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"I am so beautiful, sometimes people weep when they see me. And it has nothing to do with what I look like really, it is just that I gave myself the power to say that I am beautiful, and if I could do that, maybe there is hope for them too. And the great divide between the beautiful and the ugly will cease to be. Because we are all what we choose."

Margaret Cho

Body Love and Botticelli: How Ancient Art Gave Samantha (more of) the Power to Love Herself

Posted by on Mar 27, 2014 in Blog, Body Image | 1 comment

Body Love and Botticelli: How Ancient Art Gave Samantha (more of) the Power to Love Herself

 

When I was 18 years old, I lived in Beijing for six months. It was… epic. For a lot of reasons. Least of which being all the beer pong. The nudist protest I made in a Chinese bar. Hiking the Great Wall.

Okay, maybe the Great Wall goes first.

Anyway.

Beijing was also my first experience in a world class museum. The Beijing version of the MET had an entire exhibit devoted to medieval and rennaissance depictions of women…. and I fell in love.

Being slightly overweight, young, in college, and feeling badly about myself but not understanding the worlds of body image, sexism, disordered eating, and the like…. when I saw paintings that glorified bodies that looked less like American ideals… bodies that were softer, pudgier, rollier, versions of American ideals – I realized just how deeply beauty norms are conditioned by societal preferences.

I realized that my body was worthwhile.

I realized that American norms didn’t get to tell me if I was beautiful or not (neither do the Greek or Italian ones, of course.)

I fell in love with ancient art that muggy afternoon in Beijing.

One of our community members, Samantha Williams, who is a beautiful woman and poet and soul and fire – has reflected on the same experience to a remarkable degree. I asked her if she would be willing to write a short piece for our blog that discussed her transformation and relationship to the art, and this is what she delivered.

So Samantha….

—————– 

“You could be a sister of the Graces,” my friend told me as we stood examining a print taken from Botticelli’s Venus and the Three Graces Presenting Gifts to a Young Woman.

 

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Botticelli, detail from Venus and the Three Graces

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Presenting Gifts to a Young Woman (1483-1486)

 

Although I could have deflected this compliment by mentioning numerous dissimilarities (for example, my face is much too round), instead I smiled and said, “Thank you.”  In general, my friend appreciates my appearance more than I do.  It is not my job to try to make his taste conform to mine.  Arguing would diminish his enjoyment and deprive me of the chance to bask in the glow of his sincere regard.

 

Sometimes it is easier to see myself as beautiful when I look through someone else’s eyes.

 

Intrigued by the figures in the painting, I went online the next day to learn more about the Graces, minor Greco-Roman goddesses of beauty, joy, and abundance.  My search for pictures of the mythical trio soon brought me to Botticelli’s Primavera.

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Botticelli, detail from Primavera (c. 1482)

I admired the easy flow of the dancing Graces.  And I noticed their curves.

Then I moved on to other representations.  While the body types varied, it seemed obvious that in each case, the artist felt that the women he had portrayed were beautiful.

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First-century fresco

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Raphael, 1504-1505

 Italian fresco, c. 1519

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Jacques Blanchard, Venus and the Three Graces Surprised by a Mortal (1631-1633)

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Peter Paul Rubens, 1635

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Carle van Loo, 1763

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French painting, c. 1765

Jean-Baptiste Regnault, 1797-1798

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Antonio Canova, 1814-1817

My quick search for depictions of Venus, goddess of beauty and love, also began with Botticelli.

 

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Botticelli, detail from Primavera (c. 1482)

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Botticelli, The Birth of Venus (1486)

 

I was particularly drawn to Giorgione’s Sleeping Venus because the goddess’s face is similar to mine, and I have spent more time bemoaning my “fat cheeks” than complaining about any other body part.  Like many of the other portraits I found, this one illustrates that the six-pack is not the only abdominal ideal.

 

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Giorgione, Sleeping Venus (c. 1510)

 

When I imagine myself among this company of beautiful women as another finely crafted showpiece in the human gallery, I want to treat my body with the love, respect, and care worthy of a work of art.

