Lizzie Miller Body Image Model and Beauty Debate Update

We all have a body part that drives us crazy. Lizzie Miller explains that hers was her stomach. Mine was my butt. It’s a year ago now that Lizzie Miller burst on the scene — literally — appearing naked in Glamour magazine and igniting a storm of ‘yes’ from tens of thousands of women.

Acknowledging the beauty and popularity of size 0 models and celebrities, women asked why a Lizzie figure can’t join the photo op as a second vision of the beauty standard. Why must we all aspire to be one size?

Sarah Jessica Parker, Cat Deeley, and Alexa Chung at Burberry show in London, Sept. 21, 2010At 5ft 11in and measuring 38-32-42 Lizzie Miller isn’t Anna Wintour’s ideal girl.

Fashionistas argue that the pursuit of perfection is fashion’s goal and all understand that models serve only an inspirational purpose. The fat girls are just crying foul when no crime has been committed. For centuries different body types of women have been the ‘ideal’ and civilization has survived.

Too Fat in 2010: Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Claudia Schiffer

The most famous supermodels like Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and even Claudia Schiffer are all too fat to be models today, according to current model preferences.

Reality is that the 90s supermodels are in demand for many reasons like credibility, sensuality, confidence, attitude and an ability to look pleasant, as opposed to fierce. The more weight models have lost, the ‘fiercer’ they have become, except that no one sweats getting in a fight with these girls. There’s not an ounce of muscle in sight, which is just the way the fashion patriarchy prefers it, with exceptions like Marc Jacobs.

Let’s just agree that model preferences are capricious and come at the whim of a group of guys — many gay, some straight. While straight guys are frequently under the hammer, It’s alleged that gay men are by definition better friends to women than a devoted pet, having only our best interests at heart just like feline and canine friends.

The truth is that some men of either sexual persuasion thrive on nurturing our neuroses, more so than our talents and confidence. History is not ambiguous on this subject. In the same way, not all gay women worship the male species either.

I’m on record multiple occasions saying that fashion has sucked the sexuality out of women since the fabulous ones rules the runway. Toned, healthy bodies have been replaced by ribs — which many women and men don’t find sensually inspiring for one moment.

Countless men not involved with fashion would say that Lizzie Miller has one hot body, and with all respect accorded the dream-team trio above, many men and women are not so interested in seeing them naked.

Smart Sensuality Supermodels

I argue that the 1990 supermodels represented a vision of women that rocked men’s minds — straight and gay. They were Glamazons, goddesses, ripe and fertile fashion Neferitis with minds and moxie of their own. They scared the s*** out of the industry, as role models for women.

Here we have an industry built on the assumption that women will do as we are told, and Linda Evangelista announces that she and her buddies don’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day. Granted, the comment was stupid and arrogant, but it was also powerful, confident and self-directed.

Imagine if women became seriously inspired by models with radiant confidence. In my playbook, the real supermodels, needed to be taken down a notch or two. They were the star power, often shining brighter than the fragile, creative egos of the men who dominate fashion.

Woman = Breasts and Hips

I apologize in advance for affronting the 2-5% of the female population who naturally don’t have breasts and hips. Globally, some women have more and others less of what Mother Nature always imagined was a good thing, with plenty of functionality built in for the survival of the human species.

Could we please agree that a beauty standard should not delete women as aspirational because we have body parts scientifically associated with female anatomy. Because if we can’t, then we women do really want to be men, and Freud is correct.

With the take down of the true supermodels, women found themselves explaining the existence of the very body parts necessary to sustain the human race. For me as a feminist, the debate took on a new tone.

Men have bound our feet, stuck their fingers in our vagina to determine our promiscuity, and thrown burqas over our heads — all in the name of cultural differences, rather than oppression.

Anja Rubik | Heidi Slimane | Vogue Paris April 2010Sorry but when a group of male fashion designers determines that the aspirational woman has no breasts or hips, I’ve had enough. If fashion really wanted to inspire us, they would have left the supermodels alone and decided that healthy bodies and a bit of hot and sexy muscle lust are good for women, which both the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School will confirm.

There are qualitative differences between my alma mater Victoria’s Secret and me on the subject of angels with wings, but I’m comfortable making the argument that VS at least kept bosoms and hips alive in our imaginations, when the fashion industry declared them verboten.

Without Victoria’s Secret dominating the modeling industry the last 15 years and feeding women an alternative vision — even though Karl Lagerfeld sneers that the VS models have no credentials as real models (whatever that means) — women just might be photoshopped to nothing … blank white space.

