Size Zero Models
In the present day scenario, I find it quite apparent that all fashion trends mainly target women. I have witnessed that be it big brands like Versace, D&G, and Gucci or a local brand such as Primark, everyone wants their media agencies to hire models that are size zero and very few brands have slightly bigger sized women to endorse their product. Seemingly when the question comes to sanction a new product or a new launch arises, the media supports size zero models thus influencing the designers creations.
While browsing through various fashion magazines I found that the media agrees with Rosalind Coward’s statement, “The ‘perfect’ female body would be between five foot eight, long-tregged, tanned and vigorous looking, but above all, without a spare inch of flesh”. (Coward,1984,P52). Subsequently, women with figures fitting the above statement are considered ‘ideal’. Undoubtedly media’s representation of female figures has affected society as a whole, leading to women of every age group and mainly the younger generation trying to be size zero thus overlooking their physical, social and other limitations.
Benjamin A Straight of The Two Finger Diet mentions in his book that “Mellican adds that that there has been pressure on women to conform to prevailing fashions and standards of beauty” (Straight, 2005, p. 36). The portrayal of thin or size zero women as the one that every one yearns for, a hot pick of leading brands coupled with various added advantages has even compelled women to go to every extreme to attain that figure. Even Benjamin says, “Having the appropriately sized and proportioned body increased a women opportunities for value and esteem from herself, her female peers, males and society” (Straight,2005,p. 3) Browsing through the results of various market trends and surveys, a majority of people wish to have size zero models to endorse their favorite brands. Only few women wished some plus size female models to market their product”. Younger women on the other hand have gone to extremes to be thin or as per the lean models showed in various endorsements or print and digital media ad campaigns. As per renowned Rosalind Coward, “No one wants to be lump when they could be firm; it would be like choosing to be daft when you could be bright” (Coward,1984,P59).
He has rightly manifested in his book that “There is definite female outline which is considered the cultural ideal”. Media portrayal had made size zero a rage among all age group women. Now, after following the current fashion trends where only zero size models showcase the creations coupled with the popularity of slim and trim international models and Hollywood stars, the words of Benjamin appears true to me i. e. “The female image in the media has completely changed from being voluptuous and curvaceous in the 1940s to being busty and narrow hipped from the late 1960’s through 1980’s”. Straight,2005,p. 62) Literature review. Whilst researching the topic, “How is the representation of size zero models in media affecting todays society? ” evidence was found that women in the younger generation felt that they needed to ape the size zero models in order to be accepted and appreciated in society. The book ‘The Two finger Diet’ by Benjamin A Straight traces the roots of this phenomenon and its development to the present.
He ultimately concludes that ‘ideal’ female is purposefully unattainable and leads to several personal as well as social problems. He stated, “This body type, almost anorexic is not an isolated phenomenon, but instead has become the idealized standard of beauty and fashion since the 1970’s” (Straight, 2005, p. 36). According to Straight, women are taught that appearance is the most important part of their lives, it is more important than what they think and that their appearance effects social opportunities.
The male gaze is the main marvel of this book. Men want to perceive women in a certain way that satisfies their wishes. Perfectly proportionate body and flawless skin etc. To please their man, women want to be more like the models and actresses portrayed in the media today. In a similar way Liz Frost in her book “Young Women and The Body” writes about how young women affect their health by comparing themselves to the misrepresented women in the mass media today.
In the earlier days, a slightly plump woman was desirable and now the change to size zero has led to eating disorders and stress on younger women. Therefore, leading to an unhappy relationship between a women and her body. In addition to this, the book ‘The Media and Body Image” written by Wykes and Gunter, it is stated that the blame of female insecurities about their body should not only be directed to the media but also how women today understand it.
If females perceive a discrepancy between the accepted standard of female attractiveness and their own bodies, they may become concerned that their own weight is not satisfactory. Rosalin Coward author of the novel, “Female Desire: Women’s sexuality today” while agreeing with the above mentioned authors concluded that, “This ‘perfect’ female body would be between five foot eight, long-legged, tanned and vigorous looking, but above all, without a spare inch of flesh” (Coward, 1984, p. 52) By contrast Cooper who wrote “Fat and Proud” does not agree with the above four authors.
She is of the strong opinion that women should accept their bodies the way they were made, and the motive of the media should not make them feel inferior or make them want to be like them instead they should feel comfortable in their own body type. She further goes onto say how weight loss in any form, be it dieting or eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia can lead to severe health problems be it mental or physical. To help her argument she has written about women’s personal experiences with the discrimination that they face on a daily basis and how to live without the fear and shame of their weight.