 

I suspect that these images of Venus and the Graces exercise their power not merely through the way they look, but also through the way they make the artist and the viewer feel.  The degree of appreciation is influenced by the attitudes of both the model and the perceiver.

 

When interacting with people or viewing pictures, we can apply a propensity to objectify, criticize, and find fault, or we can bring a disposition to accept, empathize, and celebrate.  I have noticed that my impressions of how my friends look are infused by my affection for them and by my memories of the times we have spent together.  I have come to associate their physical appearances with their characteristic traits of ability, intellect, and imagination.  Since paintings and sculptures often represent composite images created over multiple sittings with the goal of eliciting particular reflections and responses, such artworks may come closer than most photographs to approximating this deeply subjective dimension of human experience.

 

For me, exploring visions of beauty from other periods and places has reinforced the lesson that a woman who exudes vitality and delight can be attractive no matter what her shape.  We can all seek the beauty in others and share our unique graces with the world.

 

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10 Signs You’re a Healthy Woman

Posted by on Mar 25, 2014 in Blog | 6 comments

10 Signs You’re a Healthy Woman

 

Much as I love empowerment, self-love, and confidence, I am going to pass out if I write another article about sex appeal this week. That stuff’s important, but only as one piece of the puzzle of what it means to be a whole, healthy woman.

What are some other signs that you are healthy – and as a woman, specifically?

What do you want to look for as signals of wellness?

Here are the most important:

——

1. If of reproductive age, you have a regular menstrual cycle.

The menstrual cycle is highly sensitive to fluctuations in health. Impaired gut health, inflammation, insulin resistance, physical stress and mental stress can all negatively impact your cycle and its regularity. If your cycle is irregular, you may want to investigate what may be causing it. An irregular cycle is a pretty clear signal that at least some thing is amiss in your body, even if the list of potential culprits is long.

2. Your period is relatively pain-free.

I will not guarantee you a painless menstrual cycle, no matter how healthy you are.

But if you are physiologically healthy, your period will never make you so sick you have to miss work or spend an entire day curled up in the foetal position with Love Actually. Common reasons for intense pain during a menstrual cycle are endometriosis – a condition of having endometrial tissue planted excessively throughout your abdominal cavity – and estrogen dominance. Endometriosis is associated with autoimmunity and immune system dysreulation, so an autoimmune protocol may be in order. Estrogen dominance is a result of being overweight, stress, inflammation, poor liver health, and birth control use.

High amounts of inflammation can also seriously impact your menstrual experience. Many women find that excessive sugar or a meal out at a restaurant leads to menstrual pain in the following days.

3. You do not go crazy once every month.

PMS is a sure sign that your neurotransmitters – the molecules that make up the bulk of your brain – are not quite working the way they should. In PMS, certain “feel good” chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine do not react well to the hormonal changes at the end of your menstrual cycle.

So both your hormones need to be balanced and your neurotransmitters need to be supported if you suffer PMS or PMDD (the more extreme form of PMS). Cooling inflammation, weight loss, focusing on omega 3s, exercise, eliminating grains, dairy, and sugar, and healthy animal protein are all great ways to do this.

4. You sleep well.

Women experience insomnia at much higher rates than men. This is largely because hormones influence everything in the body. Estrogen is necessary for moving magnesium into tissues, which helps your body shut off at night. So without proper hormone balance, you may have trouble falling and staying asleep.

Women are also highly sensitive to stress hormones. Cortisol – the primary stress hormone – is also responsible for wakefulness. So if you are under an undue amount of stress, that can show up in your sleeping patterns and wreak havoc all its own.

If you sleep well, this is a good sign that you are in decent hormone balance, have your stress within manageable ranges, produce the right amount of sleep hormones, and have healthy neurotransmitters.

5. You have regular bowel movements.

Constipation, diarrhea, and irregularity are all signs that something’s a bit off with your digestive processes. This is likely due to an impaired gut flora population (which often runs hand in hand with leaky gut). This is a crucial problem to address for many reasons. 1) Your comfort. 2) Your intestinal lining and a healthy immune system. 3) Keeping inflammation in check. And 4) Keeping estrogen levels healthy. Too little fiber and too much constipation makes your body re-absorb estrogen that it is trying to excrete, possibly making you estrogen dominant; and too much fiber and diarrhea on the other hand can do the very opposite.

