reuters reports that five of sixty-nine runway models are being kept off the catwalk at this week’s international designer show in madrid. evidently, their “ratio of body weight to height was so low it was deemed an unhealthy example to the public.”
i’m no expert in the sociology of bodies, but i’m sure that patriarchy and control are part of the story. nevertheless, even male models are today pressured to drop to size zero. in recent years, the boy-waif look has apparently overtaken the buffed and angular male ideal.
i’ve written before about the body mass index and its flaws. this is partly personal (yes, at my current weight and height, i’m officially overweight) and partly scientific. there are far better ways to identify a healthy body weight than the b.m.i. for example, wrestlers have strong incentives to cut weight, so every minnesota grappler now sees a “certified skinfold technician” or undergoes a water displacement test to establish a minimum wrestling weight of at least seven percent body fat.
should the state or particular industries regulate the weight of a class of workers? i’m personally torn on this issue between libertarian (ain’t nobody’s business what i weigh) and communitarian (bad for society as well as bad for the models) impulses. that said, i’m all for placing sensible weight restrictions on children. the state and schools have an expansive license to intervene in the lives of juvenile models and wrestlers who have yet to reach the age of majority. and parental consent is no solution — many parents would sign anything if they thought it gave their kids an edge or a better shot at glory.
but this raises a bigger question, about which much has been written: why aren’t we associating physical beauty with adult bodies? super-skinny models lack the breasts, muscles, and curves associated with adulthood, so i can’t help but see the fashion industry as complicit in sexualizing kids and adolescents. or maybe it is just too darn difficult for high-end designers to deal with the curves and lumps of adult bodies. like placing a coat over the back of a chair, i suppose they can easily drape anything over a stick-like 5’11” 90-pounder.
as a runner and parent, i tend to emphasize exercise more than diet in discussions with my kids. one sees a marvelous diversity of body types at the average marathon, for example, but every finisher is defensibly “in shape.” i’m still trying to exercise my way out of the post-holiday interim pants, but i doubt that i’m in any immediate danger of hitting size zero.