Why is thin beautiful and who is to blame?

These days I spend a lot of time in the car since I am the designated transport official for our resident kindergartener. Stereotypes alive and well, as any male he is awfully hard to engage in conversation. In fact, it is just amazing how at barely 6 years old, all on his own, he has figured out a technique of providing a selection of rehearsed answers to my ever predictable questions inquiring about the contents of his school day. But I digress. 

So during school runs, I listen to a selection of my favourite radio stations chief among which is Radio Canada (which, if you are anywhere within their bandwidth, 95.1 FM, you should too, and if not listen to them online). One of the topics discussed yesterday was a new information campaign issued by Anorexia and Bulimia Quebec. The campaign consists of two images (which can be seen below) both featuring the same glamourous looking model sporting a flowing gown. In the first picture the gown is opaque and features the slogan "Fashion is everywhere". In the second image, we see the same model wearing the same gown only it is rendered transparent revealing a painfully thin body and the extended slogan "Fashion is everywhere. So is anorexia". 

Now I am no Sherlock Holmes, but my powers of observation tell me that the not-so-subtle images a) point to the fact that the problem is widespread; and b) lay the blame for this scourge at the doorstep of the fashion industry. 

Stats alone speak to the sad truth behind the first point. According to National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, an estimated 0.5 to 3.7 percent of women suffer from anorexia, while 1.1 to 4.2 percent of women have bulimia in their lifetime. Research also suggests that about 1 percent of female adolescents have anorexia, and that women are much more likely than men to develop an eating disorder.  

But is fashion to blame? Or the media? The recent years have borne witness to an ever louder cacophony of the body image warrior's cries decreeing the evils of fashion and media for creating an increasingly unrealistic standard of beauty in our society. And truth be told you can't throw a rock and not hit an image of a bikini clad starlet who seems to have farted and lost her pregnancy weight. But is that the whole story? After all these are profit based industries and they respond to consumer demands. All we would have to do is tune out and the message will change in no time. 

The core of the issue, in my opinion, lies in the position and role of women in society which is still largely decorative ultimately leading to the creation of beauty standards.  And once the standards are there, they can be manipulated. Thus in the West, the ideal of female beauty is someone who looks like a heroin addict; while in some parts of Africa and Pacific Asia they like 'em big, they like 'em chunky.

The solution? A continued effort to improve the position of women in the society which will move us away from focusing on appearance and bring us closer to the importance of women's health. 

I would love to hear from you on this, so in the words of my favourite Coffe Talker, Linda Richman: "Talk amongst yourselves".



  1. Love this! We need to talk about this kind of thing more. I know I can't even get into it without writing about 10 paragraphs, so I won't start, but I agree: womens' self perception and appearance related issues will improve when they are valued for the contents of their souls, hearts and minds, not for their appearances. We each need to develop our awareness and fight the shame-based messages we constantly receive about our limitations and our obligations.

  2. "unrealistic standard of beauty"... so true, so sad....great post

  3. hej, samo da pozdravim. ti znas koliko ja znam o modi ili me interesira, ali pisi... ova 'kriza modnog identiteta' mi se jako svida. Pisi....

  4. I think alot of it is about control. Being thin is a status thing... a thin women must be able to afford personal trainers, organic foods, health club memberships. She must have the willpower to overcome all the temptations the rest of us slobs succumb to. We see thin as desireable because in this culture, only the elite really have it. Hollywood and fashion are all about thin, but do you really want to be thin, or do you want to be healthy? I am 5'8" tall, and my weight has fluctuated between 123lbs and 160lbs in the past ten years. I can tell you that 123lbs didn't feel very good (neither did 160!), even though I received the praise and attention I thought I wanted. The most pressure I felt to stay at that small size came from myself...even though I was tired all the time, there was this sick and bizzare sense of accomplishment that came from acheiving a look that so many people wanted. But then I started a new job, learned some new sports, and made real accomplishments that satisfied me so much more.

  5. Jen Rainey you are one inspiring woman. Running with you, in whatever little running ground Rome had to offer, while having healing conversations, is one of my most cherished memories of friendship. Long may you run!

  6. I couldn't agree more Hayley. The way women eat in the West is alarmingly connected with the way they feel about ourselves. We must, must keep the conversation going.


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Fashionable in Montreal by Danina Kapetanovic is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at fashionable-in-mtl.blogspot.com.