6. You have clear skin.

This is a tough one for me. I have incredibly sensitive skin. Nonetheless, in the end I have nothing to be but grateful for this fact since my sensitivity makes me so attuned to small differences in my health. My cystic acne alerted me to my dairy and soy sensitivities. My keratosis pilaris (those red bumps commonly found on people’s arms) only flares up when I eat gluten, alerting me to some degree of sensitivity on that front. I break out when I am under even a small degree of stress.

And all of this is even more extreme because I had/have PCOS, one of the most common female hormone imbalances.

Your skin is littered with testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, DHEA-S, and other sex hormone receptors. Testosterone aggravates the skin and causes increased oil production, and estrogen soothes and softens your skin. If you experience cystic acne, particularly as it may fluctuate with your menstrual cycle, this is a clear sign that some sort of hormone balance is plaguing you.

7. You don’t have hair in male places, like around your mouth, and you aren’t balding where men do, like on the top of your head.

Male-pattern hair growth and hair loss is a clear sign of hormone imbalance. When your hormone profile matches a man’s — primarily via testosterone excess — you will develop hair growth patterns like a man’s.

8. You have a libido.

Libido is not just a side benefit of being a woman. It’s an important marker of health. Hormone imbalance – in both the cases when estrogen levels are too high and when male sex hormone levels like testosterone are too high – will often precipitously endanger your sex drive. Stress and poor sleep also derail libido. As does poor psychological health regarding sex.

If your libido is raging, ten stars for you. If you struggle with it, consider working on issues of hormone balance, reducing stress, and creating the safest sexual environment possible.

9 You have energy both before and after you exercise.

You shouldn’t have to force a workout. If you have the right amount of energy, (and if you are appropriately listening to your body!), exercise should feel good and fun. You also shouldn’t be so fatigued afterward. If you have energy both before and after you exercise, this is a good sign that your body is not over-taxed, that your stress hormones are in manageable levels, and that your body is on board with your current lifestyle.

9.5 You have energy. Period.

Way, way, way too many women are chronically fatigued. From stress hormone excess to poor sleep to hypothyroidism, it is incredibly easy for women’s lives to slip away into brain fog. If you are chronically fatigued, consider nutrient deficiencies, stress, inadequate sleep, too low carbohydrate or fat intake, too low calorie intake, blood sugar fluctuations and hypothyroidism as possible culprits. Hypothyroidism is particularly important for women since the vast majority of hypothyroid cases occur in women. The thyroid gland is highly sensitive to pituitary and stress hormone activity, both of which we know are crucial and highly influential aspects of women’s health.

10. Maintaining a healthy weight isn’t impossible.

Women have a harder time losing and maintaining a “healthy” weight than men. Why? Hormones, of course. For one, the female body is highly sensitive to starvation signals, so if you over-do it in terms of calorie restriction or exercise over a long period of time, your body may rebel by decreasing its fat-burning rate. For another, if you are on birth control or your estrogen levels are at all elevated (due to inflammation, being overweight, stress, and the like), your estrogen levels may be encouraging weight storage and preventing you from losing weight. If you are menopausal, you may struggle with weight maintenance because your estrogen levels are too low (counter-intuitive, I know), and you need at least a little bit of estrogen in order to store fat properly.

Also, the female body just so happens to usually really love having some fat on it, so give it a hug. Don’t try to starve it away.

——

All of which and more in the seminal guide to women’s health, Sexy by Nature, @ Amazon and in stores now!

 

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9 Steps to Invincible Partnership with Your Body

Posted by on Mar 20, 2014 in Blog, Body Image, Disordered Eating, Feminism | 0 comments

9 Steps to Invincible Partnership with Your Body

First, let me say: thank you, community. After just 24 hours on Amazon shelves, Sexy by Nature was already #1 in one of it’s listed categories, “whole foods.” I couldn’t do this without you. Your love and support is incredible, and as I drove east from Detroit to Boston yesterday all I could think about was how much I wanted to hug all of you all of the time.

