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Beauty or the beast: Notes on glorified anorexia Beauty or the beast: Notes on glorified anorexia
by Alexander Mikhaylov
2008-05-03 09:13:49
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You know what? I think there is something wrong with my head. I came to this poignant conclusion when I realized that… Well, come on! Let us say it aloud, like a brave guy: I DO NOT LIKE THIN WOMEN! I do not like beefy men either, but since I am not gay (sounds like one of those YouTube amateurish cartoons on Dumbledore, hmm…) who am I to voice my judgment - P.S. I think that if I was gay I would still not have liked them somehow.

Now, why all of a sudden all this talk about thin women? It is simply this: last week my wife sent me a curious online article, which informed, whoever bothered to read it, that the French High Court had banned the use of unnaturally thin (anorexic) models from commercials and public shows. The decision created quite a stir. I must admit that the news made me gloat a little, but back to the article…

A certain Professor S. Williams of Brigham Young University of Utah said that there is no scientifically-established connection between commercials featuring unnaturally thin models and domestic cases of anorexia-nervosa.

Well, well, well… I suddenly recall a number of advertisements of modelling agencies luring would-be beauties into heavenly clouds of commercial paradise with slogans such as ‘Learn how to be a model' or 'Learn how to look like one’. To argue with Prof. S. Williams, I might say that I am pretty sure no one had tried yet to perform experiments or proper research to establish the truth, or otherwise, of the matter - if such research is truly possible. Personally, I cannot believe that countless commercial images, featuring skeleton-like beauties, who, to everyone’s envy, earn tonnes of money and are supposedly the most sexually desirable specimens on earth, have no impact on young people’s minds.

I assume any plumber, who does periodical cleaning of toilets clogged with thrown-up food in girls’ dormitories across college campuses in US alone, would have something to say about that. Is it a pressure of academic life or a desire to look like emaciated models that drive these girls to slow self-destruction? On the other hand, I am often wondering where contemporary standards of beauty are coming from. Who creates them and for what reason? I mean, isn’t it strange that the entertainment industry promotes such grotesque characters as bodybuilders, for example – the people who (from an old fashioned point of view, perhaps) are nothing but unfortunate individuals plagued with deformities.

Why should models look like escapees from concentration camps or victims of inhuman experiments? You might say that standards of beauty vary from culture to culture and in our western culture, thinness in women is regarded as a desirable thing. This is clearly an artificial exaggeration, for no matter which culture you would take as an example, a norm of feminine beauty would be a woman with highly-pronounced signs of childbearing qualities (big hips, big breasts) and not boyishly looking ones.

It is easy to notice that our times are marked by nearly universal love of extremities, starting with extreme sports and extreme looks, and continuing with extreme political measures, extreme survival conditions, extreme poverty and extreme wealth. I wonder what stands behind these extremities. Is it because people are trying to channel their destructive impulses somewhere safe, while they lead a constant war against everlasting dullness of digitally, politically and technologically doctored everyday life?

A world of glamour is full of mysteries. Think, for instance of a celebration of sickness. The nice example would be these sullen looking teenagers with black rings around their eyes and overall appearances of heroin addicts. One only has to speculate on why any other signs of psychotic ailments and physical deficiencies have not found their way into the world of glamour yet.

Wouldn’t it be cool to feature someone with, say, visible symptoms of HIV-AIDS, or maybe syphilis, or brain damage? What about red-nosed alcoholics? I am sure that quite a number of individuals would find those appealing. What about people with an unnaturally big or small head? Catatonics? Madmen? Maniacs? Self-mutilators? Anyway, using sick looking or disfigured people in commercials or for public amusement are not new things. ‘Women with beards’ that had been such a hot item at medieval markets, Circus midgets or, later on, Siamese twins, naturally come to one’s mind.

To return to the topic of the French Court’s decision, the article mentioned an angry reaction of some people. The reaction could be summed-up in sentiments, such as ‘State and Law cannot dictate to girls how thin they should be’. Of course, when the state begins to dictate to its citizens a dress code, or code of appearance, things become ugly. Think of Mao suits that had been the only socially appropriate form of dress in China not long ago. Many similar instances could be mentioned about a former Soviet Union, where long hair on men, narrow trousers, torn jeans and other ‘symbols of rotting West’ could be a cause for police arrest.

On the other hand, one has to wonder, why a large number of these spokesmen for personal freedom often turn out to be either the official representatives or PR people for food companies. It is not a secret that these companies make a good buck on dietary products - products that hardly qualify as food, much less a healthy food.

I noticed long ago that so-called ‘women’s magazines’ (and not only those) leave you with a sense of personal inadequacy. It seems that they carry a singular message: Hey! A real life is somewhere else! Some people look astounding (Never you). Some people are rich (Never you). Some people have s good figure (Never you). They have all the fun (Never you). You are the one who just read about it. You are the one who’s the loser.

It is only natural, that after reading countless articles on life of ‘celebrities’ and scanning thousands of glamour photos you are driven to seek remedies against your lousy looks, your inferior style of life and your sheer inadequacy. And is it not surprising that every one of these magazines, for example, offer you certain remedies, or the ways (always expensive and always stupid) to improve yourself?

I know I am repeating ‘the old stuff’. I do not mean to lament but I still believe what is sadly missing from many venues of life is a sense of normalcy, or a simple sincerity, but then what is the normalcy? It is an outdated word.

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Valerie2008-05-04 04:41:33
I really liked this article, even at my age (over 40) I still struggle with the concept of looking like I'm a teenager - thin, waif like, and wrinkle free. The women's mags have always deoresssed me. Cosmetic surgery and all sorts of weird drugs are on the rise fo women who want to be thin and young and sexy. Esp here in Beijing where the body type is thinner than the western body, it's unnerving. I'm glad that there are men who would appreciate a woman with some fat, not excess mind you, not obese and blown up like an air balloon, but some fat, strategically placed to create the curves that nature intended.

Simon2008-05-04 10:26:59
Big is beautiful.

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