I already showed you the trailer, but today I’m on Slate’s XXfactor blog, talking more in-depth about Girl Model, the haunting and thought-provoking documentary premiering around the country this month. (List of screenings here.)
I’m interested to see that so far, the comment thread on that post zeroes in, yet again, on the age-old question: “Why are models so gosh-darn skinny?” There are a lot of theories about fashion being created by gay men and gay men liking a lithe, boy-like silhouette… Meh.
I’m not saying this isn’t an important discussion. Of course we need a broader definition of beauty (I know! You’re shocked to hear me suggest such a thing!) and expanding the version of beauty we see on haut couture runways would be a great starting point. But we also need to move this conversation beyond the “they look like clothes hangers! Or little boys! Or hangers for little boys’ clothes!” hand wringing. This keeps us locked in a women vs. women (and apparently, also vs. gay men) battle where we get to feel better about ourselves (and our bodies) by assuming they just need to eat a sandwich or deciding that teen models, like child pageant stars, are all some freakish manifestation of bad mothering and too much reality television.
What Girl Model does, so brilliantly, is connect this “why are we so obsessed with beauty/youth/skinny?” question to larger socioeconomic issues. It shows how these models — as in real, live, human girls — become commodities: Small, light, and easy to ship around the world at the whims of the global economy. Why we’re letting this happen, even as it results in an underpaid, under-insured workforce that is often exploited sexually and otherwise? That’s a discussion I’d like to see happen.