Column: Skinny models send the wrong message

For a number of years, Wal-Mart has been featuring its employees and their
families as models in itsSkinny
advertising fliers. The department store chain
saves money and gives some regular folks a chance at a little glory and
fame. Imagine yourself in a Wal-Mart flier, wearing a pair of $10
denim shorts from  China, smiling like you just won an Academy Award. You’d
be the envy of your neighborhood. They may  even organize a parade for
you.

But aside from the obvious goodwill created by the Wal-Mart
program, there’s a more significant benefit for society. I realized
this recently while thumbing through a flier, gazing at models such as
Sheila, manager of the garden center, and Vanessa, sister of Florinda,
assistant manager. I’m so used to seeing professional models and
found myself thinking, "Oh my goodness. I can’t believe it. Some of these women have hips."

I actually thought that hips were out of
style. Professional models, even those in department store fliers, haven’t
had hips since at least 1964. And as their hips disappeared, that extra
weight somehow moved all the way up to their chests.

It’s amazing the
type of body you can create through the delicate combination of
plastic surgery and  starvation. Some models today are so skinny, they’d
probably gain a few pounds just by kissing, say, Bill Clinton. A few
pounds and a few nice gifts.

I don’t know about you, but an
emaciated body is not my idea of attractive. If I were dating such a
woman, I wouldn’t be able to eat. I’d feel too guilty.

Of course,
models aren’t the only women who desperately need to be fed. I
keep picturing Sally Struthers in a new television ad, saying, "Please
take a few moments to think about all the people who are starving to
death, while you’re having your 13th slice of pizza. For just 70 cents a
day, the cost of a cup of coffee, you can help feed some of them. If you
call right now and pledge just $21 a month, we’ll send a few life-saving
snacks to the starving women from the television show ‘Friends.’ Please
call 1-800-FEED-A-BABE."

I’d be the first to call. I’d pledge not just
my money, but also my energy. Yes, if given the chance, I’d be willing to
feed Jennifer Aniston personally. That’s how much I care about eradicating
world hunger.

Have you seen Aniston and Courtney Cox recently?
They’re wasting away. Who’s in charge of feeding them? Twiggy?

If this continues, medical students will be able to watch
Aniston’s movies just to study the movements of the human skeleton. "Oh
my gosh," the male students will say. "Jennifer Aniston has such a cute
fibula! Look at the way it stretches across her tibia. That woman has such
sexy bones."

This is a serious situation and not just because some of
these actresses may collapse in hunger. These stars are role models to
teen-age and preteen girls who could develop eating disorders while
trying to emulate their idols. They’re getting the wrong message from
television and advertising, a message that  says, "It’s cool to look like a
stick. You’ll be attractive to men and you’ll never have to spend
another cent on X-rays."

Teen-age girls would be better off
looking through a Wal-Mart flier. They’d see what typical women look like.
They have hips and you can’t see their bones. And you know what? They look
just fine.

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through Amazon.com and McNallyRobinson.com You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.

Comments

  1. it aint dat serious to be skinny an a model there are thicker models its not just one size.

  2. What are you talking about, phylicia?
    I know what you mean man, women are getting more and more attractive to catholic priests because they all look like twelve year old boys. Bye-bye catholism.
    I’m only kidding about the religious stuff, but women should not be as curve as a two-by-four, they should actually have breasts and hips and thighs, that’s why the very first woman had all of that stuff and you have to work pretty hard to keep it off you. Duh!

  3. just give her a bag of chips and tell her to piss off.

  4. I’M HORRIFIED BY THAT PICTURE! ANY COMPANY THAT IS EMPLOYING THESE MODEL NEEDS TO BE SHUT DOWN. YUUUUUUUUCK!!

  5. Go girl for being that skinny. Shit takes hard work. I commend you!!!!

  6. The starving kids in Africa look better then her!

  7. Brittney H says:

    That’s just GROSS! Why would anyone want to be that skinny? News Flash guys like a little bit of curve (something to hold on to other than Bones!)

  8. A PERSON WHO ISN'T BLIND says:

    Okay that picture is photoshopped… BADLY photoshopped.
    Everyone needs to piss off about skinny models. Nobody is forcing anyone to starve themselves. They might send an “unhealthy message,” but I think our society needs to also be wary of how much we coddle the obese. It’s stupid that we are allowed to make fun of people who are too thin but it is considered grotesque and bigoted to point out the unhealthy habits of gluttons, who put themselves at even higher risks.
    I’m pretty thin naturally, and people are always making comments about it that are way out of line. Sure, I also diet, but I don’t starve myself, and it’s a personal decision for anyone. Claims that skinny models are “making” young girls anorexic are just as fallacious as claims that violent video games “make” violent youths… I grew up playing violent video games and watching violent movies and I never really have urges to kill people… Just me, though. Oh wait, and everyone else I know who wouldn’t be screwed up in the head anyways. Just like every girl who I know who starves herself has a PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEM that is INTERNAL, and the idea that it is caused by media is preposterous.
    Whoops, I went on for way too long on that, but really, I’m sick and tired of hearing about this and seeing photoshopped pictures all over the place.

