“Plus Size” models make “normal” BMI women worry
Per a recent study: when women with low BMIs see advertisements with any models – straight size or “plus-size” (i.e. size 10/12 models), they exhibit a self-esteem boost. When women with higher than average BMIs see advertisements with any models, they experience a self-esteem drop. But women with “normal” BMIs:
If they viewed a moderately thin model, they felt similar and good; if they saw a moderately heavy model, they worried they were similar and overweight.
But the title of the article? “Plus-Size Models Don’t Make a Difference to Consumers”
Excuse me, but I’m pretty sure a shift in self-esteem is a difference. Oh no, that’s right, the focus here is the consumer, not the actual woman. Why would we care what happens to the person if it doesn’t affect her shopping?
So what’s going on here? For one, I’m pretty sure the writer is discounting ignoring the importance of self-esteem in women. Two, he or she draws absolutely no conclusions about the significance of the reactions other than to say it “impacts [the women's] willingness” to buy the advertised products.
How about questioning why women might experience a dip in self-esteem when shown a woman that possibly represents their size? Why no question about why “overweight” women exhibit lower self-esteem when presented with any model, regardless of size?
Being held up to an unattainable standard of beauty is exhausting and when you’re exhausted, it’s difficult to feel good about yourself. Part of me wants to ask why this is news while part of me wants to ask why this “news” story didn’t bother questioning any of its own content.
The source article states that the professors:
performed a series of experiments based on the popular idea that looking at extremely thin models can negatively affect consumers’ self-esteem and possibly even lead to eating disorders in young girls. That belief is why fashion show organizers in Milan, Italy and Madrid, Spain, recently banned super waif models from their catwalks.
Or, you know, someone might care about the health of these women, starving themselves to achieve this ideal form. Yes, some women are naturally a size 0 or 2 – and that’s fine for them. But a large number of models have to live in an unhealthy way to achieve that size.
The study concludes:
These findings could be used to prompt changes in behavior. For example, if a normal-size woman sees moderately heavy images in ads for weight-loss products, she might feel overweight and be more inclined to buy a diet plan or gym membership. The same premise could apply to using heavy images in public service announcements aimed at fighting the obesity epidemic.
Will they find models for these ads or are they going to have to trick them or digitally alter images? A friend of a friend is a plus-size model and she was once tricked into being the “Before” picture in a before-and-after advertisement for a weight loss product. She stated that she doesn’t know any model who would willingly pose for those ads. And do we really want to be in the business of tricking women into thinking they’re fat so they’ll buy weight loss products? (Don’t answer that – I don’t want to have to hear what I already know.)
As a pre-teen and teen, I spent a lot of time reading fashion magazines and feeling bad about how none of the women looked like me and how I’d probably never look like any of them. I often wonder what it would have been like to have a plus-size teen magazine or a store like Torrid back then. I usually think my confidence would have been significantly boosted if I felt that someone, anyone, somewhere realized there were teens out there like me.
What do you think? We spend a lot of time here thinking and talking about size and self-esteem and the media and advertising, but do you feel any discernible shift when viewing a model of your size versus one who is smaller or larger?