A New Low.

Two days ago I was perusing my feed on Facebook when an image a friend/colleague posted stopped me in my tracks. I clicked on it to get a better look and was beside myself to see that this image of what I thought was a severely anorexic or sick woman was in fact an ad from Saint Laurent’s spring campaign.  Before I continue take a look:

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To be honest, I almost didn’t believe it.  I knew that before I could write anything about it I had to confirm it was real first, even though the source of the Facebook image was a trusted one.  I have made the mistake of skipping this step before and learned my lesson from it. Sadly, I confirmed it yesterday by going to Barnes & Noble and seeing it in person in the February issue of Harper’s Bazaar. I don’t even know where to begin to describe my rage and disgust over this image.

But let’s start with this. There is a picture of me taken about two weeks before I was committed to a mental hospital for my anorexia that looks like this picture. Less glamorous, for sure, but the knobby knees, reed thin thighs and sunken eyes are the same. I was about 95 pounds and 5′ 9″ to put this model in perspective (if I could find it I would post it).  I am not saying definitively that she is sick, nor am I “thin shaming” anyone, but I AM suggesting that to portray this image as glamorous and high fashion is brutally irresponsible and dangerous. Yes, there are members of society who are naturally very thin or drastically underweight due to illness or factors beyond their control (like the fabulously inspiring Lizzie Velasquez), but that is not what is being presented here.  This is the kind of image that could (and will) be circulated on the bevy of pro-anorexia sites out there as an example of extreme thinness promoted and accepted by the fashion industry.  Even more heartbreaking is the idea that young girls everywhere, otherwise healthy girls, may see this during a time in their life when they are easily influenced and allow it to make them feel badly about their bodies. It could ignite a dark place inside one of them, a thought, a behavior, a pattern, that could spiral into something devastating. Just as it was ignited in me.

No, one ad will not cause someone to be anorexic, but our society’s  ideals and attitudes towards what is a beautiful body could.  No one could pinpoint what exactly it was that caused me to fall ill- I was never abused, neglected, bullied or tormented- I was just like any other young girl.  But one day I started comparing myself to others and thought maybe I should lose some weight. And then some more. And then even more. Until the prospect of having to eat a single strawberry would reduce me to hysterical sobs of fear. And this was during a time when models like this were not part of mainstream media- in fact, today the girls I admired on TV in the early 90’s would probably be considered “chubby”.  If we allow these kinds of images to become acceptable I am scared of what the future holds for young women- our daughters, nieces and grandchildren. THIS IS NOT OKAY.

Years ago I went to talk by the Council of Fashion Designers of America at Mass General’s Eating Disorders Program in which some famous designers made all sorts of claims about committing to using healthier models in an attempt to promote a more wholesome body image and protect the young models who feel forced to be a certain kind of drastically thin in order to get work.  Well, it seems those statements and assertions were not ones they took seriously.  This image had to go through SO MANY hands to be approved to run in Bazaar- the fashion house, their marketing department, the model management, PR people, the photographer, producers, magazine editors and publishers. This model was lit purposely to exaggerate her breathtaking thinness. The fact that this was PERMITTED to be published is flat out disgusting.  The fact that all these powerful people in the media could look at this and think “Yes, let’s put THIS out into the universe” is baffling.  To be in a women’s magazine is doubly insulting.

For all the progress that the fabulous pro-women ads from Dove and others out there have made, one like this can set us so many steps back.  I have no idea how we can affect change in the fashion industry, but I certainly hope that small efforts to stand up to things like this are a place to start.

139 comments

  1. As a naturally thin person who looks similar to this girl portrayed, I am concerned and hurt by the reverse discrimination being communicated here. Do you think women like us should not be allowed to model? There are all kinds of bodies in the world, and to call this girl names such as “sad”, and “sick” is as cruel and disturbing as it would be to call the full figured women in the Dove campaign those names. I am frustrated by people constantly assuming thin women are anorexic. Please realize that “real women” can look like her, too.

