Call for tall and slim models criticised

FWCC: Unrealistic and unattainable images women are exposed to affect their self esteem and self image

The Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC) has hit out at comments by Fiji Fashion Week Director, Ellen Whippy, that models need to be “tall and slim” and said that her attempt to compare the demand for a particular size in modelling to the need for fitness in rugby is not only misleading but irresponsible.

Whippy said that models have to be tall and slim if companies have any intention of selling their dresses, Fiji Times Online reported. “The dress has to look good for it to sell and in order for the dress to look good your models need to meet the requirements of today’s fashion trends where tall and slim is the new look,” said Whippy.

“These comments are not only irresponsible but they promote an ideology that is detrimental to women and girls,” said Shamima Ali, Coordinator of FWCC.

“If we analyse the modelling profession, 20 years ago models weighed around 8% less than the average woman, now models weigh around 23% less than the average woman. These requirements that Ellen Whippy is alluding to is not only promoting a false reality, it is dangerous in that it is placing an emphasis on the ‘unattainable’,” said Ali.

“The reality that those who promote modelling overlook is that young women and girls will skip meals and over exercise to degrees that could lead to eating disorders and this is the reality the world over,” said Ali.  

The FWCC said that the continuous stream of unrealistic and unattainable images that women are exposed to every day affects their self esteem and self image.

“To say that women have to be a certain size to fit into a dress to make other women want to buy the dress means – that those who model will starve themselves to ensure that they can retain their jobs and those who want to ‘buy’ the dress will also starve themselves so they can hopefully fit into the dress. This is the multiplier effect around the issue of portrayal of women in the media,” said Ali.

It is also irresponsible, Ali said, to compare fitness needed for rugby with the need for the slimness needed in modelling. “Sports actually work as a source of empowerment and the requirements are fitness and health which means healthy wholesome meals which very often models are discouraged from having.”

According to the FWCC, unlike in sports like rugby where talent, ability and fitness are the particular qualities on which selection is based, modelling promotes a particular image of size, skin colour, hair style, age, etc which means that women will actually go to various lengths to attain this particular look.

“What is really dangerous is that we have a lot of prepubescent girls who are trying to emulate these models and the false reality that those in fashion industry try to create and this is damaging not just to their health but their self-esteem as well,” said Ali.

“We as a society really need to question – what is wrong with the average woman? What is wrong with the Pacific reality of large voluptuous women? Why do we need to promote an image that is less than 5% of the population and say that the 95% does not fit into the dictated image of beauty? We can define our own concepts of beauty and this is what we need to inculcate in our young people – that they are beautiful as they are and not measure themselves by what they see in the magazines and now unfortunately in the local newspapers.”