Girl Model: The Prettiest (Exploited, Underage) Workforce [Slate's XX Factor]]

Slate XXfactor Girl Model Virginia Sole-SmithI 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. 

Filed under Beauty Labor, Career Opportunities, Fashion, Happenings, Modeling

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  1. Posted March 20, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for linking this. It will definitely give me something to read in a little bit.

    • Posted March 20, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Ashley! I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts.

  2. Posted April 6, 2012 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    I was about to do my standard “boo, nothing cool ever comes to my part of Florida” routine but then I saw the documentary is screening in Sarasota! So now I’m thinking I’ll have to make an effort to see it. I agree with you that the standard conversations regarding models are fairly limited and that they’ve been done to death – and what’s up with the scapegoating of gay men? – and I would like to see a wider political perspective like the one you’ve written about. Because seriously, when you stop thinking about the Supermodels and you start thinking about models as a young, immigrant workforce that is vulnerable to exploitation, it really changes things quite a bit.

One Trackback

  1. By Girl Model: Scouted on September 14, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    [...] already told you about why you need to see the documentary Girl Model (like when I said that here and also here). But New York-area readers, attention: The film is currently playing at the IFC [...]

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