe so many people suffer from low self-esteem and body image because we live in an imaginative world that we think is real. We are surrounded by ads 24/7 whether it be magazine advertisements, billboards, or even banner ads on a website. They are trying to sell us on a feeling or a way of life. For example if you drink this vodka you could look like x, hang out with x, and have x amount of fun. What we don’t seem to realize is that none of this is real. Even the models in these advertisements don’t look or feel this way. Why do we buy so heavy into advertisements? Can’t we accept our bodies for the way they are and stop tearing down others? Why do we base our self worth on looks alone, and not the other great things we can do and accomplish?