I am amazed at Tyra’s take on her role in popular culture’s body mass complex. While her talk show is full of self esteem “boosters,” contrived and otherwise, America’s Next Top Model perpetuates the need-to-be-thin construct.
This morning I watched Tyra defend herself against an anorexic, Jenny, who is in residence at a treatment facility. Jenny says that popular culture has instigated her disorder; she is a freelance broadcast journalist. Jenny named ANTM as one of the popular television shows that perpetuate the thin-is-in image she chases at the risk of losing her life.
“No I do not,” Tyra said, “but I do struggle with this.”
Jenny didn’t bother to debate her.
Tyra continued to complain that individuals like to play the “blame game” with her and the fashion industry. But, as she put it, she didn’t create the fashion industry. What she didn’t say but I believe and so does Jenny, I bet, “but I sanction its bad behavior.”
As I understand from shows like Project Runway, couture requires expensive fabrics that designers buy in small quantities for cost effectiveness and of course the designs only fit on very thin models. But who are you selling the designs to? More hauntingly thin consumers? It doesn’t add up.
No more than the other favorite defense of the fashion industry, also claimed by Tyra to poor Jenny: many people are naturally thin. It’s interesting that all of these naturally thin women seem to have found their way to the mainstream fashion industry, some via ANTM. It’s criminal to willfully create an environment that justifies self-destructive, really suicidal, behavior.Apparently, Tocarra from a few seasons back was Tyra’s community service. And this cycle of ANTM, she is proud to say, will feature three full figured models.
I’m not here to pick Tyra apart. I think she is very attractive; think her body is beautiful especially now in its most voluptuous state. And I applauded the episode where she revealed her weight gain, showed the pooch that seems to happen to 30 somethings.But come the hell on! Nearly Tyra’s entire ANTM show relies on images of extremely thin (and questionably beautiful) women.
So while her emotional request to all those people who don’t like her new voluptuous body to “Kiss her ass” is commendable and her other talk show episodes like the one revealing her floppy, non-augmented breasts; and her shows about the eating disorders that many women—some of them wannabe models—are equally commendable, the fact is that ANTM, even with a few token voluptuous competitors is helping to perpetuate the problem. And damn if those tokens feel like some twisted affirmative action…
Pssssst, Tyra: letting America’s First Super Bitch, I mean Super Model, Janice Dickinson degrade the women and their bodies is not revolutionizing the way the fashion industry looks at women’s bodies! Dickinson has flat out told sometimes extremely thin contestants to lose weight—not tone your tummy—lose weight. Aside from the time she defended Tocarra against Dickinson’s statement that models only came in one size—and it isn’t Tocarra’s—Tyra has often sat virtually idly by saying, “Well, I don’t feel that way.” Newsflash Tyra, it’s your show! If you allow people on it to represent this kind of thinking, it is a reflection of your thinking too.
I think Tyra is like many women raised in this country. Our bodies have too often been used as weapons against us so much that we are torn about how we should treat them ourselves and the mixed messages in our heads transmit through our behavior. Men claim we entice them by the way our hips flow from side to side; they are provoked to sexual assault by our cleavage in low cut blouses, our asses in tight jeans, our thighs in short skirts. When we have children, our stretch marks are held against us. We hawk products to one another (that do not work) to suggest that these very natural occurrences, like the smell of our vaginas, are in fact unnatural.
So some days I, too, am a little too disappointed by the curve of my belly; consider rib removal as a viable option. I think a little too hard about a decision to have a piece of cake or bowl of ice cream some days.
And before you say it, I don’t want to suggest that unrealistic beauty standards are the equivalent of unhealthiness. Apples are tremendously better for you than cake. I know that. Therefore, I do want to suggest that when we know better, we have a responsibility to do better. Tyra knows better. She’s shown us that she knows better on her talk show. So I wish she would do better on ANTM.