Chris Uggen's Blog: too thin

Sunday, February 11, 2007

too thin

reuters reports that five of sixty-nine runway models are being kept off the catwalk at this week's international designer show in madrid. evidently, their "ratio of body weight to height was so low it was deemed an unhealthy example to the public."

i'm no expert in the sociology of bodies, but i'm sure that patriarchy and control are part of the story. nevertheless, even male models are today pressured to drop to size zero. in recent years, the boy-waif look has apparently overtaken the buffed and angular male ideal.

i've written before about the body mass index and its flaws. this is partly personal (yes, at my current weight and height, i'm officially overweight) and partly scientific. there are far better ways to identify a healthy body weight than the b.m.i. for example, wrestlers have strong incentives to cut weight, so every minnesota grappler now sees a "certified skinfold technician" or undergoes a water displacement test to establish a minimum wrestling weight of at least seven percent body fat.

should the state or particular industries regulate the weight of a class of workers? i'm personally torn on this issue between libertarian (ain't nobody's business what i weigh) and communitarian (bad for society as well as bad for the models) impulses. that said, i'm all for placing sensible weight restrictions on children. the state and schools have an expansive license to intervene in the lives of juvenile models and wrestlers who have yet to reach the age of majority. and parental consent is no solution -- many parents would sign anything if they thought it gave their kids an edge or a better shot at glory.

but this raises a bigger question, about which much has been written: why aren't we associating physical beauty with adult bodies? super-skinny models lack the breasts, muscles, and curves associated with adulthood, so i can't help but see the fashion industry as complicit in sexualizing kids and adolescents. or maybe it is just too darn difficult for high-end designers to deal with the curves and lumps of adult bodies. like placing a coat over the back of a chair, i suppose they can easily drape anything over a stick-like 5'11" 90-pounder.

as a runner and parent, i tend to emphasize exercise more than diet in discussions with my kids. one sees a marvelous diversity of body types at the average marathon, for example, but every finisher is defensibly "in shape." i'm still trying to exercise my way out of the post-holiday interim pants, but i doubt that i'm in any immediate danger of hitting size zero.


At 10:06 PM, Blogger Woz said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 10:08 PM, Blogger Woz said...

You know, I've though about this concept quite a bit in the area of professional sports, but on the opposite end of the spectrum. The roomie and I have had a good deal of conversations about the need to institute a maximum weight in professional football, or at least the college game.

I suppose with the pros you can at least make the argument that they're paid a minimum of 6 figures (and that minimum becomes in the 7 figures pretty quickly) and they're adults, so they can do whatever they want to get that kind of money. Of course, their life expetancy drops to 55, but that's the risk you take, I suppose.

But college players earn no money, which makes it harder to accept them putting themselves in such dangerously unhealthy body types. For example, at the 1-AA (a/k/a Championship subdivision) University of Northern Iowa, the linemen are just as big as any at major school, but they have a significantly less likely chance of earning those millions. After all, obscure regional universities in Iowa can only produce so many 2-time NFL and Super Bowl MVPs.

But unlike the old days when linemen were my size (nowadays kickers outweight me), a college lineman today has put himself in the way of so many obesity-related body problems, that he has all of the risks of the pros, but none of the financial benefits.

So maybe no matter what sport the lad ends up going to collegiate glory in, he may always have to worry about making wieght.

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At 12:05 AM, Anonymous pat williams said...

that's funny, woz. i've even heard certain frustrated *big* guys calling for weight limits -- esp. for interior linemen. they want to be rewarded for their speed and agility, which is tough to showcase when two ginormous 400-pound d-linemen are clogging up the middle.


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