Cult of the thin

Posted: May 16, 2008 in Uncategorized

Just what is it driving this cult that only this is ‘beautiful’? I have never understood it. Naturally slim – no problems. Athletically slim – fine. But what tends to pass as model this? No thanks. Yet the pages of the glossy mags keep screaming at their readers ‘this is what you must aspire to; this is what is BEAUTIFUL.’

Some people are naturally slender and beautiful. Twiggy looked just like one during her modelling days – a twig. And she was gorgeous (and still looks pretty damn good) but this was a natural, slim beauty. Kate Moss often looks like a stiff breeze would blow her away. But despite whatever recreational pharmaceutical products Ms Moss may have ingested, she is apparently naturally slim.

Allow me to run a few more names by you. Tyra Banks (oh be still my beating heart!), Beyoncé, Scarlett Johansson, Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson. All stunningly beautiful women and all have curves just as nature intended them to have. The gorgeous Twiggy was also pretty much as nature intended her to be.

Media attention has increasingly turned towards combating this frankly damned health preoccupation with being skinny, yet during the 2007 Australian Fashion Week, the comments by an industry spokesman absolutely stunned me. A reporter asked him about the body shape of the models on show, and he commented that they tended to be heavier than the girls on the catwalks in Europe.

Huh? The footage from the Australian Fashion Week displayed stick-thin figures tottering around on their high heels. So what do they have in Europe? Animated matchsticks? Shoelaces given a quick dip in a tub of starch? Despite the gross tragedy of girls literally starving themselves to death get that ‘model’ look, at least some elements in the fashion industry are still pushing this uber-skinny look.

Observe the animal kingdom for a moment. Behavioral displays are put on to attract a mate. Look at me – my gorgeous plumage and strutting little dance mean that I’m the best! Other species resort to purely aggressive displays – the tattered ears of a large and rather stroppy male kangaroo who is the alpha male of a herd that lives near me, is testimony to how many fights he has been in and won to keep his harem intact.

So why do humans want to dress up and put on displays? As the most basic level it is about attracting a mate. Sure we like to feel and look good, with a squirt of smelly stuff under the arms to keep the BO monster away, but it is still essentially about attraction. For those of the heterosexual persuasion, it is about attracting a mate of the opposite gender.

Reality check – not a lot of men find Uber-skinny much of a turn-on. Personally I think that it would be like sharing a bed with a bundle of sticks with sharp knobbly bits just waiting to take one of my eyes out if I roll over the wrong way in my sleep.

At this point I should note that I am not what I have heard referred to as a ‘chubby chaser’. Obesity doesn’t turn me on any more than Uber-skinny. That said, I have a female friend that I have a very big soft spot for. She is a larger girl but has the prettiest face and sweetest personality you could wish for. That is what makes her desirable in my book.

The eternal unanswered question for men is what do woman want? The male of the species is basically a bit dumb about this one, and I’m no different. Mrs Drivel may as well be a different species altogether or from another planet for all that I can understand her at times, love her as I do. But what I can do is point towards what men generally find attractive at the most basic level. There is a simple test – walk by a magazine rack. Glance at the covers of magazines designed to attract male attention. What’s on them? Skinny bundles of knobby knees and elbows? Not often. Almost inevitably those cover models have some curves. Some even emphasise their curves by surgical enhancement.

Please do not think for a moment that I am some sort of patriarchal relic who believes women should only dress and act for the benefits of their men – far from it. But the reality is that hormonally at least, the male animal is looking for the ‘best’ receptacle for their genes – as are women. That is what drives the most basic of the animal attractions.

Switch genders for a moment and look at male models. I made a point of looking at a few before writing this column – otherwise I’m not at all into checking guys out! The only thing that they have in common with female models is the beauty of the face. Physically, they tend to be athletic and somewhat muscular – certainly better than time’s ravages on my aging body. While nothing short of radical plastic surgery is going to change what my dial is like, a tight and toned body is achievable with some proper exercise etc. It is a relatively natural look. So why the insistence on trying to force female models into the Uber-skinny mould?

I am reminded of the wonderful actress Lauren Bacall. When she was first contracted to a movie studio, they immediately set out about trying to change her – cut, style and colour her hair differently, do her teeth to give her a flawless smile etc. Fortunately someone saw sense and Ms Bacall was largely left alone. The end result – what became known as the Bacall Look, with woman around the world wanting to look like her. And that men just wanted. A wonderful example that you don’t have to be forced into a specific, copycat mould.

Now for another reality check. These runway models are out there to display a designer’s creations. They are effectively walking billboards, helping to sell product. But why are these designers still so intent on creations suited to a body type that is not only unrealistic for a lot of the population but one that can be downright unhealthy?

So the woman out there like Tyra Banks who campaign for a more realistic approach to body type, and the greater self-esteem that will accompany it, I say more power to ya! Now if you will excuse me, I have to rush. I have a stylist’s appointment to un-grey the hair, a bit of liposuction, butt enhancement (removing the excess and firming up the sag), manicure, pedicure, facial and teeth whitening. Thank goodness I’m able to naturally retain my physical perfection.

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