If you’ve got a copy, I hope you love it, and I hope you’ll let me know what you think. I’m watching all the relevant review sites like a hawk, ready for your honest stars (I don’t even need five, I promise. Just honest ones.) (No, give me five, okay?)

Just kidding…

Seriously, though.

So it gives me even more joy to bring to you one of the best, practical, empowering, and did I say best? posts that I think I’ve ever written. It’s up at George Bryant’s (the civilized caveman of giveaway and incredible recipes and big time LOVE fame) blog.

It’s called “9 Steps to Invincible Partnership with Your Body.”

The 9 steps?

1. Surround Yourself with the Love You Deserve

2. Deconstruct Negative Thoughts About Yourself

3. Contextualize

4. Get on your Body’s Side

5. Accept!

6. Forgive!

7. Appreciate!

8. Go to the Mattresses!

and (of course – because you know me well enough by now) 9. Strut!

(except George likes to use more exclamation points, as you’ll see in the post :) )

——–

So check it out! This list is NOT in Sexy by Nature - much as I wish it were. Nor is it anywhere else, really. You might want to check out the “10 Reasons to Love Your Body” VLOG, which is similar, but that’s as close as I get anywhere on the internet to telling you how to have a good relationship with your body.

Read. Here. It’s awesome.

Then make George’s banana bread. Even more awesome.

 

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10 Reasons I am a Sexy Woman: A Celebration of Sexy by Nature’s Release Today!

Posted by on Mar 18, 2014 in Blog, Sexy by Nature | 3 comments

10 Reasons I am a Sexy Woman: A Celebration of Sexy by Nature’s Release Today!

 

LADIES! Today is the day!

Cut the ribbon! Loose the sails! Get ready, on your mark…

Leap!

Sexy by Nature is on shelves and we are going to do some hella powerful things for women all over the world.

Haven’t ordered it yet? No worries! It’s available on Amazon - though it’s current 27 percent off sale will only last as long as the Amazon gods permit.

(If you happen to have your hands on a copy or simply want to jump the gun, reviews @ the page @ Amazon are  the most important thing we can do as a community to help convince the book gods that this is one worthy of attention…. and I am almost certain that it is. :) )

Not convinced it’s a good buy? Check out early reviews byJason Seib (“Stefani is a voice of reason in what sometimes feels like a desert of books offering “just another diet”) Heather Spergel  (“I was hugging the book to my chest in appreciation”) and Kaila Prins (“I think this might be the first and last nutrition book you’ll ever need.”)

And to be a showy ass for just another second or two, Taylor Ritzel, 2012 Gold Medalist, calls me a genius on the back cover, and Robb, “one of the fiercest and most learned advocates of women’s health.”

Want to read a bit more about it? Check out a Q&A here or read most of the introduction here.

See a video preview? Here.

A guy? Trust me, you can still love the shit out of this book.

——–

SO. In celebration this is so joyous event, I am going to share with you ten reasons I am a sexy human being.

Sexy by Nature is all about physical healing tools – overcoming acne, infertility, thyroid issues, adrenal fatigue, hormone imbalance, menopause symptoms, and more – but it is also about psychological healing tools. You need not just the right foods, but you need to relate to the foods and to your body in the healthiest way possible.
Sexy by Nature is all about sexiness. It’s about the place that being sexy has in your life, and how you can change your thoughts about sexiness and yourself in order to become a more physically and psychologically well human being.

In Sexy by Nature, I define being sexy as “an attitude.”

As “empowerment.”

And as “excitement to be in the skin you’re in.”

Sexiness isn’t an hourglass figure. It isn’t a measurement. It isn’t a dress size. Because none of those things say a damn lick about how you feel in your own skin as a natural body, about how excited you are to be you and to be on a journey to greater health and wellness.

Sexiness is about being a woman who is alive and who is embodied in her own self. It’s about being someone true to her self, someone who is free to love herself and the world because she is a forgiving, compassionate, proud ally of her body and its needs.

