Empowerment, Not Diminishment

Empowerment, Not Diminishment

This time of year is an interesting one for me. It is the time of year that models begin to train very hard and eat significantly less. Restrictive diets are followed, and bodies scrutinized. Already thin girls seek to “tone up” just that little bit more – if it pays off, the work secured can be a career changer.

It hurts me because I am painfully aware of how recently I occupied that space. It is a space that is seductively simple to return to; the energy focused on diminishing in size is energy saved from dealing with life. It is much easier to run away and to funnel ones focus into self-destruction. Of course eventually something has to give. We cannot hide from what our subconscious needs to tell us, and the longer we dodge, the harder the message will be delivered.

Thinking back on my time in that space, I am always struck by how sick I was. I was completely fooling myself into believing that I was healthy, fit and an honest representation of a woman. To move against the current can be really hard, and the popular opinion of that time was that I looked great. My body forced the realization that I was severely anxious and unhealthy on me, and the road that followed was long and hard. But I can honestly say that where I exist now in relation to my body is so full of love and acceptance; a feeling that I would love for all women (and other models) to have about their own bodies. The fact that I was rewarded with high-profile work because I had starved myself so effectively leaves me feeling extremely uncomfortable. I have seen too many of my friends rewarded for the same life-threatening behavior, and penalized when they have dared to turn up to a casting an inch larger.

Teenage and preteen girls look to models to see what is considered beautiful (women do also, but usually/hopefully with a better sense of self and identity). The fact that these young girls are being fed the idea that to be beautiful is to be extremely underweight is truly disturbing. And whilst the body positivity movement has launched many very important conversations, it appears that key brands in the fashion industry refuse to get the memo. It is not the 90’s anymore. Women do not exist in relation to men, and are not interested in being sold as sex objects, unless of course that is how they choose to work. We can see this in sales, consumers are letting their money talk, and brands that represent all women are having huge leaps in sales. I guess the brands that refuse to embrace this change will begin to fold, which is a shame.

I have worked with these brands, and I do believe that the intent is good. The people involved are intelligent and intend to treat women with respect. But, they are just not getting the message. I do feel like it is time for more young people of varied backgrounds to be invited to join the marketing conversations – the world is changing at such a fast rate, and the more varied the opinions, the better the chance at representing empowerment.

Whatever the answer is, I feel that the change needs to come quickly. I do not want another generation of women growing up and thinking that to be beautiful you have to be an Australian size 8 (US size 2), around 6 feet tall with long hair and clear skin. I want young women to be able to watch a fashion show and see themselves on the runway. I am sick of #fitspo and #thinspo. I want young women to grow up idolizing women who have made a huge impact on the world, not who has cultivated the perfect thigh gap. There is no ideal woman. There is only woman.

This will come from a change within the industry. It is a sad lie that all models are naturally skinny. And, it is a dishonest dodge of responsibility by brands and the people that make them up, to claim that models are free to do to their bodies what they like. To choose to be blind to your part of creating the environment for these terrible habits is immoral. I have often wondered at this point – is it by choice or do they honestly not understand the environment they are creating? I have been on both sides of this argument, and I can say that the girls for whom a tiny size is natural are but a handful of the models portrayed to the public. Health comes in all shapes and sizes, but to be naturally over six feet and an Aus size 6 (US 2/0) is rare. I have seen so many girls book work once they had lost enough weight, only to be rejected the following year for an inch of weight gained back. It is extremely hard to come out of this manipulation mentally and physically sound. I am still in this process.

I love the amazing vibrant women involved in the industry. And, I hate the way that their health lies in the out-of-touch casting decisions by a couple of people. This sort of pressure is unnecessary and disrespectful to the amazing diversity that is women. The consumer world is awake, and making their distaste known. We can see this in the majorly dwindling sales related to the brands that are not empowering to all women. Women are letting their money talk. We want empowerment. Not diminishment.

I call for a changing of the guard. The 90’s are over. Women are finally free to speak up about all the appalling crimes committed against them by men. Now it is time to address the ridiculous body standards placed on us by out-of-touch marketing. We are all beautiful, exactly as we are. Bones aren’t #lifegoals. Living life, TRULY living life is #lifegoals.




Main Photograph | Scott MacDonough

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