  2. Agree with everything you’ve written. I’m a woman who had struggled with eating disorders for many years it’s painful to see images like this glamorized. Thank you for putting it out there.

  3. As Erin stated, she is not “thin shaming” but simply disturbed that this image is used as an ideal. I do not think you can argue that this model is not the image of a vibrant,healthy young woman. There is naturally thin and then there is sickly. I am surprised as well that this was their final approved campaign. However, as a teacher and a mother I have faith that the majority of young women know this is not something to strive for.

  4. thanks for writing this post. I’m glad you are now healthy. As women we need to all stand up and fight this; the old saying money talks is true. So we boycott all of the people who make a buck doing this…cancel that magazine subscription, don’t shop in stores that carry that brand and don’t wear any of the clothing they promote.

  5. those who look like this naturally are usually very young women (my niece is similar and is 17) …unfortunately, designers search for this look and are choosing younger and younger females to model their clothes…most women who can afford the prices from these top designers are WOMEN…women who have had children, are married, etc. and have developed a women’s body..they are not stick thin…this model has no muscle tone or shape whatsoever. Designers need to wake up and realize that a woman wants to see herself represented truthfully in their designs. We women should be proud we have lived a full natural life, conscientious of our health and our families and not submit to the stereotypes designers push on us. A human hanger is not a truthful representation…

  6. Erin, this is difficult to look at. Anyone’s 1st impression would be that she is just horribly thin, not fashion-thin at all, but more like starvation thin.
    I agree with you. And, I do not understand how this can be acceptable in the US magazines when they have faught so hard to repress this kind of image. This is seriously worse than showing one of the plus-sized models. At least we don’t worry about them!!!

  7. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m going to “vote” my dismay with the designer and magazine with my wallet and my pen.

  8. Great story.
    As women we are dammed if we are too heavy and dammed if we are to thin….
    This model in the picture is ridiculously bony and thin……and that looks
    good how?????????
    Shame on St.Laurent’s and Harper’s Bazaar.

  9. Hi Erin, I’m shocked and so disappointed to see this. I thought we were making positive strides in this area, but apparently not so. They could be doing it for shock value and all the publicity they’re going to get.
    Take care and thanks for speaking out,
    Holly

  10. There ARE “other” things an extremely “thin” person can do… Personally, I think this ad is “criminal” and this is speaking from experience. franki

  11. That image makes me cringe! Not that I’ve ever bought anything from YSL before but I’ll be sure not to in the future. How could anybody think that is what they even want to represent their brand? Even if the model is “naturally” that thin, they have a responsibility to (somewhat) promote a healthy body image. Horrified!

  12. As a mother of three daughters in their twenties I often hear their concerns about body image and criticism of fashion thin photos. This is definitely extreme. Bringing awareness through your blog is commendable. Thank you.

  13. ERIN YOU ROCK!!! As a young women who adores your blog and considers it a bright spot in my I day, I applaud you for taking a stand and being “real” with your audience. It is appauling that as a society we are constantly contradicting ourselves with our messages to young women. I know how I can take a stand as that company is in the business to sell their product,and I have purchased several items in the past,I can take a stand by not purchasing in the future and will write to them voicing why. Every voice makes a differece but the BIG difference is letting your voice be heard.

  14. I just spent my morning looking at old pictures of me. I was hoping to find a pic that showed how my hair USED to have some natural red so I could take that to my hair stylist. Sadness and self-hatred ensued as I looked at pics of me in my late teens and 20s where I was just SO uncomfortable with myself. (And I’m sure it’s obvious from this that I still struggle.) To Erin’s point, back then, the twig look wasn’t en vogue but thin was still in… and I wasn’t. And I spent way too much time worrying and being depressed about it. I don’t know what the answer is… certainly the ad shown is desparately horrible. I don’t think the model is anorexic – but the shadows show her to be near starvation. She also looks like she’s 12. But how do we come to terms with what is clearly held up as beauty over and over? We can’t deny it – I just wish the “definition” could be GENUINELY expanded. I’m digressing from the topic of the post a bit… the Saint Laurant ad team should be highly criticized. Thanks for the post…

  15. Just bought touché éclat. Womp womp. Back to the store it goes. I love this product but I can’t, with a good conscious, contribute in any way to forwarding the brand. I hope more people will do the same. Back to Laura Mercier secret camouflage. Thank you for your transparency and speaking out.

