ANTM – First “Full-Figured” Winner

Ok, I admit, America’s Next Top Model is a guilty pleasure of mine. I love fashion (even if most of it excludes women of my size) and I’m an amateur photographer, so it has a lot going for it as far as guilty pleasures go. All that said, it’s still a modeling show and still has a lot of the drawbacks of the modeling industry as a whole.

“Full-figured” or “plus-sized” models have not fared well on the show. They have had token representation, but it’s been tokenism at its worst. There is usually one girl per season, and that one is usually a size 6 at most. Last season, Sarah Banks Hartshorn lost a whopping 3-1/2 pounds, which dropped her from the “plus” designation, and the judges (who included Twiggy, a woman who made even Fran Drescher insecure about her tiny body) decided that she was too small for plus size modeling, and too large for anything else. Thus she was eliminated for being too small and too large at the same time!

As much as I love Whitney (and wish that they had left her as a brunette, as I thought it suited her better), when it got down to her, Fatima, and Anya, I felt sure that the two willowy women would be chosen for the Donatella Versace runway show. If nothing else, I figured (pardon the pun) that the dresses would be in “model sizes” and that Whitney would be eliminated for that reason, if for nothing else. I was pleasantly shocked when the two chosen were Whitney and Anya. I had thought for weeks that Anya, who won four challenges to Whitney’s three, would win the competition.

All through the cycle, the judges had accused her of coming across as phony. Last night Paulina Porizkova called her a ham. I was shocked when Miss J, who I tend to find nauseatingly smug and who tends to be very uncomplimentary of the “plus sized” models, came to her defense saying that she probably developed the facade to deal with the fat stigma she’s experienced. My jaw dropped, not only that weight stigma was being addressed as having negative consequences, but that it was Miss J making the observation. Tyra promptly stuck a pin in Jay’s theory by saying “but this is modeling…in the real world she’s just a hot girl.” I found this comment both comforting (in its implied condemnation of modeling standards) and unsettling in its dismissiveness of Whitney’s stated experience of always being “the fat girl”.

Jezebel has the Cycle 10 season from soup to nuts.

I have fantasies of an entire “Plus Size” cycle. I’m not talking size 6 or 8 “plus” sizes, either. I’m talking a minimum size of, say, an American 22. They could have Velvet D’Amour as the season’s fourth judge. I know that there’s about as much chance of that’s happening as there is of Piggy Moo‘s winning the 2008 Grammy, but a girl can dream…

In the meantime, please excuse me while I take a moment to do a little happy dance that the size 00 didn’t turn out to be the default winner, yet again.

Cyber Crush of the Day

I have to admit that I’m a total sucker for those who recognize bigotry for what it is when they see it, and even more so for those who battle against it. It’s especially crush-worthy when it’s someone who’s trying to change a societal paradigm that is harmful to our children. Jeff Dinelli, at The Left Coaster is one such person. His sixth grade daughter’s phys ed class is involved in a class project that included counting calories and calculating “ideal” weights for these youths. I don’t know about you, but I find the concept of an “ideal weight,” especially one that doesn’t take body composition (bone size/density, muscle mass, etc.) into consideration, not only unrealistic and appalling, but unconscionable.

Given that many of these school “nutrition awareness” and anti-obesity programs do more harm than good to our children, they don’t work, and anorexia is being diagnosed in children as young as five, maybe it’s time to consider a different approach to teaching nutrition and physical fitness. It’s time to get across that “survival of the fittest” is not synonymous with “survival of the buffest.”

Now, setting aside the fact that these kids are entering puberty and need fat and sugar for their bodies to develop properly, we are setting them up for disordered relationships with food at the very least and quite possibly full-blown eating disorders as well as depression and stress diseases. Sixth graders, at the verge of adulthood but not there yet, are practically obsessed with fitting in with their peer groups. If a teacher makes obsessing about their bodies a class assignment, said teacher is throwing alcohol gel onto an inferno.

Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity recently performed a survey study to assess attitudes about the obese.

The study surveyed 4,283 individuals and discovered an alarming trend: to avoid being obese, people would be willing to give up a year of life, get divorced, be unable to have children, develop alcoholism, or become severely depressed. The survey also examined subconscious attitudes toward obesity and found that, regardless of their age or body weight, participants strongly associated fat people with negative traits, such as laziness and stupidity, while associating thin people with positive traits. Dr. Schwartz and her colleagues found that overweight participants thought poorly of themselves, making weight loss even harder to achieve and adding to a growing body of research that shows the striking prevalence and pervasiveness of weight-based stigma.

Even obesity doctors, who should know better, are likely to associate words like “lazy” “stupid,” and “worthless” to their fat patients. What chance does a sixth grader have to avoid assimilating these biases when they’re taught in grade school?

Hope for decreasing Fat Stigma?

This morning’s New York Times has an article about a new bill passed by Congress “that would prohibit discrimination by health insurers and employers based on the information that people carry in their genes.”

As there are many genes known to be associated with obesity, it’s only a matter of time until size discrimination is covered under this law. Let’s hope that it’s sooner, rather than later.