Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
Forum 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 
Monday, 17 April, 2000, 09:00 GMT 10:00 UK
Should models have to be thin?

Are you filled with envy when you see a waif-like model sashaying down the catwalk, or do you accept that being thin is part and parcel of being a clothes horse?

The UK's minister for women, Tessa Jowell is so concerned about the obsession of teenage girls with being skinny that she is calling fashion bosses and health experts to a special summit on the matter.

In a society where eating disorders are on the rise, there are concerns that a media full of stick-like women makes young girls feel inadequate.

Do you think women are under constant pressure to conform to an impossible image of what is beautiful? Should the fashion industry use people of all shapes and sizes to model their clothes?


Why is it just women that are being looked at here? Do you know what its like driving along seeing another poster of a 'perfectly-toned, muscles-perfectly defined-probably got-less-brains-in-him-than-an-ironing-board' man grinning at you? I keep myself reasonably healthy and I work hard every day and keep myself reasonably toned, but I don't have the time or energy to work out enough to get one of these perfectly laid-out bodies and its soul-destroying and confidence-bursting to see these pictures.
Paul Charters, England



Unfortunately it's the poor young girls who see these waifs in the magazines that suffer the most.

Anthi Benge, USA
When are the designers ever going to realise that EVERYONE is not a perfect size 6...or lower. More than two thirds of the world population is either overweight or underweight. Unfortunately it's the poor young girls who see these waifs in the magazines that suffer the most. They starve themselves or throw up what little they do eat to become these unrealistic idols they watch and admire.
Anthi Benge, USA

Many of these skinny girls are not naturally thin, but are virtually starving themselves to keep the weight down. The girls reading the magazines try to look like them, and end up trying the same tricks, and potentially get into the same problems with eating. Go to any club, the guys don't go for the skinny girls, they go for the girls with the hour glass figure. Look at the beautiful women that you see every day, and I'd say less than 5% have that stick insect shape the young models have.
Colin Williams, UK



Thinner, at the ideal weight, is much healthier than being fat.

de Min, Netherlands (now UK)
Economics is the drive behind slim models (e.g. Twiggy). Can you imagine how much expensive material and miles of knitting has been saved over the years? Sorry, slightly overweight population, but would not you agree that it is not an appetising sight to see this 80kg lady negotiating the catwalk? Thinner, at the ideal weight, is much healthier than being fat.
de Min, Netherlands (now UK)

Of course fashion and the media in general should portray a representative picture regarding the female image and shape. My seven-year-old daughter asks me every morning before going to school if her hair is nice and if she looks good. It makes me sad - and angry. Women should be encouraged to look healthy, be fit and to be confident, no matter what size or shape they are.
E Jeffrey, Germany

Why do we care about what the fashion industry thinks. There are more important things in life than looks.
Maria, Sweden



No teenager wants to look like her grandmother going to a Bingo game in a hideously outdated outfit.

Patty, USA
I feel that current fashions should be available for every woman. After having children and losing my size 7 girlish figure (I'm now an 18) I am constantly dismayed by the designs and fabrics selected for plus-size persons.
What's with the large floral prints and wide borders at the hemline of blouses - do the fashion designers really think my hips are my best asset? I think if there was a better variety of clothing in larger sizes more young girls would be comfortable with their appearance - because face it, no teenager wants to look like her grandmother going to a Bingo game in a hideously outdated outfit.
Patty, USA

Let the models be anything that their purveyors want them to be. Ordinary people should be less gullible than to believe that that is the only way to be.
Vikas Kuthiala, Cyprus



My best friend passed away a year ago having been a slave to what society constructs as "beauty."

Shaheen, England
Finally someone has the guts to initiate a debate that has been waiting in the wings way too long. My best friend passed away a year ago having been a slave to what society constructs as "beauty." She wasted her last two years on trying to appropriate the waif, the airbrushed and the images of perfection women are exposed to daily.
I say images, because this resonates the illusionary ideals that the world we live in tells us is acceptable. Intelligent women are starting to stand up and say "NO" to the beauty myth. I hope that in the future when my daughter reaches her wonder years, that modelling will not be held in such high esteem and surrounded by the sycophantic 80s and 90s hysteria that colluded in the death of so many young women's minds, bodies and self worth.
Shaheen, England

Isn't it interesting that the people who seem to take offence at what Tessa Jowell is saying seem to be men on the whole?
Natalie Sloan, England

If people stopped being so rude and stopped commenting on how others looked I'm sure a lot of weight and confidence problems would also stop. I know that when I hear a comment on the street about my looks or size I feel very embarrassed and ashamed though I know I shouldn't be. These comment generally come from guys - so are we really blaming the right people (they may only be a small proportion of the males - but I don't hear those sort of remarks coming from models or other females!)
Leigh, England



In India, it's the voluptuous, well-rounded woman that used to be desired.