  16. I have to say when this popped up on my Facebook newsfeed, and before I clicked on/read the post title, I thought it was a picture of a victim of malnutrition because all I could see were her legs. As someone who was painfully thin as a child and in some of my teen years (who did NOT suffer from anorexia) I get how the rush to label her anorexic could be hurtful to someone who shares this body type. However, I think the fashion industry and media shape how girls and women see themselves and that’s why I think the ad campaign and YSL’s overall brand makeover (http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/features/hedi-slimanes-controversial-yet-successful-rebranding-of-the-venerable-yves-saint-laurent-label-is-not-to-everyones-taste-9069583.html. ) is suspect. There are too many teen girls aiming for thigh gaps and “bony” clavicles for this to be seen as responsible advertising.

  17. I really felt compelled to comment. This image is shocking to me and most certainly does not make me want to buy any St. Laurent items. I wasn’t aware of your struggle with ED and I am glad to know you are much healthier now. I feel that as someone who has struggled with restrictive eating in the past, it is something you will never ‘fully’ overcome. These images are triggers and set bad examples for our youth. It’s so irresponsible…if you ask me! I am glad you shared this and and your thoughts.

  18. Thank you for writing a post like this! This image is shocking and even more shocking is the fact the fashion industry thinks this standard of beauty is okay and “normal”.

  19. I couldn’t agree more with your post! Thank you for sharing your story. Keep up the great work with your blog! I LOVE IT!

  20. Erin, Thank you so much for putting it out there….this image is disturbing on so many levels. The poor girl looks malnourished and unhealthy. TERRIBLE

  21. love your post..you are making a difference with your words..and my God, is Lizzie V a marvelous bright star..

  22. Thank you so much for posting this. Earlier today i posted this image to my facebook and instagram feed hoping to raise a concern. What shocks me the most, like you said, so many people have OKed this picture. It makes me sick. Sicks that this is how desparste the brand is. This is how they are getting publicity. It makes me SO angy. Shame on harpers bazaar and ysl

  23. Why don’t you just stick to cutting out pictures in magazines and leave the Op Ed to others please. Your high horse is so boring. And, p.s, I am skinny and this is as insulting as if I said fat girls don’t belong in Vogue. Sorry you have a mental disease, but, you know… you are insulting.

  24. I posted the following on my fb page along with your link. I hope my perspective ads something to yours. I had a few thoughts on the same ad. Thank you for posting.

    Ok, I went looking for the image below because I saw it in February’s (this new month’s) edition of Harper’s Bazaar Magazine (2014). I wanted to post it on fb because it is CLEAR to me that here is an image that has been photo-shopped to give this SO extremely skinny outcome. What I see (and what I wanted to post) is that we (meaning the media we ascribe to) are now “glamorizing” starvation. It is not even “thinness” or “skinny models” as so many people get up in arms about. But rather STARVATION. This image is turning STARVATION into some kind of glamorous thing. Which, in essence gives the message that: We The People don’t need to DO anything about REAL STARVATION that is TRULY HAPPENING on our planet, and here in our own country, because it’s chic: “Those people are fine, lol!”. That, folks, is what evil does. It twists and distorts the truth, and makes what is NOT “ok” into “Ok” because of the people who “said so”. It is delusion. I’m not quite sure if you can get this, but as long as those who are causing harm, thru selfishness and selfish aims, can continue to deny the effects and harm to others of their actions, they can continue in their selfishness and “call it” something else: keep the same ‘game going’. Give it a different, more acceptable, name (and face), turn it into something “desirable” — In this case: Fashion. Chic. Glamour — so they don’t have to look at what it really is, and what their actions are really doing. Sorry for the long post, but when I went looking for the image I found this piece written by somebody else on the same image. HER take is that it was “shot like that”. Being a model, I know it was more than “just shot like that”. It was photo-shopped to create the look and image of STARVATION. This girl is not this skinny. Her own arms and legs have been photo-shopped out so you only see a portion of them. And that creates the look that is the SAME look as a person who is starving because they don’t have enough food to eat. But now it is “glamorous”. While the wealth gap keeps widening, and politicians all over the world “can’t seem to figure out why”, and the 85 wealthiest people in the world have the same amount of wealth as the ENTIRE populations of Africa, Asia, India and Australia COMBINED (I will find the source and post it, ‘can’t remember at this moment where it is) and where war and poverty continues to destroy lives, even though we have the means to feed everybody on the planet w/ no problem, and there is literally “room for us all”. I’m posting this person’s post w/ the image I was looking for (and I’ll take a photo of the ad to post myself, later). And now you have BOTH of our takes on the same image. I hope that mine just ads to hers. http://www.elementsofstyleblog.com/2014/01/a-new-low.htm