———

i AM A SEXY WOMAN BECAUSE

1) I used to pinch my abdominal fat every morning first thing when I woke up, and now I don’t do it as often.

2) I believe in the powers of courage and love and challenge myself to live more fully into them every day.

3) I am a dancer.

4) I have passion and excitement for living life beautifully and meaningfully and try to share it with people.

5) I try really, really hard to be a good person, even though I am so incredibly far from where I’d like to be.

6) I appreciate what is female about my body and what my body needs in order to be healthy – so I feed her when she is hungry and stop when she is full. I am not at war with my body. I do my best to listen, and am her partner.

7) I am a super super super nerd – the kind of nerd that is still nerdy enough to not be cool. I know the names of and can identify on sight all 150 of the original Pokemon. Oddish is obviously the cutest.

8) I recently “failed”  in life, big time. I do not hate myself for that fact. I don’t even hate the world that much. I am a human being.

9) And I am worthwhile.

I am worthwhile.

I am worthwhile.

10) And that is mostly why I am sexy. Because sexiness is a damnit-all-to-hell right, and I have rights.

Ihave accepted and come to love and take pride in being me, uniquely. I am worthy of sexual and romantic feelings, and for that I feel sexy… often.

And am sexy. Worthy of sexy. Worthy of confidence. Worthy of love.

I have learned to feel this way more and more over time.

And I really, very, so very much hope that you do, too.

—–

What makes you a sexy woman? What do you think sexy is? Do you think it has more to do with what people think or with how you feel? All answers are awesome – I want your feedback and a discussion.

Thank you, ladies, for everything.

—–

AND: THE WINNER OF THE KINDLE FIRE HDX GIVEAWAY HAS ARRIVED!

IT’S…..

Candy Horvath!

Congratulations, Candy!!!!

—–

Don’t forget – book’s on Amazon! And leave a review whenever you’re ready!

amazon logo

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Announcing!: Sexy by Nature’s 27 percent off – and the Sexy by Nature Exclusive Community Page is Up and Running…and stuff.

Posted by on Mar 13, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Announcing!: Sexy by Nature’s 27 percent off – and the Sexy by Nature Exclusive Community Page is Up and Running…and stuff.

 

It has been a challenge for me to sort out what I want to do with this blog and with the forthcoming book. How much do I want them to intersect? I don’t know. Are they the same thing? I don’t know. Should I serve both communities at the same place? I don’t know. Every time I start thinking about these questions I get stuck and find myself watching the latest episode of Bones before I even knew what I am doing.

Needless to say, there has been a whole lot of David Boreanaz in my life.

Not like I’m complaining.

Anyway.

So I have decided, after much deliberation, to keep the Paleo for Women blog strictly as the Paleo for Women blog. Huzzah!

huzzah

But then what to do with all the women in the Sexy by Nature community who also want to hang out and chat and get tips and share the latest nutritional and body image gossip?

Create a Facebook page, obviously.

sbn facebook page square no stem click here to join excerpts etc blue and black centered saturated new font

So thus we have the Sexy by Nature facebook page, which is where the bulk of the discussion about all things Sexy by Nature is currently in the process of migrating to.

For example, on the page, I recently posted three excerpts from the book – one each on each type of self-love I describe in the book – on the Facebook page – and at this page only. 

I describe physical self-love, non-physical self-love, and existential self love.

Physical love is about loving your body, and how to do it the right way and how to do it the wrong way.

….Because there are definitely wrong ways (ie, attachment to specific characteristics) and there are definitely right ways (ie, I love my body because it enables me to kick ass, a la the recent body love extravaganza we had at this site.)

Non-physical love is about appreciating all the things about yourself (the infinite things!) that are not physical, for example, how fearless you might be, or your sense of human.

Existential love is about the love of which you are worthy simply by being a human being. This self love is the bedrock of the other two. Without existential self-love, you cannot really forgive yourself as radically as you need to, nor love yourself as consistently.

So anyway. I talk about these things at the community page - http://facebook.com/sexybynaturebook – and will continue to share excerpts and tips and freebies and the like.

