Weightless Worries

In an unprecedented gesture, the organizers of Madrid’s premier fashion show recently turned away 30% of the models for being “too skinny.” The Pasarela Cibeles is the organization made up of fashion designers who decided that a model with a Body Mass Index under 18 was not fit for the runway. According to the BMI system, which is a ratio between height and weight, an index under 18.5 is underweight. The focus of the show was on models who had trim but healthy bodies, and the Madrid show shocked the fashion world by shunning the emaciated, super-skinny style. The world’s response has been ambivalent. Many feminists and medical experts applauded the daring promotion of healthy standards. British fashion designers however still cling to the idea that a model should be a clothes hanger. Unfortunately, much of the world, America included, still recognizes thinness as the standard for beauty. The average American model is 5’9 and cannot weigh over 109 pounds. With a BMI of 16.1 , these models are 27 pounds under their 1959 predecessors of the same height. What does this say about our country? It’s no surprise that American culture promotes thinness; just browse through any magazine, and you will find statistics on celebrities’ weights, new exercise routines that ‘tone and firm’, and scathing commentaries on the failures who fail to shed the extra pounds. Many people admit that they find this disgusting, yet ironically, Americans seem more concerned about how much weight Angelina has lost than the war in Iraq. We live in a country of unhealthy extremes. As the obesity rate skyrockets, we continue to be obsessed with the numbers game of sizes and calories. Even on our small campus, traces of a dieting craze are present. Commons prominently displays the nutritional value of all entrees. Most of the girls dorms have scales. Athletic ability and fitness aren’t only encouraged; they are required. Students are told that atheticism is an integral part of their Andover experience. Although most of this is well intentioned and meant to promote health, society takes it to an extreme and shuns the paramount goal of health in favor of skinniness. In this country, as well as on this campus, there is a hypersensitivity to body image and external appearance. Many people consider physical appearance a crucial tenet of success, believing that looking good is in fact a competive advantage in arenas beyond the catwalk.And of course to be beautiful, you must be thin. Clearly, there are many people who wisely choose to embrace their body naturally. The Spanish fashion industry has taken a small step to promote this. It is disturbing that it is considered such a great upset to ban sick-looking models. Health should be the standard for the world. Until such a standard exists, however, we will have to hold our own. I think that, although we have our faults, Phillips ultimately values the deeper and more important aspects of the individual. The rest of the world can follow our lead.