Medha Soni, Ukraine
Beauty in being skinny is primarily a Western concept. In India, it's the voluptuous, well rounded woman that used to be desired. However, it is sad that we Indians have deviated from this norm and instead prefer to have our actresses and models look nutrition-deprived, much like their colleagues in the West.
In a land of hot spicy curries and kebabs, it's a crime to see some women entertainers and models look like dry, bland, mozzarella sticks!
Medha Soni, Ukraine



Everybody should have a right to enjoy fashion whether they are a size 8 or a size 20.

J Tetley, UK
I think, models should be of all sizes, not just stick thin, because big women are pretty and they like to dress up and look nice too. Everybody should have a right to enjoy fashion whether they are a size 8 or a size 20.
J Tetley, UK

Designers do not sell clothes only to skeleton looking people. These skinny models look like they are dead-alive and it is not attractive. Clothes look good on others just like they do on skinny models. Sometimes, clothes look even better on thicker women than skinny ones. As a male, I prefer a moderate and healthy looking lady. Nonetheless, the UK government will not change anything about the designers and the public opinion and therefore they need not to waste their time.
Rukara Ntambara, Rwanda

I prefer a women who looks healthy, not one who I worry about cutting myself on her protruding bones. Bring back the hour-glass, a la Kim Basinger and Helen Mirren!
Matt, USA



It's hard to believe that government time could be wasted on this nonsense.

Mike Holmes, Scotland
It's hard to believe that government time could be wasted on this nonsense. If the people who buy the magazines don't like the models then they can buy a different magazine. No need for the government to interfere. If the people in government don't like the content then they should write to the letters page of the magazine concerned like everyone else.
Mike Holmes, Scotland

In the Information Age the Fashion industry is still looking for a Skin and Bone model. They should go out and walk around and see that the average person are not like that and maybe then they could start to re-think this concept.
Maria Adelia Endres, Brazil

When are people going to realise that a happy woman is far sexier than any shape or size. Women are 'queer cattle' (so John Buchan wrote) therefore, shouldn't we judge them with a more abstract yardstick than a tape measure!
Andy, UK

A few people in the fashion industry earn big money dressing up skeletons in ridiculous clothes. The media earns big money selling images of the skeletons. The public pays big money to look at the skeletons, says how ridiculous they look and then tries to emulate them.
Do we need the government to protect us from ourselves? Or should we remain like little rabbits, staring into the dazzling headlights as the car approaches....
Mark, Austria

When is this Government going to learn to stop interfering with the business community. Does this Tessa lady really believe she has a right to say who models clothes? Isn't this really Government interference the a person or company's freedom of rights/speech etc
Mature Male, UK



By using all shapes and sizes designers would be able to show if they have any real talent.

Jennie, UK
Designers should use women of all shapes and sizes as models. I would be more likely to buy designer clothes if I could see what they would look like on me! By using all shapes and sizes designers would be able to show if they have any real talent, and it may help in the battle against eating disorders.
I get fed up with this idea of "normal" shape. I'm sure all the skinny people out there must be most offended by being told they're "abnormal". It's just personal preference and the way people are made, and designers should take more notice of this.
Jennie, UK

I nearly choked when I saw the phrase "Minister for Women" ... what about a "Minister for White Males"? Offensive, eh? How do you think I feel, then? As for the issue itself, this is a social and cultural phenomenon that will change and evolve ... as ever. The alternative extreme is obesity, fraught with its own dangers; life is full of these problems!
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

I don't buy fashion magazines because they make me feel fat. But I still can't avoid the images - every ad, billboard and TV show is full of thin women. At just over 5ft tall, I exercise regularly and eat a reasonably healthy diet but still remain a size 10-12.
Yes I'm tired of feeling guilty every time I eat! If I start to feel good about myself, all it takes is to see an ad with a thin woman in it to bring it all crashing down again. As a shorter, more rounded woman (but not overweight!), I would like to see woman of my size portrayed as attractive for a change!!
Anonymous, England



No-one complains about female athletes being skinny and yet models are castigated.