  25. & P.S they’re looking for publicity (the Brand is): and controversy sells! The more it is “paid attention to” the more successful their ad campaign has become. Remember Calvin Klein’s boys in underwear ads, that everyone in New York City was so ‘up in arms’ about, b/c they totally mimicked child porn and creepy pervs “casting” young boys in underwear?(may have been girls, too, I can’t remember). The point is, that shock value works to their advantage. Even if they “have to ‘issue a statement'” later on, “apologizing” to the public for having “crossed the line” between “art and impropriety”, they have already accomplished what they set out to do: and that’s to embed their name in your mind, i.e., get people talking about them, and get you to go looking for their stuff! Eventually it will all sell. It’s about making money. And nobody CARES how it is done. None of the casualties (like your feelings of inadequacy that fuel the anorexia (plz forgive me if I’m not stating that exactly right) or women & young girls starving themselves or cosmetically altering our bodies so we can “be ok”/”pretty enough” OR any number of other social “fallout” that occurs because of the media’s messages, matter! The only thing that MATTERS is the bottom line: Revenue. Sales. No matter who gets hurt. And thin models (many of whom are naturally thin, I always have been) is not the whole picture. No matter HOW “thin” or “young” or “perceivably ‘perfect'” in whatever way, a model IS, we’re ALL being photo-shopped before an ad is released – certainly here in the States and now just about everywhere else, too, and CERTAINLY anywhere these big Brands are placing their ads. (Of course the ads are created and then placed, so the ads and the images are always controlled by the Brand.) It’s all about Selling. And It Does Not Matter who gets hurt. Got it?! And the whole industry will tell you (whomever you are, and that includes ALL MODELS) that there is something about you that isn’t quite “enough”. And even if they’re “loving you today” they’ll be “forgettin’ you tomorrow” and somebody else will “be in”, so you always have “to strive” for that “attention” – Otherwise you DON’T WORK! And you don’t make any money, and you can’t stay in the business. Everybody’s gotta survive. But the whole game is BUILT ON telling people (and showing them) they’re somehow “not enough” just as they are. So even the ones they use to give the general PUBLIC that message, are given that same message, themselves! And NONE OF US LOOKS “perfect” all the time. None of us looks exactly like the images that are produced, even if we do at a moment in time. It is in that moment that we did. Lol. And in the next move we don’t. But that’s the image that is used. And then is further manipulated — no matter WHO you are. And so we ALL are being controlled in SOME WAY by this Beast. We have to ALL start IGNORING THE MESSAGE of the media that gets us comparing ourselves to others and feeling “less than” about ourselves, tho. Period. And all that messaging divides women, too, rather than uniting us. Which is ALSO a terrible evil. Divide and Conquer. It’s a trick to keep us focusing on the Brands. As if “THEY” have the answers to all out dilemmas if we just buy their stuff. Lol. What a Joke!. :)

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