If the Model’s Aren’t Safe, None of Us Are

by August 1, 2012
filed under Life
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There are a lot of words that describe Kate Upton. Traditional beauty, bikini model, blonde bombshell… As a model that has posed for Sports Illustrated, Guess and Victoria’s Secret, her appearance seems to epitomize the stereotypical ideal of “what men (and some women!) want.”

But apparently the blogger behind SkinnyGossip disagrees. The website promotes skinny as a beauty ideal and a way of life, including diet tricks, thinspiration and general snarking about anyone who’s not a size two. Which includes Kate. This past week SkinnyGossip posted pictures of Kate strutting— or in the blogger’s words “lumbering”— down the catwalk in a bikini, describing the model as a “cow,” “a squishy brick,” “almost pornographic,” “lardy” and “lazy.”

Durrrr. Okay then. When I look at Kate Upton, “lazy, pornographic, squishy brick cow” does not come to mind. Maybe that’s because I have eyes. Or maybe it’s because I’m not a huge fan of the whole thinspiration movement.

The internet has been going insane ever since the blog post made its way to Reddit, with a submitter asking Redditors to “please stop her.” Anonymous took on the challenge, hitting the website with a Denial-of-Service attack, which forced SkinnyGossip to change web hosts. Commenters have since turned into a frothing mob. I can almost picture them shouting, “HOW DARE SHE CALL KATE UPTON A LAZY PORNOGRAPHIC SQUISHY BRICK COW?! HOW DARE SHE?!”

Sadly, many commenters missed an opportunity to critique this website in a legitimate way. Instead, some comments have devolved to rape culture, with the blogger receiving numerous death and rape threats in her inbox.

SkinnyGossip denies that it supports anorexia as a way of life. “We have never supported illness or self-harm,” the anonymous blogger wrote in a follow-up to her post on Kate, “It is a community where we prefer the skinny look, but not at the cost of health.” That is plausible, but even if the website isn’t promoting anorexia, it is promoting long term dieting and a hierarchy of appearances where skinny is on top and curvy is on the bottom. Add to this, the threads on thinspo in the forums and the “Starving Tips of the Day” (which have since been deleted from the site) and you find a lot of parallels between the pro-ana sites and the SkinnyGossip blog.

Changes are being made to the blog in the wake of this controversy. These are:

Officially enforcing the prohibition against promoting self-harming behaviours, such as anorexia or bulimia

These are all commendable moves and hopefully they will have a positive impact. But, it was the blogger’s last comment that was the most notable for me:

“In closing, there’s nothing wrong with saying skinny is beautiful, just like there’s nothing wrong with saying curvy is beautiful, or red hair is beautiful, or anything else someone happens to find appealing. It’s an opinion, and we’re all entitled to them.”

It’s an opinion. Exactly. What one-person finds attractive, another might not. So then why do we hold up these beauty ideals as something universal? Why is it that we emphasize skinny, or blonde or blue eyes as something that everyone should strive for, when not everyone will be attracted to that?

A friend of mine heard about this and said, “If the models aren’t safe, none of us are.” Which, sadly enough, is true. None of us — even supposedly flawless models — can satisfy these judgemental beauty ideals. So then why do we keep upholding them?

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