 

—–

 

AND. Perhaps coolest of all - Sexy by Nature is up to #3 in both Women’s Sexual Health and Whole Foods categories on Amazon – and hasn’t even been released yet! So go ahead and give yourselves a pat on the back, kickass community. It is only because of you that word of our revolution has been able to spread at all.

Thank you, sincerely.

And go ahead and spread even more love because the book is on sale for 27 percent off ! – It’s going for $19.86 right now and the list price is $27.00 – so grab ‘em while you can!

Only the Amazon gods know how long the sale will last.

 

sexy by nature pre order 220 px 1 27 off

 

 

 

Since it comes out on Tuesday, if you order today you’ll get it in a week, guaranteed by Thursday the 20th!

Then you can leave a review on Amazon – like it, hate it, whatever – because I love you and I want to know what you think!

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Two Shocking, Dehumanizing Reasons Runway Models are so Thin, and Why we Should Never Aspire to Look Like Them

Posted by on Mar 12, 2014 in Blog | 12 comments

Two Shocking, Dehumanizing Reasons Runway Models are so Thin, and Why we Should Never Aspire to Look Like Them

In 2006, after stepping off the runway in Montevideo, Uruguay, 22-year old model Luisel Ramos died of anorexia-related heart failure. The public was outraged, and they demanded that fashion executives re-evaluate their hiring practices.

Nonetheless we find today that it has been eight years and runway models are not getting any heavier or healthier. In fact, the average size and weight of models in the fashion industry is at an all-time low (even while the US Council of Fashion Designers instituted an 16 year old age limit in 2012). According to the British Association of Model Agents, the minimum height for a female should be 5’8, which the most acceptable range being 5’9-5’11. This woman should be approximately 115 pounds, and she should measure, bust to waist to hips, 34-24-34. At 5’9, this makes for a body mass index measurement of 17. 18.5 is where women become infertile and ill. 16 is where the WHO says it gets severely dangerous. 15 is where they often die.

luisel-ramos

A famous shot of Ramos before her death in 2006.

As a culture, we know this is unhealthy. We know that model extremity is one of many cogs in the complex gears of slender body image norms. We know none of it is right. Nonetheless we cannot seem to shake our attachment to extreme thinness.

Taking a good, hard look at the fashion industry reveals some powerful answers to the question of why models are so thin. These answers so powerful that they collapse whatever validity we had previously ascribed to thinness in the fashion world in the first place. They demonstrate that the fashion industry treats and depicts women as less-than human. Less-than-human is not valid. Less-than-human is not worth our attention and adoration. Less-than-human is something to reject and overcome, not something to aspire to.

These are two of the bizarre, harmful rules by which the fashion industry plays.

  1. Models are made to fit clothes; clothes are not made to fit models.

 The primary aim of fashion designers is to sell their product to retailers. This means that clothing is designed to drape and hang however it is most appeals to the human eye, no matter how drastic the body size its design requires. The longer, more flowy, or better draped an article of clothing is, the more likely a retail executive’s eyes will pop out of his head, and he’ll scramble to place thousands of orders. Krystle Kelley, a former model turned president of the Desert Models Agency, said of this phenomenon in an interview with Fox News that “people that pick up magazines are consumers. They want to see people that relate to them, which will make the consumer more eager to buy products. But designers are showing their garments to the majority crowd who are mostly retailers. The collections are also considered drafts, and those drafts are fitted to a mannequin that is size 0 or 2 dress size. The other concern of the designer is for the garments to flow as well as be mesmerizing on the catwalk and the way to accomplish that is for the dress, pants, gown etc. to be long. The only way to fit a long garment is with a model who is thin and tall.”

 Donna Karan New York - Runway - Fall 2013 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week

Image credit: stylite.com.

So clothing is designed for its own appealing shape, not for how it fits actual human beings. Models have often been called “hangers” for this precise reason. They are valued first and foremost as objects. They are useful for their measurements. They are bones and angles off of which clothing is meant to hang, not living, breathing, vibrant human beings.

