Models are skinny, America is Fat. Can we balance the scales?

July 26, 2012

Killing Us Softly is a video series which analyzes advertising’s image of women by Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D. Dr. Kilbourne is a feminist author, speaker, and filmmaker who is internationally recognized for her work on the image of women in advertising.

Killing Us Softly 4is an update to the series she began in 1979. In the update,  Dr. Kilbourne said that media’s portrayal of women isn’t getting better. It is getting worse. I tend to agree.

However, I am conflicted. The examples that she showed were mostly from fashion magazines and show models who are unnaturally skinny. In several cases the models had visible rib cages. The video specifically mentions Ana Carolina Reston, a Brazilian fashion model who passed away in 2006 as a result of an eating disorder. At the time of her death, Reston weighed just 88 lbs.

Ana Reston from Sept. 2006.

Ana Reston at the London Fashion Week, September 2006

Reston’s Wikipedia entry states:

She had a body mass index (BMI) of only 13.4, well below the index value of 16 which the World Health Organization considers to be starvation.

By no means can this be considered healthy. I do not even find this attractive. Skeletons are not sexy. I think that The Dove® Campaign for Real Beautyis a perfect example on how to present real women with realistic sizes and still show their beauty without starving themselves.

The Dove® Campaign for Real Beauty

My problem with this is this argument is contradictory to the messages we are getting from our health officials. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is reporting obesity levels are reaching epidemic proportions. More than one-third (35.7%) of U.S. adults are obese.  In 2010, Dr. Richard Carmona, the 17th U.S. Surgeon General reported U.S. adult obesity levels at 50%.

In my Race & Gender in the Media course, we discussed the Killing Us Softly video. The majority of the discussion was from the female students and the general impression I got was that they equate beauty with weight.

I cannot say that I disagree, but I think that there is some missing data. I think that Americans are consuming their media differently and I don’t think that these advertisements are reaching the younger audiences today the same way they were ten years ago.

Most teens and tweens are getting the majority of their news from Twitter. More Americans get their news from the Internet than from newspapers or radio, and three-fourths say they hear of news via e-mail or updates on social media sites.

I can say that my own personal habits reflect this entirely. I almost refuse to watch broadcast television so I can avoid the bombardment of advertisements. I get my news almost exclusively from the internet. I have iPad apps installed for CNN, AP, NY Times, Huffington Post, BBC, and Al Jazeera. I even have an adblocker app that keeps out the iAds. I can keep my information mostly advertisement free. When I do watch television shows, I prefer to catch them on Netflix or DVD boxsets to avoid the commercials. I stopped buying magazines because I hated buying a 200 page publication with only about 20 pages of copy.

I grew tired of all of the advertisements and decided that it would make more sense to consume information in the way I wanted to. I suggest that everyone do the same and focus on their own media literacy. Know where the messages are coming from and make up your own mind. It also wouldn’t hurt to exercise every once and a while.

-this post was also used as an assignment for JOUR 4250 (Race/Gender and the Media)


3 Responses to “Models are skinny, America is Fat. Can we balance the scales?”

  1. Alvertising Says:

    Dont hate advertisement Please.. I will be jobless.
    Thanks for reminding me about “Killing us softly”
    Common perception is “Fat is ugly”, but the problem is no one knows what is fat? thats why there is this mad craze to shed weight. “skinny” is not beauty its uglier that fat

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