(I originally posted this on October 26, 2009, when "A Rolling Crone" had just begun. In the years since then, it has received nearly six thousand hits, which I assume means that a lot of women agree with me on this issue. Because I have some writing deadlines staring me in the face this coming week and no time to write a new post, I decided to re-post this one, to see if you feel advertisers and fashion magazines --and the toy industry-- have evolved over the past years and are now presenting more realistic images of the female body.)
You’ve probably seen the bizarre airbrushed photo of model Filippa Hamilton (above left) used in a Ralph Lauren ad that makes her look like some sort of Giacometti stick figure. It appeared in Japan, then was picked up on blogs like Boing Boing. (It was a blog called “Photoshop Disasters” that posted it first. Then the Ralph Lauren company tried to make them take it down, citing copyright infringement.) A blogger commenting on the image wrote “Dude, her head is bigger than her pelvis!’
After a while the company pulled the ad and declared: "It was mistakenly released and used in a department store in Japan and was not the approved image which ran in the U.S. We take full responsibility. This error has absolutely no connection to our relationship with Filippa Hamilton."
They didn’t mention that in April, Filippa was fired by Ralph Lauren because, according to the model herself, they said that, at 5’10” tall and 120 pounds, she was too fat to fit in Ralph Lauren’s clothes!
In the end, the Lauren company ended up with egg on their collective face and women everywhere are complaining about the grotesque body shape that the company seems to be demanding in their models.
Then somebody found another airbrushed model in a Ralph Lauren ad. It’s the woman in the silver outfit above.
You would think that, after all the brouhaha, ad agencies would backpedal on airbrushing their models into stick figures. But just the other day I received an ad in the mail from Ann Taylor (I have an account there) and it seems to me that the women in that ad (wearing the black outfits above) have been airbrushed into impossibility.
I’ve taken countless life drawing classes during which I’ve drawn naked bodies, male and female, of all ages and sizes. When I see images like the women above, it makes me wince—clearly there’s no room for the requisite vital organs inside them. The bodies in the ads remind you of concentration camp victims, but the over-large heads, with big wide-apart eyes and little pointy chins, resemble children. (In a baby, the head is about one third the body length. In an adult, it’s about one-sixth. And big wide eyes and plump cheeks add to the baby look.)
Then, the other day, I read that Steve Madden, who created a fantasy cartoon woman for the ads that sell his shoes, is suing Mattel, the maker of the hugely popular Bratz dolls, for copyright infringement.
As you can see from the Steve Madden ads above, both he and the Bratz Dolls feature baby-faced pouting women with huge heads and grotesque stick-figure bodies.
I’m beginning to think that a dangerous and bizarre standard of beauty is creeping into the public consciousness.
Remember the era of Twiggy in the late sixties? She also had a very babyish face on a long skinny body, but today, with the new standards of beauty, we’re being sold an even more immature and impossible role model.
And little girls playing happily with their sullen Bratz dolls are going to absorb this standard of beauty, without realizing that no one but a cartoon can look like this and survive.
Remember when all feminists decried the effects of Barbie with her huge breasts and teeny tiny waist? At least she looked as if she ate once in a while.
Meanwhile, I keep reading that America’s children are suffering an epidemic of obesity because they don’t go outside and play anymore, they just sit in front of the TV set.
Today’s New York Times (Oct. 26) cited an article soon to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research that “explores the self-esteem among women looking at pictures of models.” One of the results of the research, not surprisingly, was that “women with normal body-mass indexes had low self-esteem when looking at very thin or at moderately heavy models.”
I don’t know why they have to pay researchers to come up with results like these! It stands to reason that women (and even more so, little girls) when exposed to impossibly thin images of models like those above (and the Bratz dolls) will have low self esteem and will aspire to look like anorexic skeletal victims with large heads and baby faces set in a perpetual sullen, vacant stare, caused, no doubt, by being on the verge of starvation.