Unlike in the media, where every women seen is a size zero and has gone through several bodily changes to become that way. Authors, Coward (1984), Straight (2005), Wykes & Gunter (2005), and Frost (2005) claim that women feel threatened with the size zero models shown in the media and agreed with above mentioned statement proving the evidence found was accurate. Even though these authors were in sync with one another, in contrast Cooper (1998) held a completely different view. He was of the opinion that if a woman was plus sized, she should not be ashamed of herself and should accept herself just the way she is.
Methodology After giving a serious thought to the methodology that I should take up for my project, I decided to read and consult numerous books. I referred to Rosalind Coward’s – Female desire ; women’s sexuality today, Benjamin A Straight’s – The Two Finger Diet and Maggie Wykes and Barrie Gunter’s – The Media and Body Image. After a detailed reading and browsing numerous websites, I came up with the idea of drafting set of questionnaire for my subjects i. e. people of three different age groups.
Questions I asked were pertaining to ones notion of ideal figure, attitude towards zero size models, comparison of ones partner’s looks with such models, media’s portrayal of women figure, inclusion of plus size models and their definition of perfect women. I gave first set of questionnaires to be filled to my 20 subjects in the age group 18-25. Out of these 20, I had 15 females and 5 males and all were resident of the same building where I reside. Targeting these subjects was quite challenging as I had to make them understand the importance of these questionnaire for my academic pursuit.
My second targeted subjects were in the age group 25-30. I came across 5 subjects i. e. 4 female and 1 male in my building only while next 8 were the one I commuted with during my one of the visits in the Tube. A family lunch provided me with the remaining subjects i. e. 7 at one place only. These subjects were my friends, relatives etc. This age group was comparatively easy to handle and was even enthusiastic about giving feedback. They even discussed scope of my research and my findings in other age groups. During my visit to biggest sainsburry closest to my house, I got to target third age group i. . 30-35. On my first day itself, I came across 16 subjects who willingly answered the questionnaire while my next day visit fetched me remaining 4 subjects in 50 minutes time. The response of this age group subject was quite rational and very well though over. I did launch an online pole to garner information but it was not much fruitful as not much people were keen to participate and even their age was not revealed in the survey. I tried to amass information from online studies, local media etc. but could not rely on it due to their lack of authenticity.
Findings According to the questionnaire conducted, it was evaluated that 13 women out of 15 in the age bracket of 18-25 wanted to resemble the size zero models shown in the media. Likewise, 11 women out 15 in the bracket of 25-30 responded in a similar way. Moreover a majority of women from these age groups also believed that women are not misrepresented in the media and that the ‘ideal’ figure should remain size zero i. e. plus size models should not emanate. The ideal female figure according to the above mentioned groups is a UK Size 4 or UK Size 6.
Moving on, women from the age bracket 30-35 had a completely different response. 9 women out of 15 said that the size zero models have no affect on them and the remaining 6 felt threatened by them, thus proving that the women from this age group in contrast to the other two groups felt that plus size models should arise in society, as in todays world there are a lot of women with different kinds of bodily forms. As a result limiting the media and advertisements seen on television, magazines, tabloids etc. o a certain body type creating stress amongst others. The women also felt with increase in age, daily stress grows and if they are being forced imitate the size zero models it will add to their existing stress of maintaining their own body. The book ‘Media and The Body Image’ by Maggie Wykes and Barrie Gunter supports the results of the questionnaire as it explains that all these different perceptions of women have increasingly pointed to the media that an idealized, slender female form is over represented with possible harmful consequences.
Despite the criticisms leveled at the media in this context, surprisingly little work has actually addressed either the nature of media representations of the body or the ways in which audiences may interpret and use such images. Conclusion In conclusion, during the course of this project it was found that women from the age group of 18-25 and 25-30 seemed comfortable with the idea of size zero models and would preferably change their body in order to become that size.
They felt that they needed to imitate the models and would make the necessary changes to themselves be it physical or mental to do so. This was not shocking as in today’s day and age the media is conveying a message of women being “perfect” and the idea of that perfectness comes from them looking their best at all times. “The media’s role in constructing and/ or reinforcing the notion that to be a woman means to be visual object, slim, ‘attractive’ and preferably blonde and white skinned has been convincingly theorized”(Frost, 2001, p. 5) On the other hand, women in the older age group do not get affected from the representation of size zero models in the media and would rather see plus size models being given the same importance. Also, the men from all age groups confessed that they compare their partners to the ideal female figure and would preferably want them to look like the models. In words of Maggie Wykes and Barrie Gunter, “older women believe that a more curvaceous and a fuller figure is ‘most attractive to the opposite sex’ where the younger women picked a much thinner silhouette than the older women as being ‘most attractive to the opposite sex’ ”.