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Why’s Anorexia the Feminine Ideal?

adriana-limaModeling scouts are now recruiting at eating disorder clinics.

Or as  Katy Waldman at Slate’s XX Factor spelled it out:

Modeling scouts—known for weighing young girls in public like cattle and targeting down-and-out families, but perhaps not for exploiting the life-threatening delusions of sick teenagers—were gathering—in the plural, so more than one person thought this was okay—outside of Sweden’s largest eating disorder clinic.

Agents say they’re seeking “healthy, normally slim women” and “never urge weight loss.” Yet one girl who was approached was so frail that she needed a wheelchair. And they’re all hospitalized.

On never urging weight loss, Waldman muses, “The eating disorder will do all the urging for you!” Indeed, about 40% of models are eating disordered.

Anorexic-thin is unnatural and unhealthy. About 1/5 of anorexic girls and women die.

Next, the models will become even more unnatural-looking as implants are inserted into their chests.

Now add photoshop to complete the other-worldly look.

Why would a sickly, does-not-exist-in-nature look be used to model feminine beauty?

A couple of things could be happening.

As women gain equality in status and opportunity, images of men and women are changing in ways that exaggerate their natural physical differences. By nature, men have  more muscular bulk. And men’s images in movies, professional wrestling, and magazines like Men’s Health – not to mention boys’ toys like G.I. Joe – have gotten more muscular over time. Meanwhile, images of women have grown thinner and frailer. At the same time, women’s breasts have gotten bigger, exaggerating another sex difference.

But there is also a profit motive. With an impossible ideal, people will spend endless sums trying to attain it through diets, exercise, gym memberships, surgeries, miracle bras, fashions that create optical illusions, and plenty of magazines to tell you all about all the stuff you can buy.

So in the interest of heightening a sense of gender difference and selling product, we create a very sick feminine ideal.

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