Home » A+E » Opinion: Censorship of skinny models is also body-shaming

Opinion: Censorship of skinny models is also body-shaming

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An photograph advertising polka-dotted underwear was banned from Urban Outfitters website in the United Kingdom after the model was deemed to be too underweight. Credit: Screenshot of Urban Outfitters' American website.

An photograph advertising polka-dotted underwear was banned from Urban Outfitters website in the United Kingdom after the model was deemed to be too underweight.
Credit: Screenshot of Urban Outfitters’ American website.

Bodies come in all shapes and sizes— tall, short, round, gangly— and all of them are beautiful.

All of them should be loved, accepted and respected.

Unless, of course, that body has a gap between the thighs.

Multinational clothing retailer Urban Outfitters is taking major flack for featuring an underwear model who happens to be — wait for it — skinny.

The model, who happens to sport a 23.5-inch waist and a significant inner-thigh gap, is undeniably skinny. But not abnormally so. She’s more than just skin and bones, and I’ve certainly seen thinner girls both in person and in advertisements.

Regardless of my own personal observations, the United Kingdom’s Advertising Standards Authority forced Urban Outfitters to remove the model from their website, stating that “a noticeably underweight model was likely to impress upon the audience that the image was representative … as being something to aspire to.”

Urban Outfitters did not agree with the ASA’s ruling, but nevertheless, the image was removed from the company’s website and all was well in the world.

Psyyyyyyche.

It’s “irresponsible” for Urban Outfitters to feature a thin woman in an advertisement, but it’s okay for the world to stop what it’s doing and celebrate the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show? Why hasn’t that been censored?

It’s unfair to showcase a thin body, but it’s perfectly fine for Meghan Trainor and Nicki Minaj to  call out all the “skinny bitches” who might be listening to the radio?

Why hasn’t that been censored?

This one particular instance seems so arbitrary in comparison to countless other, more offensive examples. What’s more, models are known for being thin, it’s kind of a standard business model. So why this particular advertisement received so much attention is beyond me.

As a society, we put so much effort into shielding the feelings of anyone who might be overweight. We reassure them that there is nothing wrong with being a little heavy, and we often do so by attacking those on the other end of the spectrum. Say what you will, but censoring somebody’s body is an attack. It is offensive. It is damaging.

I’m not saying that bodyweight, high or low, is something to laugh at. And, high or low, I’m certainly not blaming anybody for what their bodyweight happens to be. I know that it’s more complicated than that.

Body image has become an excessively stigmatized subject in our culture. “Fat” is the new F-word. An unhealthy bodyweight on either side of the spectrum is not a good thing. It is neither something to celebrate nor encourage. And it is not something that we should so casually sweep under the rug.

Should we openly encourage people to lose a little weight? Well, yeah, but in a nice way. It’s no different than a concerned grandmother asking her rail-thin grandchild to eat more food.

Unhealthy bodyweight, whether too high or too low, should be acknowledged. It doesn’t have to be done mockingly, and it shouldn’t be something to which someone takes offense.

As I said before, bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and all of them are beautiful. All of them should be loved, accepted and respected. Curvy does not equal overweight. Skinny does not equal “noticeably underweight.” We all have unique and natural body shapes that differ from all others on Earth. It is simply our responsibility to promote and support those natural shapes with healthy behaviors (easier said than done, I know).

Sweeping the issues of body image under the rug — THAT is the reason for our insecurities. We don’t talk about them, therefore we internalize them with a sense of shame.

The ASA is contributing to that sense of shame by forcing Urban Outfitters to take down the aforementioned advertisement. Should Urban Outfitters attempt to showcase a wider variety of healthy and natural body types? Yeah—I think everybody should.

But did Urban Outfitters do something wrong? No.

At least, they didn’t do anything wrong this time.

2 comments

  1. “Should we openly encourage people to lose a little weight? Well, yeah, but in a nice way. It’s no different than a concerned grandmother asking her rail-thin grandchild to eat more food.

    Unhealthy bodyweight, whether too high or too low, should be acknowledged. It doesn’t have to be done mockingly, and it shouldn’t be something to which someone takes offense.”

    OR..how about everybody just minds their own da*n business about everyone else’s bodies? It need not be acknowledged at ALL. We already know whether we are too fat or too thin. Just mind your own business!

  2. I remember years ago when a TV critic joked that the new rage was skinny white blonde women with fat husbands in sitcoms!! It never bothered me to see thin models BUT I hated the Dove models telling me its okay to be unhealthy!! When I buy make-up its because Queen Latifah and Iman look great so will I. I wish CBS would get younger anchors because I’m tired of the network looking like a Medicare network (too many hungry young talented journalist needing the opportunity)!!!

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