Saturday, August 04, 2007

Skinny girls

The other day I was downtown and noticed some skinny girls visiting Millennium Park with their families. Not women—girls. Say, 12 years old. Long, skinny legs, skinny arms, skinny waist.

Me, I was a scrawny kid. Not one of those gangly long-legged skinny kids, but short and skinny. A lot of kids are just naturally built like beanpoles.

What struck me is that the build of a 12-year-old skinny girl who hasn't quite launched into puberty is the very body type that the fashion industry promotes. Add three years to this girl, let her grow taller but not rounder, and she becomes the ideal model.

So really, that ideal isn't just about emphasizing thinness. That thinness evokes images of reed-thin 12-year-old girls, doesn't it? It's not exactly the sexualization of childhood, but it's definitely the sexualization or fetishizing of a childlike physique.



Narya said...

I've always thought that Germaine Greer pretty much nailed this one in "The Female Eunuch," but I read it, oh, 30 years ago, so I might have misremembered.

Anyway, I think that's also why the emphasis on no body hair, no pubic hair, etc.: the only visible markers of adult sexuality become the breasts, and, in many cases, they become inflated to unrealistic proportions. I think this ideal serves at least two (patriarchal) purposes: (1) it sets up a sexual ideal that is not about adult females at all, but, rather, is about female children (who are much more manageable than we adults, and, for this crowd, less Scary), and (2) it requires women to spend an inordinate amount of time and money on body modification; given the finite number of hours in the day, if you can force women to spend a bunch of them on how they look, you reduce the hours available for other things.

I have a lot more opinion on this subject, but I don't want to take over the commentary. Yet.

Narya said...

It also has the effect of making all females sexbots, no matter their ages, which is just creepy.

Suz said...

One of my women's studies professors once said that the image promoted so strenously by the fashion industry as the paragon of feminine beauty was that of an adoscent boy (slim hips, skinny waist) with a pair of boobs attached.

momo said...

My twelve year old girl has just started to blossom. But I realize when I look at her that she looks older than 12 because she looks like those models, even though she's not tall yet. I worry about the attention she will get in the street and I want to keep her safe, but I can't keep her tied to me.

tl said...

What is it that attracts adult males to the shaved woman? The "Brazilian" wax? Hairless, women look like little girls, and yet, this is an acceptable attraction. As is the attraction to Catholic school girl uniforms worn by women, or women with pigtails in their hair, their lips rounded around a cherry lollipop - everything possible to make her look like a child.

Our society encourages men to be attracted to children, and when they are, we are all too happy to out them, treat them as freaks and criminals - even if they've done nothing.

What and where is the line? Is it the attraction itself? Or is it that the attraction could become physical?

If it's the attraction, we might do well to stop promoting that attraction in movies, magazines, and advertising. Which is not to say pedophiles are victims of society, but let's be a little less hypocritical, at least.

The Absent Minded Housewife said...

Guess who around the blogosphere has that body type naturally? Yes, Ma'am, that's me. I do have hips though. I dislike the notion that my body type is unwomanly. It's not. I am what I am.

I've had strangers talk to me about anorexia and bulimia. I've been followed to restaurant bathrooms to make sure I didn't throw up my meal. I've been told I couldn't have possibly had healthy babies or had easy births. I've been accused of drug use. I've been considered vain, snobby or high maintenance. I've been told that I can't attract real men.

Blah I tell you, blah!

As a seamstress I will tell you that it's easy to design clothing around that thin form. The more curves, the more picky fitting requirements. You can interchange models and still have the clothing fit with little alteration. Tall models mean longer fabric lengths which makes the clothing look lusher to the eye. When you are selling clothing that sort of thing matters.

The Absent Minded Housewife said...

Oh, and the hairless woman is only a recent shift in style. Thirty years ago it was ok to have pubes...

The amount of body hair is a function of style, just as hairstyles shift and clothing shifts. 1800's you didn't shave. 1920's you shaved. 1930's you didn't shave. 1970's you went sasquatch. 1980's you molded your crotch into fluffy

Mignon said...

I think the whole fashion industry will eventually just switch to Anime and be done with the ruse of using "women" as models.

And along the lines of what Becky said, I saw a quote from Venus Williams in which she was grateful for her tall, lanky frame. She said everything fit her; it was like being a clothes hanger. And that's just what I pictured. A bunch of pre-pubescent clothes hangers parading down the runway.

Delia Christina said...

some rambling thoughts:

-the comment upthread about being afraid for a daughter and the attention from older men being directed at her reminded me of a very heated discussion i had last week with my girl friends about who was 'easier' to raise- girls or boys? my friend's thesis offered that because of the overwhelming social pressures put on girls to be acceptably 'girly' she didn't want a daughter, but preferred a boy who would somehow grow up without hidden social codes being sent to him all the time. i disagreed.

-this post also reminded me of this very disturbing reality tv show with petra nemcova called 'a model life' where she hand picked 6 young girls to put them through their paces and dangle a modeling contract in front of them as a prize.

what's the most disturbing about this show is the way the industry folks clearly prefer the sickly looking girls (none of them are over 18) because they photograph 'high fashion' and are brutal to one girl because she's a (gasp) out of shape size 2.

size 2 now = horrifically obese and inappropriate.

while i can sympathize with the practical struggle to make fabric hang in a pleasing way, we need to stop using it as an excuse to proffer a really whacked image of female bodies. our vision is becoming skewed in such a way i'm afraid the designers, critics and all the attendant folks in the fashion industry won't be satisfied until there's just a hank of hair and a pelvic bone walking down the runway.

Delia Christina said...

(i really wish i could have copy edited that comment.)

Rachinal said...

This is a really interesting conversation. Firstly I found it by searching google for skinny girl blogs. Today I was taken out of music by my guidance teacher and ask all sorts of questions about what I eat and I realised at that point that I have a serious problem, I am turning anorexic, I think, but I am still not happy with my body, see my post from today and please leave comments!

Some of my thoughts but I could talk for hours about diets, anorexia ect.


p.s. I am 15 x