Monday 11 December 2017

The truth is - us regular folk are more adept at body-shaming than anyone in fashion

Not only magazines are guilty of judging bodies. We are all prone to that as the mockery of Lady Gaga shows, writes Sophie Donaldson

Slim pickings: The cover of ‘Vogue’s’ March edition, with what seems to be obvious retouching done on the models’ arms
Slim pickings: The cover of ‘Vogue’s’ March edition, with what seems to be obvious retouching done on the models’ arms
Musician Lady Gaga performs onstage during the Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl LI Halftime Show at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)
Singer Lady Gaga performs during the halftime show of Super Bowl LI at NGR Stadium in Houston, Texas, on February 5, 2017. / AFP / Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Amy Schumer in the new Pirelli calendar. Picture: Annie Leibowitz/Pirelli
The cover of Vogue's March edition, with some very obvious retouching done on the models' arms
Model Ashley Graham attends 2016 Glamour Women Of The Year Awards
Ashley Graham. Image: Andrew Fitzsimons/Instagram
Model Ashley Graham attends the Prabal Gurung fashion show during New York Fashion Week: The Shows September 2016 at The Gallery, Skylight at Clarkson Sq on September 11, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for New York Fashion Week: The Shows)
Model Ashley Graham arrives at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards
Model Ashley Graham attends the 2016 CFDA Fashion Awards at the Hammerstein Ballroom on June 6, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)
Sophie Donaldson

Sophie Donaldson

Shame on you, fashion industry. Shame on you for your unrealistic portrayal of women's bodies, for your doctored images, for your relentless obsession with youth. Shame on you for body shaming us, the regular folk.

As convenient as it may be to lay blame with this industry at large for body shaming, the truth is that it's the rest of us - the regular folk - who are far more adept at slandering one another and slagging off each other's figures.

I have dabbled in modelling, spent many hours of my life absorbed in fashion magazines, as well as a sizeable portion of my adolescence watching Fashion TV on loop. The only time I have ever felt ashamed of my body - the type of red hot humiliation that permeates every inch of you - was not from any fashion-related avenue, but from my peers.

Years later I recall with absolute clarity the gasping sense of inadequacy and shame brought on by a group of classmates catching sight of my newly sprouted underarm hair. Aged 11 and teetering on the edge of puberty, it had not yet occurred to me to shave. After hearing their shrieks and venomous murmurs, I certainly did.

Singer Lady Gaga performs during the halftime show of Super Bowl LI at NGR Stadium in Houston, Texas, on February 5, 2017. / AFP / Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Singer Lady Gaga performs during the halftime show of Super Bowl LI at NGR Stadium in Houston, Texas, on February 5, 2017. / AFP / Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

If you think this is a limited experience, or just childish jibing, and not an indication of our own propensity to body shame, then cast your mind back one week to Lady Gaga's fantastical Superbowl halftime show.

Distracting entirely from her incredible performance was the news that Gaga was body shamed by the everyday people of the internet. Gaga is about a size 8, but according to those various nobodies she also has a "muffin top", "beer gut" and "pudge".

As these prudent observations demonstrate, fashion magazines do not publish catty comments or make derogatory remarks. We do.

What the fashion industry certainly does do, however, is Photoshop. This very standard practice often comes under fire for its visual trickery that apparently has heinous effects on our self-esteem.

Most recently, Vogue has been accused of distorting one of its cover stars. Its 125th commemorative cover released last week features a diverse lineup of women, the headline proclaiming that this is 'the beauty revolution' and that 'no norm is the new norm'. Amongst the chosen seven were size 14 Ashley Graham, Chinese supermodel Liu Wen, Imaan Hammam of half-Moroccan, half-Egyptian descent and half-Dutch, half-Palestinian, all American raised Gigi Hadid.

Wearing matching black polo necks and tiny little shorts they cluster together on the beach, arms wrapped around the waist in front of them with one legged cocked toward the camera.

The cover of Vogue's March edition, with some very obvious retouching done on the models' arms
The cover of Vogue's March edition, with some very obvious retouching done on the models' arms

Look carefully, however, and Gigi Hadid's arm seems longer and more slender than usual. It covers not only Kendall Jenner's waistline but also some of Ashley Graham's.

Look closer again and you'll see another rogue hand, this time belonging to Graham, has slipped out of the mutual embrace and rests on her thigh. Onlookers are suggesting that Hadid's arm was lengthened in Photoshop and Graham was instructed to partially cover her own thigh so that it might appear smaller. The internet is crying foul. It's fat shaming! Literally underhand! An actual cover-up!

Graham has since responded to the furore by stating on Instagram nobody told her to pose in any way. She chose to stand with her hand resting on her thigh of her own free will.

Look at any one of Graham's fashion editorials and it is obvious that this woman has mastered the art of posing.

Former model Cheryl Tiegs slammed Sports Illustrated for including image of American model Ashely Graham
Former model Cheryl Tiegs slammed Sports Illustrated for including image of American model Ashely Graham

Every time, she works her curves and angles perfectly for the camera. Perhaps, just perhaps, this very savvy size-14 model chose to pose in a way that she felt would be most flattering - especially with size 6 Liu Wen clamped to her backside. The reality is that the most vicious body shaming comes from our own waspish tongues.

If a magazine really wanted to body shame an individual, surely there are easier ways to do it than put them on the cover?

And was it not fashion photographer Annie Leibowitz who pioneered the new-look Pirelli calendar, photographing a nude Amy Schumer with her glorious belly rolls much to our disdain?

As long as social media exists, so too will body shaming. We all need a way to combat it. Gaga did it by empowering her fans to relentlessly be themselves. Graham did it by making the cover of Vogue. Schumer did it by stripping off again on Twitter.

I intend sharing this article with a photo of my undearms, hair and all. I think my 11-year-old self would be pretty proud of that.

Amy Schumer in the new Pirelli calendar. Picture: Annie Leibowitz/Pirelli
Amy Schumer in the new Pirelli calendar. Picture: Annie Leibowitz/Pirelli

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