Phil White, England
No-one complains about female athletes being skinny and yet models are castigated. If women work out instead of using diet to control their shape then they will have quality bodies and no health problems. That would take self-discipline and effort of course - so don't hold your breath.
Phil White, England

I think models ought to be of all shapes and sizes. I don't believe that thin models are the sole cause of eating disorders, however it could be a contributory factor. When I look in a magazine, I don't see images that I can relate to. Most women above the age of 25 don't look like child/women with no bust or hips. To answer the question, should models be thin - they should be woman-shaped.
Naomi, England

Why are models constantly being told that is "wrong" to be slim and attractive? Reading through the opinions that have been submitted, the over-riding view seems to be that is quite acceptable to "let yourself go" and care nothing of your appearance, yet it is wrong to consider vanity to be important.
Looking after your health and appearance is not a crime and people who do should not have to apologise for doing so.
Neil, UK



My wife-to-be is a former teenage model who is continually obsessed with her weight and "how fat she looks".

Anonymous, UK
My wife-to-be is a former teenage model who is continually obsessed with her weight and "how fat she looks". In the past she has suffered from Anorexia and other eating disorders, and only started getting better when she went to university and stopped the modelling.
She regularly complains about how fat she looks even though she is only 60kg, absolutely gorgeous and constantly has every guy around trying to pry her away from me. Despite the attention she gets she remains convinced that she is fat and ugly and if anyone says that the pressure applied to models to keep them abnormally thin is healthy I would strongly contest.
Myself and her family have to fight her thoughts about herself and continually reassure her that she is an extremely attractive woman and definitely not fat just because she puts on half a kilo. Thankfully her condition does not seem to be reappearing but that takes effort. I just wish to thank all those fashion promoters for nearly ruining her life and those, I am sure, of many other women and their families.
Anonymous, UK

Good grief. Surely everyone realises now that skeletal models on the catwalks promote a "look" which, if emulated, results in the Posh Spice head-on-a-stick mentality. I have one piece of advice for my female friends (most of whom are thankfully sane enough to resist the temptation to starve themselves): EAT! Bones are not meant to be seen, they are supposed to support the rest of you!
Rob, UK



In this age of equality please try to respect your body and what you are.

Mahender Singh, Switzerland
When we people stop seeing the female body for consumption only. Whether it is thin, skinny, plump, fat or whatever, as long as the human body functions healthy, the fashion designer may think of coming out with clothes fitting to all human bodies. Beauty is in the eyes of beholder. Women trying to change their looks by exerting on their physic are forgetting that they are still portraying themselves as items to be consumed by others. In this age of equality, please try to respect your body and what you are, whether you happen to be a female or male.
Mahender Singh, Switzerland

Everyone here is going on about how thin models make themselves sick. Well, supply and demand: The designers wouldn't use thin women if that wasn't what the public were buying. You consume fashion, therefore you support the system. Basic Economics! Save the rhetoric for politics! In any case the greatest models (Cindy Crawford, Elle Macpherson et al) have hips and busts and look quite healthy to me, sexy, in fact.
Kristian, Canada

As a Brazilian, I prefer voluptuous models like Giselle BŁndchen than Jodie Kidd and other skeletons that are currently walking down the catwalk.
Nelson Franco Jobim, Brazil

Every culture is a beauty culture - though the definitions of beauty vary. The fact is that many thin models look like ill. Yes, western culture prizes skinny appearances. Eating disorders -particularly bulimia are wrong because they mean a terrible waste of food that could go to starving people on the other side of the world.
Jeff, USA



Of course the models don't have to be thin.

Richard T. Ketchum, USA
Of course the models don't have to be thin. The designers are the ones who insist on this not the public. Try putting some models with a figure and some weight on the catwalk and they will be a big hit.
Richard T. Ketchum, USA

Fashion models rule! If somebody wants to be fat, that's fine with me! But that doesn't mean I'll have to say she is beautiful! For every story of bulimia and anorexia there are many more suffering from different illness resulting from being overweight and obesity!
Andy, USA

As a counter argument about weight, for every waifish woman in society, there are a dozen overweight women, which is worse in regards to health? Body Image? Instead of complaining about the waif, perhaps focus on the main problem, and that is the growing girth of both genders in Western Society!
Stephen Kenney, USA

Women don't need to be thin to be pretty Sophie Dahl and Dawn French are both very beautiful and there not stick thin!
Vicki, UK



It is only when there is a collective positive and welcoming attitude towards larger women that that the media will slowly begin to take notice.

