"There is difference and there is power. And who holds the power decides the meaning of the difference." --June Jordan

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Skewed Perception

Via Rachel at The F-Word Blog, I found out about this editorial in The Edmonton Sun, in which the writer waxes nostalgic about the supermodels of the 1990s, who were "fuller figured" than the stick-thin beauty standard found in fashion mags of today.
There was one thing that the 1990s supermodels didn't inspire us to do - starve.


We were not super skinny, nor were we fat. We grew breasts and hips, thinking that this was what teenage girls were supposed to do and didn't obsess about weight.

How things have changed. Cindy Crawford was on a talk show a while ago talking about how she would never make it in today's world of fashion because she would be considered too fat.

Okay, so I agree that it's not good news that the "feminine ideal" has gotten impossibly thin, but I'm not so sure I agree with the sentiment in the article. Just because things have gotten worse doesn't necessarily mean we should look to the past with nostalgia. Rigid beauty standards were still in full force, even if we were allowed to weigh ten more pounds 10-15 years ago. It's all well and good that the writer claims that she and her friends could aspire to the 1990s beauty ideal while eating to their heart's content and not obsessing about their bodies, but some contradictory statements in the editorial lead me to think otherwise:
Cindy's muscular frame had us sweating to her killer workout video and hassling our mothers to buy us ankle weights so we could firm up our calves.

Claudia had us practicing our pouts and Christy, oh beautiful Christy, had us dreaming of the day when we would sit by an ocean with an impossibly good-looking guy and angelic children just like in those perfume ads.


We spent far too many hours putting on each other's makeup and some of us dyed our hair so often it began falling out in clumps. We hit up second-hand stores and wore ankle-twisting shoes and bellbottomed catsuits to school.

To this day, Cindy, Claudia and Christy remain my ultimate standards for beauty.

And lest we start to distort our memories and imagine that 90s models were full-figured advocates for fat acceptance, please remember that this is what they looked like:

Photobucket Photobucket

Not exactly the kinds of bodies women can achieve without a "healthy" mix of hard work and deprivation. And, really, not that much "fuller figured" than models of today.

In other news, maybe bony isn't as "in" today as we thought.