This problem is best demonstrated by the role of the “fit model” in the fashion industry. The fit model maintains a precise, tiny shape that fits to exact measurements. This enables her to be the first mannequin in the production line, the tiny size—or the “skeleton” in the words of once Vogue Australia editor Kirstie Clements–off of which all of the larger sizes are modeled. Clements remarks in an excerpt from her book The Vogue Factor published in the Guardaint in July 2013  that one model described her roommate as “’[being] a fit model, so she is hospital on a drip a lot of the time.’” Executives in the industry often confide the same perilous status of their own models to Clements. Sometimes they even resort to strategically arranging a model’s limbs during a shoot because she is too starved and exhausted to move.

 steffi11-719020_0x440

(Steffie Soede. Image credit: vogue.it)

After the design process, runway models must fit into these skeletal clothes. After that, the clothing is made available to the press to use for shoots. This forces the industry’s thinness norms down the throat of magazine editors and the popular presses (who nonetheless retain their own culpability in this process).

Models in the popular presses must fit into the sizes already produces: the fours, twos, or zeroes that come directly off the backs of women – hangers – on the runway. There are no bigger samples available, and it doesn’t matter much anyway, says Clement, since the industry knows that long, lean clothing sells, even if it will never drape off of a “normal” woman the way it does the fit model or a mannequin.

So models are so thin because they are hangers who are forced to squeeze themselves down to the size of pencil sketches. Models fit clothes; clothes don’t fit models.

2) Models disappear so clothing can shine.

Much as we might think of models as impossibly beautiful, they are not necessarily chosen for this fact. Yes, they must have a particular “ferocity” or “verve.” They must have the stage presence a designer is looking for. But if they were too beautiful or too buxom they would be distracting. Fashion executives fear that instead of focusing on the brilliant cut of a particular piece of clothing on a runway or in a fashion magazine, people would be drawn into lustful, envious thoughts of flesh. And they cannot possibly have that! Emmy Award-winning stylist and author David Zyla affirms this point in an interview with Fox News. According to Zyla, so much is at stake in runway shows that curvy, healthy, vibrant women would “upstage” a designer’s creations.  “As a result,” says Zyla, “the models chosen are typically slim and androgynous…so that audiences are not distracted by a curvy hip or full bosom.”

 modelsonrunway

Image credit: complex.com

This is a particularly potent aspect of the fashion industry we need to think deeply about. Models are so slim, so young, so angular, and so often the antithesis of healthy body shapes because industry executives deliberately want them to be invisible. They are not chosen for sexual appeal. They are not chosen for their astounding womanhood or beauty. They are not chosen to be beacons of vibrancy or health. They are chosen for their potential to be a hanger…An object…something that is not seen. If that’s not reason to buck the fashion industry’s heavy-handed anorexia-mongering, I don’t know what is.

 adriana lima 2

(Adriana Lima, VS fashion show 2013. Image credit Zimbio.com)

Of course, many of the female bodies we idolize in popular culture such as Victoria’s Secret models are not at risk of death by anorexia nervosa, but nevertheless the fashion industry is problematic because its drastic aesthetic preferences perpetuate the myth of leanness as a necessary component of beauty far and wide. The fashion industry is partly why even the curvier Victoria’s Secret models are themselves still so tall and thin. The fashion industry is partly why mannequins are so tall and thin. The fashion industry is partly why women and girls flip through magazines and develop negative body images issues and disordered eating behaviors. Extreme thinness is not a standard of beauty for the ages. It’s not a norm founded in health and empowered womanhood. It’s not even a standard that treats women like human beings. It is arbitrary, and it is cruel. Recognizing this fact can help us move forward into the future thinking more realistically about what makes a woman beautiful,

I do not have all the answers on beauty. But I suspect it has something to do with health. I suspect it has something to do with personality. I suspect it has something to do with goodness. And I am certain it has something to do with dignity and inherent worth. These are not values the fashion industry offers–they are ones we must develop and stand up for ourselves. But we can do this with courage, forgiveness, and love, and with passionate indignance at the injustices perpetrated against women everywhere in the production of fashionable clothing.

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