Amidst the bombardment of fashion week intel, it’s easy to get caught up in the mythical ideals of the sartorial jet-set, where everyone appears at their absolute best—whether it be with a poreless face or a set of “perfectly” crafted thighs. Craft, however, is the crucial word there, as much of what we’re seeing is the result of a giant production—one that often involves a lot more work and struggle than ever comes to light. This is especially true when it comes to the ever-diminishing figures of models, bloggers and editors.
I feel a complicated sense of dread around fashion week, as models traipse across my screen and my actual reality, bringing up the ghosts of anorexia’s past with each sighting of a knifelike collarbone or an astonishing thigh gap. The majority of these images make me sad—I find most too uncomfortable to even look at. That usually melts into anger when I see commenters and fangirls fawning over these unhealthy figures, seemingly in denial that a good 90% of these bodies are formed via illness, or worse, well aware and not the least bit alarmed.
Even more aggravating are the models and bloggers who depict blatant signs of an ED but harp on about food and what they’ve eaten as if they just woke up like this (a la Beyonce – if Beyonce’s entire body was the size of her wrist). Fashioning a false idea of their lifestyle for online viewers to aspire to, they seem to posit: “I do everything you do, normal humans, but I look like this.” Nutella crepes are supposedly “tackled,” images of pasta doused in sauce abound…and yet most of these women look exactly like the ones I struggled through my recovery with. Sallow skin, thinning hair, and wrists akin to twigs. It’s really just a fucked up illusion that the majority of the fashion world continues to blindly support.
The toe dipping that fashion has done into health initiatives reads as rather pathetic and futile in light of this continuing trend, that being starvation glorification. Spare me the flimsy model alliances and superficial age-increase enterprises—I’d rather we focus on actually feeding them all first so that they can truly benefit from the so-called education that the CFDA is apparently trying to privilege (because trying to retain any information when your body is eating itself will be next to impossible). Then again, I’m asking for a lot in an industry that responds to a severe lack of racial diversity by sprinkling a few black models here and there once every few years and calling it major progress.
I’m thrilled to say that most of the people I met in recovery are in significantly healthier spots today. But it’s notable that the two people I met who really aren’t—who are still fully entrenched in their illnesses—were ex-fashion models. It’s proof of how persuasive that culture can be, how incredibly dangerous and life altering. In fact, I can’t bring myself to communicate with them anymore, since I try to avoid such warped perspectives for the sake of self-protection.
But I can’t cut off every unhealthy voice and image that springs forth around this time—writing off the Internet just isn’t an option. The only weapon I have is a sense of reality, of what really goes on behind the glamorous filters, and I write this post simply to remind you of that. Because even though you’re all surely smart enough to figure this out on your own, I know how easy it is to place logic on the backburner, choosing to beat yourself up for whatever you feel you lack (or more precisely: don’t lack enough) instead.
If you find yourself yearning after the false conceit of a more-perfect life, brought on by a slim-to-nonexistent figure, consider what’s actually going on behind it: emotional emptiness, heart palpitations, an inability to sleep ever, constant bruising, loss of short-term memory, osteoporosis, anemia, bodily aches, dizziness, perpetual fatigue, dead libido, high rates of fertility damage, etc. I’ve said it before, and for my own sanity, I’ll say it again: absence (of health, of necessary weight, etc.) should not be aspirational. Repeat, repeat, repeat.