  9. A PERSON WHO HAS EYES says:

    Oh, and nobody twist my words… I didn’t say that anyone should starve themselves and that girls with “average” bodies are inadequate, I just think that we need to respect the decisions that people make about their own, PERSONAL eating habits, and also to respect the fashion industry’s creative decisions when it comes to choosing models.
    Also, I know it may seem like I contradicted myself by saying that we “coddle the obese [and]…the unhealthy habits of gluttons,” and then saying we need to respect those that choose to put severe restrictions on their eating… I never actually criticize people who overeat, but I am indeed sick and tired of the double standard.

  10. A PERSON WHO ISN'T BLIND AND HAS EYES says:

    Also, let’s not praise Wal-Mart so much. Sure, they are pretty consumer-friendly by being cheap, but they’re not great to their employees…
    …Maybe instead of featuring their employees as models, they should stop mistreating them in such a grotesque manner, forcing the beginning employees to work unpaid hours under the guise of “training”! Or maybe pay them enough so that they can get by without scrimping, at maybe a couple of cents-worth of expense for consumers.

  11. alianna says:

    i am a teenage girl and i must admit seeing models who look perfect in magazines made me feel pretty down on myself. i developed an eating disorder that luckily got caught quickly.. but i have so many other problems with self esteem.. i think saying that skinny models and the media are behind anorexic teens.. thats wrong.. but ill also go out and say there were pics of models id look at every morning and then compare myself to it etc
    as an artist ill also say fashion is an art and if they want someone to be skinny to show off their art that’s up to them. the only time i think its wrong is when girls have to be skinnier to model, at an unhealthy weight to have employment.. tha seems like the one whos gettin the crappy end of the deal. i dunno why people bash/hate anorexic models. you get to eat dinner every night. if they eat theyll just die of starvation anyway because they will be unemployed haha. k not rly but ya.

  12. Well, I thought of wanting to be that skinny for a few moment, but hey! My sis awakened me from this horror dream.. She kept on advised on me what could be happened if i keep on doing those stupid vomiting stuff… I could be like this model in the future!! Actually, I belong to a normal body size, but that is not enuf for me, i want to be more skinny, Mayb i got the influence from the society~~ Well, I got it right up now^^
    And for kids under 12, don’t even think of diet!

  13. TOO ALL THAT PIC ABOVE IS NOT REAL IT IS PHOTOSHOPED!!!!! but besides that some people are just made thin and look better in the clothes and it isn’t the models fault its the parents, want kind of an image is created when “oo mommy’s on a diet”

  14. I’m new here, just wanted to say hello and introduce myself.

  15. these models show how strong we can be, they show self control, self believe and determination. i know how bad it is for our bodies and how ‘disgusting’ it looks to some of you, but as much as these women most likely hate having food rule their life,, at the same time being thinner and thinner until they are almost non existing is what makes them happy, what makes them feel content, peacful, proud and in control of themselves…
    having skinny models / ‘celebraties’ in the public eye i agree can encourage younger or any one to compare themselves and learn to hate the way they look, and therefore sometimes introducing E.D.s… but tbh..
    think…
    why is it that these celebraties are in the public eye?? would someone like angelina jolie, paris hilton, jennifer anniston be as ‘successful’ as they are if they were ugly or god forbid obese??
    so what i’m saying is that at the end of the day, this is OUR society that WE created… everyone is so set how we look, on their ‘ego’, on being different from everyone else, without being considered ‘wierd’ — how does that work?…
    seriously… look at yourself, how different are you from the next person?? you may have different skin colour,
    hair colour,
    language,
    build, and views,
    but everyone is the same..
    and these women who are successful in being thin are striving to try and be different to you,
    striving to get attention,
    striving to be loved and admired,
    and tbh probably deep down are striving to escape the vicious vicious expectations that our society has of them…
    … but they just cant because no matter what the scales say – they have now gotten themselves into an everlasting tunnel where there is NO light,
    and they will NEVER be thin enough,
    ..NEVER be pretty enough,…
    …and will never be perfect enough….
    …. but whats the harm in trying eh?

