Beauty: Worth Dying For? The Fashion Industry Looks at Anorexia

Although it didn’t escape my notice, it did slip from my radar with the manic days of the Christmas season. Maybe you missed hearing about it, because I haven’t seen it get much mention outside of the back page of my town’s major paper.

This is a good thing, though, as I have found more comprehensive information since.

In late December, news reports emerged from Rome and Milan, leading fashion hotbeds of the world, in which the Italian industry has stated that they now intend to self-regulate in order to ensure that health is not sacrificed for the sake of style.

Meaning, no more anorexic models. Or so they say.

The catalyst? The mid-November death of an anorexic Brazilian model, Ana Carolina Reston, who weighed just 88 pounds at the time of her death. She was 5’8.

The Italians are no stranger to anorexia, where it is the leading psychiatric cause of death. Statistics suggest that more than three million Italians suffer from anorexia, approximately 1 in 20 people throughout the nation. In fact, more than 60% of children between the ages of 12 and 16 believe they’re overweight and need to lose weight. Of those, approximately 11% are reported to possess eating disorders.

The Italian fashion community is covering its ass a little, though, as they’re not implementing rigid standards. It’s self-regulated, meaning those who ignore the new guidelines will simply have less desireable showtimes and things like that. Insiders claim these are heavy punishments, but, really, are they?

And what are those guidelines? Well, they are banning models under the age of 16 now, and any model suiting up for work will have to have a medical certificate saying she is of good health mentally and physically. (And we all know certificates can be believed in HappyHappy/JoyJoyland, where no one ever lies and “forge” is not a verb. Stickgirls will still be allowed on Italian runways if they have this magical piece of paper.)

Nevertheless, it is a start. Not nearly so good a start as Spain got last September, when they passed a decree legally banning models with a body mass index of less than 18. (Body mass is “a ratio of height to weight squared”. Yeah, that clears that up. I hate math.)

But it’s a better start than they’ve had in France, where the talking heads of the fashion world stated that anorexia is a “social” problem and not something that can be solved with “regulation”.

Right. Uh-huh. ‘cause when you’re hiring them and telling them they absolutely must fit into a size zero dress, that’s got nothing to do with the problem. And when the media only projects images of beauty as being size two and under, that has nothing to do with the social ills. Fuck, man. Can someone teach these people remedial math, or what?

At least Italy’s on the gangway if not fully onboard. They’re going to start making larger sizes available for the shows. What they consider “larger” has not been stated. I suppose they’ll get wild and crazy and throw a two or, god forbid, a four into the mix.

Still, it’s a start. Maybe if I keep telling myself, I’ll find a way to start believing it.

It’s when I think about the fashion industry and the shitheads printing the magazines filled with airbrushed Barbies that I get pissed off, because now and then I need to write something like the posting below about the Perenially Disappearing Ass that I see just how much these fucked-up beauty ideals are fucking us up.

We’re talking about one of the nations with some of the best food and wine in the world, and some 5% of the population possesses eating disorders (anorexia or bulimia). That’s just fucking criminal.

Insecurities stay with us for life. It’s easy enough to develop them all on our lonesome without needing magazines and fashion pointing out just how flawed the rest of us are. I don’t know about you, but my makeup routine doesn’t yet include an airbrush.

But it’s not about reality, they’ll tell us. Fashion is about the ideal of beauty, not the reality. It’s what we can strive to be, yet not necessarily are.

Yeah. Tell that to Ana Carolina Reston. She thought beauty was worth dying for, and she won’t be the last. I suppose it’s ironic, but she literally did die in vain.

At least it seems her death wasn’t totally for naught. Italy’s starting. Now we just need Paris, London, and New York to get onboard. As for New York, well, let’s just say I’m not planning to hold my breath. In the meantime, I’ll be over here, pondering the irony of the fattest country in the world perpetuating the myth of the bone-thin beauty. [scoff]