Stylish Women’s Health Reality Check

The truth is that if we could just get the majority of American women to have Lizzie Miller’s BMI and healthy physique, America’s national security obesity risk would improve immeasurably.

If Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and First Lady Michelle Obama are calling for a national rally around good health, perhaps fashion has a role to play, too. Any obesity counselor will tell you that helping women return to a healthy body, rather than convincing us that we’re such total lost causes that we will never measure down — rather than up — is in the nation’s interest.

With Crystal Renn joining Lizzie Miller, backed up by Lara Stone — who is not fat by anyone’s standards, except those with a truly warped mind and probably no sex life — we all have an opportunity to help women help themselves get fit.

Yes, there’s research saying that women feel terrible about themselves after seeing fashion ads, but we also have research confirming that our brains ‘revolt’ when we see photos of very fat women. The science is not a pretty picture, but it’s the complex truth in our 21st century world.

Fashion is correct that women are too fat. Fashion is wrong in promoting size 0, sexless, no muscle lust, fierce-scowling women as the beauty standard that inspires us. Frankly, this vision is a joke, given all the real-life challenges before us.

Victoria’s Secret models keep libido alive in a woman’s mind.

Acknowledge Libido

Our way through this body image morass is to argue that models not be regarded as coat racks, but as sensual women with libidos. Get designers to agree that a libido-rich, menstruating, fertile woman is beautiful and we’re half-way home. (Note: ladies, I’m menopausal and hotter than Hades. We can only debate so many issues in one sentence.)

The minute you include libido and expressed sensuality criteria in a vision of aspirational beauty, the models will return to the Crawford, Schiffer, Turlington, Seymour, Campbell body type. We no longer have an absurd conversation about Lara Stone being the plus-size model as a size 4. And protruding ribs return to restaurants, where they really don’t belong, but better there than in a concentration camp or on a fashion runway.

Even keep a few. There’s no reason why fashion shouldn’t have some 16.5 BMI, size -0 models. Let’s just balance the damn scale.

And let’s give women an achievable, healthy standard of beauty that requires plenty of self-discipline and food denial to maintain. Our psyches aren’t maimed for life because we say “I’ve had enough pizza and pasta, thanks.” We love French, Italian, Brazilian and a host of international women, because they have found the balance of food, pleasure, sexuality, beauty and health in their lives.

If fashion wants to be relevant in women’s lives, then it must embrace who we are. In America and England, we’re struggling with self-image, self-respect and health far more than women in France and Italy.

So throw us a bone already.

Limited Progress

In the year since Lizzie Miller appeared in Glamour and Ralph Lauren gave model Filippa Hamilton a head bigger than her hips, we’ve made some progress in this critical dialogue.

Yet the topic remains on the fringe of fashion, the add-on conversation that doesn’t involve any admission that perhaps the fashion industry holds an ounce of responsibility in taking women in the prime of their lives 15 years ago and telling them that being a healthy 4-6 was no longer the image of aspirational beauty.

Literally, that’s what fashion did in just a couple years. If you were determined enough to keep yourself in shape to be a tall size 4-6, you were suddenly the fat girl. If that’s not mental manipulation of the female psyche, I honestly don’t know what is.

Is it too controversial to say “how cruel.” When fashion gurus write that fashion is for the young, is that because young women are so insecure that they willingly do what fashion tells them to do? Older women argue and get sassy back?

It’s sobering when Cindy Crawford says: “Don’t feel badly. I’m also too fat to be a model today.”

There are signs that the old guard is dropping down the gauntlet, saying ‘enough’.

The one thing we know for sure is that fashion is becoming more intellectual and thoughtful, and we’re encouraged.

The proliferation of high-quality Internet media, of artists, designers and models collaborating on their terms is diffusing the power of the fashion patriarchy worldwide, but especially in America. The transforming rumble might be far quieter than one envisions, which is why the message must be pitched far and wide.

It would be great to think that fashion model upsizing might help America downsize our biggie-size appetite for food. We’re downsizing our houses and looking at smaller cars. Could bodies be next? Let’s just say that there’s loads of male psychology in this challenge and ‘Girls Rule’ is tough to deliver.

Ask me next year in September. I’m not a betting woman on this question. For now kudos to Lizzie Miller, Crystal Renn and Lara Stone (ridiculously so) for being the new torchbearers in challenging the idea that men should decide what’s best for women when beauty, libido and freedom are at stake.

Couldn’t we just please call the goddess who made us, instead of the boys … just once?  Anne

More Reading:

Cindy Crawford | 90s Size 6 Supermodels Would Be Plus-Size Today