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"Unhealthily thin" models vs unhealthily overweight models in ads

(15 Posts)
Flingmoo Wed 03-Jun-15 13:00:24

I just read this article about an ad featuring an unhealthily thin model being banned.

I have a question to ask which will probably sound quite obnoxious. Why are ads featuring unhealthily thin models considered to be promoting an unhealthy body image, while unhealthily overweight ones are not generally considered to be problematic. (Not that they don't attract criticism at all, but they don't tend to be banned or publicly condemned)

I'm not asking this in a crass way, its more of a hypothetical "how would I respond if someone asked me this" sort of question.

I have a couple of ideas why it might be, but I'm curious to hear some MN wisdom!

TeacupTravels Wed 03-Jun-15 13:04:43

Im not sure I've seen many unhealthily overweight models? I think as most people don't aspire to be unhealthily overweight its not a problem in the way that underweight models fuel the desire to be thin (which can exacerbate both anorexia and obesity). Isn't that obvious?

tabulahrasa Wed 03-Jun-15 13:14:48

Partly because thin is aspirational.

But also because most models are at the very least at the bottom end of healthy, so advertisers/the fashion industry is constantly on the verge of making underweight desirable as well...where the occasional plus size model that makes an impact is very much an oddity, it's not so much don't you want to look like her as just, look, look at her.

shaska Wed 03-Jun-15 13:22:50

For me it's a question of what's desirable in the mainstream.

I haven't, I don't think, ever seen an unhealthily overweight model presented in any way other than as a 'niche' - as something outside the norm. I have seen overweight models celebrated, and I agree that you could say that there are some slightly worrying ideas there from a health perspective, but I also think that much with any under-valued group, 'celebrating' is not the same as deeming as the norm of desirability. And frankly I think the 'price' of celebrating a weight that may not be healthy is outweighed by the benefit of presenting women who are outside the traditional norms.

It just seems a bit of a diversion to me, when people bring it up. I mean, surely we can all see that the vast vast majority of presented 'desirable' female bodies are thin, and in quite a lot of cases, in the 'very' thin range. It doesn't mean no woman should be thin, or can be thin. It's just... when it's so 'the standard' of desirability I'm not sure a few overweight women being celebrated as desirable is going to make any difference to the dominant narrative, let alone to obesity rates in general.

trevortrevorslatterfry Wed 03-Jun-15 13:34:06

Which ads feature "unhealthily overweight models"? <racks brains>

birkiekid Wed 03-Jun-15 13:43:07

I think the OP is referring to the plus size bloggers who have been getting some media attention recently.

TheseSoles Wed 03-Jun-15 13:43:41

Surely it's about the health of the models? If using underweight models wasn't banned there would be no impetus from agencies to make sure their models were a healthy weight.

There is a model I knew as a teen, she was anorexic and went into modellimg v young as is normal, I hope she has people around now who keep an eye on her and remind her weight needs to be in normal range no matter what some fashion bods think! There is very little modeling regulation. There should be more.

I think models are less likely to deliberately make themselves overweight to get more jobs as plus size modelling is more niche and not likely to lead to the really high paying jobs. But starving yourself can open up doors sadly.

shaska Wed 03-Jun-15 14:05:43

Agree These. If being obese - not overweight but obese - was the standard and girls were trying to attain that in order to get work then that would be worrying. But saying that women who are obese can be attractive too isn't the same thing. It's about what's dominant.

Also, I think there's a difference between beauty despite and beauty because. If you look at a lot of the wording around non-traditionally beautiful people - say, photos of people with disabilities, or indeed overweight people, it tends to imply they are beautiful despite whatever the thing is that takes them out of the norm. Whereas a lot of the narratives around thin-ness are more about beauty because. The idea that being thin makes you beautiful. That's the dangerous one, I think.

There does seem to be a bit of beauty because coming into overweight women, at least in the online world. I think that's kind of great, but I suspect that's what's getting people angry, that they've picked up on that change and it's a sidelined group who are becoming less so - gaining in power, basically. And that's possibly a bit threatening, in a funny, unconscious way, to a lot of people.

NewTwenty Wed 03-Jun-15 14:08:50

Wasn't Sophie Dahl supposed to be 'larger' when she started out?

Apologies for awkward phrasing.

sanfairyanne Wed 03-Jun-15 14:12:44

are they unhealthily overweight? its mostly, to be crude, tits and arse fat on the plus size models i have seen, rather than stomach fat, and they arent obese

OneFlewOverTheDodosNest Wed 03-Jun-15 14:33:56

I think it's because "thin" is our aspiration, nationally.

There are countries in the world where it is considered attractive to be overweight and where the health boards there have to fight against parents force feeding their children rather than starving themselves, iyswim? I know in Mauritania it was particularly bad - with cases of parents denying food to less favoured children in ordered to over feed their favourite daughter - although it is apparently improving.

sashh Wed 03-Jun-15 15:09:10

Why are ads featuring unhealthily thin models considered to be promoting an unhealthy body image, while unhealthily overweight ones are not generally considered to be problematic.

I'm not aware of any unhealthily overweight models on the cat walk.

Anorexia nervosa is a serious mental illness that kills. Other eating disorders are equally serious in terms of the affect on the individual and their family and friends but do not as often kill.

It is about keeping people alive.

spillyobeans Wed 03-Jun-15 15:20:20

I don't know why it seems to have to be one extreme or the other, why not 'normal' or average or a mix of sizes - height wise too - plussize models are still very very tall so dont even look 'plus size' just normal.

Im 5"1 and size 10 but something that would fit a size 10 model would drown me length wise confused

YouMeddlingKids Wed 03-Jun-15 17:31:37

It's interesting that you've put unhealthily thin in quotation marks but not the unhealthily overweight... the vast majority of plus sized models are likely to be a perfectly healthy weight whereas many catwalk models are undeniably thin enough to be doing their bones, hearts, etc, significant damage.

Flingmoo Wed 03-Jun-15 21:49:23

Okay, these responses are pretty much aligned with what I was thinking - i.e. thin is the "norm" which is aspired to, which is why we don't want the unhealthily thin look to be glamorised... I know it's pretty obvious but I was curious to hear what answers you all came up with!

YouMeddlingKids, sorry, wasn't implying anything with the quotes - it's just that "unhealthily thin" was a direct quote as those are the precise the words they uses in the BBC article.

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