  16. whether that photo is altered or not is not the topic at and anyway! you can find a thousand photos just like it or worse in any direction (skinny or fat) that are very much real in every way. And yes the TV and Movies DO influence people, young, old , fat, or skinny. the fact is that there is a healthy weight for every height and age range and being too skinny or too fat is a health risk and can and Will eventually cause problems that can and often times do lead to death. and no I do not agree that a persons weight should be their “choice”!!! Guess what! Suicide is against the law! and that is exactly what it is, either way, being over or under weight. and everybody can get offended if they want but the simple truth of it all is that our eating habits are the leading factors of almost ALL of our health problems and diseases today. If you “choose” to over eat then its your fault that you have breathing problems, diabetes, edema, heart failure, etc… if you “choose” to starve yourself or “binge and purge” then its your fault you have muscle loss, immunity disorder, dental problems, breathing problems, hair loss, heart problems, etc.
    the FACT is that eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes, people do too… but your “shape” or “build” has nothing to do with being over or under weight! it has to do with your bone structure, which you should be small enough to “feel” under a SMALL layer of fat-(your ribs), but not so small you can see them!

  17. blow is a list of heath problems for over AND under weight people, and if you notice, the word DEATH is at the end of all 3 lists, and everything on each list has been medically proven-ask your doctor if you don’t believe me;
    Bulimia can cause;
    Loss of vital minerals
    Metabolic disturbances
    Erosion and discoloration of tooth enamel from stomach acid
    Tooth decay,
    gum disease,
    mouth ulcers
    Inflamed glands resulting in a “chipmunk” or “moon” face
    Impaired mental functioning
    Lowered resistance to infections
    Severe muscle spasms
    Esophagus damage
    Permanent organ damage
    Heart attack
    High incidence of drug and alcohol addiction
    Co-occurrence of clinical depression,
    anxiety,
    obsessive compulsive disorder
    Death
    anorexia can cause;
    Dehydration
    Malnutrition
    Heart damage
    Liver damage
    Infertility
    Personality changes
    Kidney damage
    Osteoporosis
    Damage to the immune system
    Starvation
    Permanent health damage
    Death
    obesity can cause;
    Heart disease
    stroke.
    High blood pressure.
    Diabetes.
    Cancer.
    Gallbladder disease
    gallstones.
    Osteoarthritis.
    Gout.
    Breathing problems, such as sleep apnea (when a person stops breathing for a short time during sleep) and asthma.
    Death

  18. i am skinny 😀 cooollies

  19. the foto is photoshoped -.-

  20. dr khanum says:

    i was on the net just looking at SKINNY MODELS because i had the same problem with a patient of mines who was 23 years of age and weight just under 3 n half stones she modeled for d&g 3 years ago but then they refused her because she obviously was to to skinny
    she completely lost her hair [for specific reasons i can not name her]she was suffering from heart Insulin C-peptide and also diabetes and today unfortunately she was put on heart,kidney and lung monitors because [for specific reasons i can not say] but she has an eldest sister who models for the same brand and she is really healthy she weight’s 13 stones you maybe thinking oh my god she is so fat and how on earth dose she model for d&g

  21. Skinny witch says:

    To the person who commented on September 30 at 1:51PM.
    First, you did NOT list the health problems associated by being merely underweight, and you should have included that as well. Not everyone who is underweight is anoxeric or bulimic, but yes, there are still health risks (even if that is their natural weight). Some people with bulimia are actually overweight or obese (but still have the severe health problems you listed associated with bulimia.)
    Personally, I get REALLY sick of everyone assuming that just because someone is underweight that they MUST have an eating disorder. I just have a small frame. Sometimes, depression causes me to UNINTENTIONALLY lose weight. Also, my medication makes it difficult to gain weight and keep weight on. Even before I had these compounding issues, I was skinny. I’ve always been skinny. That is just the body I was born with.
    Anyhow, I’m adding protein and more calories to my diet in hopes of gaining weight in a healthy way. (The protein is to help build muscle. Funny how they recommend that for both underweight and over, huh?) I had a wake up call earlier this year when I suffered a horrible depression and went down to 100 lbs (I’m 5’4″ so that is scary skinny. I should be closer to 110, but haven’t been able to get above 108 in a couple of years despite trying.) I’m at 106 now, and my doctor has no problem with my current weight (because of my tiny frame), but understands why I want to gain some weight and agrees that it would be healthy for me to do so.
    For everyone else here, I have a few other comments:
    Just because you can see your ribs does not mean you are too skinny. (addressed to commenter on Sept 30 at 8:37) I have a wide rib cage from asthma and from singing (practicing expanding). Even at my heaviest 126, you could still see my ribs a little because of my wide rib cage. That doesn’t mean I was too skinny. That is the only time I was “overweight” and it doesn’t even qualify as overweight according to the charts. However, I was exhausted just going up the stairs at that weight and had no energy, so clearly it was overweight for me.
    Also, some of us can’t help having small hips or a small chest! My hip bones just aren’t that big. I didn’t inherit the big boobs gene. Because my rib cage is wide (as mentioned earlier) my waist looks bigger, and my hips look smaller. Do you really have to insult people with other (less curvy) body types by associating all poeple with this body type as anorexics?
    Other women hate me because I have small hips, but really you should be happy with whatever you’ve got. I think I’m cute, even if I don’t have the popular big chest (mentioned in the article with the shrinking hips – surgery can be odd sometimes) or curvy hips. Other women hate that I can wear things they can’t because it makes hips look bigger. They forget there are things that I can’t wear because it makes me look boy-ish. Dress the way that makes you feel good in your own skin.
    Finally, what is too skinny or too fat is relative. Yes, both things exist, and I do think many models are too skinny for their actual body frame. Also, there are people who classify as “overweight” who aren’t actually overweight at all for their bodies.
    I feel sad for people that have eating disorders. It is a medical condition, and it is not fair to berate them for their actions when what they really need is treatment. It IS fair to take the fashion industry to task for using unhealthy models. I have no problem with a preference for “skinny” models. It’s a problem when models are not a healthy weight for themselves however, and that is all too common. I don’t think it is the cause of eating disorders, but it doesn’t help and can exacerbate the problem. As a society we have messed up conflicting views about weight, “Big is beautiful.” “Skinny is in.” “REAL women have curves.” (a personal pet peeve of mine – News flash, there are obese women who don’t have those types of curves, and there are skinnier women who don’t either. Both have curves, and both are real women. To say otherwise urks me to no end!)
    /rant

  22. I’m really skinny, and tall and I have a super tiny frame. 😦
    I really want to gain weight, but honestly I can’t. I’m a total ectomorph. I’m constantly getting made fun of, it’s ridiculous. Once a random lady shouted in the mall “WOW. THAT GIRL IS WAY TOO SKINNY.” I really hate it. 😦 I’m always wearing thick sweatshirts, even when it’s extremely hot because of this. I’ve always been skinny my entire life. My doctor told me that some people are just made like that, it has to do with genetics I guess. :/ Well, I guess I’m only 17 now, so maybe I’ll gain weight in the future. But it just sucks. The media, and how they portray people as being “too skinny” or “too fat”. I know obese people may have to go through being made fun of as well. I just think it’s completely the media’s fault. I just wish they would promote all shapes and sizes, from skinny to a larger frame. I think just as long as you’re healthy and true to yourself it doesn’t matter how large or small you are. If all sizes were promoted people would be happy with the way they are. What should be promoted is being healthy. Even if you’re skinny like me, I’m still healthy. Even if you’re larger, as long as you’re healthy it’s fine. I don’t see what the big deal is. We only have one life to live. 😦 So I guess since I’m just a twig, I’ll never be a “real woman” ever, according to the media. And because the media portrays this, everyone seems to think it. The media has a huge impact on everything we do. I don’t understand why they just can’t be all accepting. And this article giving me the impression that once again, my body type is unacceptable. I understand that a lot of people have real problems like anorexia and such, but I don’t. And I bet a person who would read this article and saw me at the mall would do the same thing as that woman. I just wish people of all sizes and shapes are seen as acceptable..one day.

  23. Photoshop. And a rubbish job of it as well.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Stuffing something in your mouth and trying to get a good night’s sleep just doesnt make sense. I tried these natural exercises and cured my snoring in under 2 weeks

  25. omg, thats horrifying. How is she still alive????? She looks like she could drop dead any second!

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  27. I can’t believe some people are giving models like that props for their “determination” or saying it “makes them feel content, peacful, proud and in control of themselves.”
    *shudder*
    By no means can that make you happy, and by no means is that showing determination. It’s a feeling that you have no control at all so you’re doing the one thing you think you can. In reality, you’re giving up control there too, becoming trapped by food, making your stomach a “god,” if you will. That makes you feel empty not only physically but emotionally. Starving yourself IS disordered. Yea, some people are naturally skinny, but starving yourself is not healthy. And being underweight naturally isn’t necessarilly healthy either even if you’re not trying to lose weight. It’s harming your body. And it means you have little or no self-respect. I’ve been there.
    Girls, if you find yourself in that position, talk to someone! You may feel right now that it’s not something you can escape, that you’re trapped and depressed looking in the mirror. It’s escapeable! Get someone to help you and keep you accountable!

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