Salman Khan, India
As an entertainer in India, I have to work with many young women and I know they are always very conscious of their weight and how viewers will react to it. This is because they feel that the public like to see thin women i.e. the pressure comes from the people and often they become paranoid. It is only when there is a collective positive and welcoming attitude towards larger women that that the media will slowly begin to take notice.
Salman Khan, India

I'm a young male and am quietly bemused at women's obsession about 'how they look'. Women are beautiful whether they are fat, thin, tall, short whatever. Personally I prefer women who don't wear makeup, they seem more genuine people.
Zachary Mann, England

I have always been underweight, skinny and thin although my diet has always been full of fat and sugar. I have desperately tried to put on weight with no result, visited many doctors and got the same response: I have high metabolism that burns my body-fat very quickly. Even after my pregnancy I couldn't keep some weight. Despite all these I am fed up of people always asking me what I do to keep myself thin and some think that I am anorexic...aaaggghhh!
A Parks, UK

Thin people only show thin clothes off well - can the designers not design for anything else? - I also find thin models unattractive - some are positively child like - not like women at all.
Bob, UK



This is just another cheap and pathetic attempt by this government to appear 'caring' and responsive to social issues.

Joe E, UK
The real issue here is that politicians have no more business interfering with the work of the fashion or modelling industry than they do with any other sector of the economy. This is just another cheap and pathetic attempt by this government to appear 'caring' and responsive to social issues. But bulimia and anorexia are no more caused by images of thin models than drug addiction is caused by pop stars - and anyone who thinks they are really has a very limited understanding of these conditions. This is just another example of politicians arrogantly trying to score a few points, giving the impression that they know what's best for us, but really knowing very little about the subject they're dealing with.
Joe E, UK

As a man, I am always attracted to women who are somewhat plump, because that gives a healthy look. Moderation is what we need. Good health is what matters ultimately.
Tariq, India

Eating disorders are a combination of an individuals problems and fears, they are nothing to do with models. Society would rather blame fashion than itself.
Hannah, England



Let's be realistic: catwalk models are used because they closely resemble clothes hangers.

EB, France
Let's be realistic: catwalk models are used because they closely resemble clothes hangers. They have no bumps or bulges that prevent designer clothes hanging properly. I truly do not believe that designers are deluded enough to think that "real" women are all that shape. Remember also that "real" women buy their clothes on the High Street, where many retailers know they are selling to real women and not clothes hangers. And who would want to wear some of the outrageous creations we see on the catwalks?
EB, France

Speaking as a bloke (which I am) I prefer a more traditional hourglass figure to a stick insect. I'm sure most men do. But then again if I was a woman (which I'm not) and was paid silly money to keep thin then I would.
Hugh Acland, UK

It's a personal point of view and I happen to think slim (not skinny) girls look more attractive than fat ones. It seems to me that the number of overweight (often grossly overweight) people is a far greater problem than those with "eating disorders". Just a thought: when people had just enough (or barely enough) money to eat, I don't remember hearing of so many eating disorders.
Ian, UK



The equation skinny fashion models = eating disorders is overly simplistic.

Alison, UK
The equation skinny fashion models = eating disorders is overly simplistic. Eating disorders are an expression of deep-rooted psychological distress and a maladaptive search for power and control. We should focus on equipping young girls with the opportunities and self esteem to decide for themselves that a dress size is merely a number on a label, and not a measure of self worth.
Alison, UK

All this goes to say is practise "moderation" in every aspect of your life. The focus should be on a healthy diet and a regular exercise to tone down your excess body fat. We have to distinguish a thin person, an overweight person and a healthy person. And everyone has to ask which one is her/his pick and work towards it. No RULE OF LAW can change a person's choice!
Vimal, USA



I'd love to know who the designers actually think they're making clothes for?

Sarah Clark, England
A woman 6 foot tall and size 8 is not a normal shape. I'd love to know who the designers (who insist on showing clothes on these people) actually think they're making clothes for, it's certainly not the average woman. Are they incapable of making attractive clothes for real people?
Sarah Clark, England

It is so sick to see models so slim. I think the dress designers have to change their designs to make it good for ordinary girls. It is time to change this attitude. Because it is affecting their health. I saw many of my friends even avoiding lunch so they could become slimmer.
Shellas Khan, Saudi Arabia

Anyone who is comfortable with her appearance should model. Looks are all about confidence and nothing else.
Ruth, Australia

The emphasis on being skinny is against the nature itself. A girl shouldn't be allowed to become anorexic. By portraying skinny models as the nature's sample of beautiful women by the fashion houses is totally against nature's own pattern.
Saad, India

I believe you should be healthy looking. Slim not thin. I think that carrying extra weight is not good for your heart and doesn't look too good in the fashion place either.
Keryl, Australia



For once women could learn a lot from men who for the most part are unashamedly at peace with their bodies.

Susan, England
It's time women made peace with their bodies regardless of size or shape. I have no quarrel with thin or large women whether they be models or not. Our aim should be to be judged for who we are not whether or not the sum of my body parts equals attractive. We need to get away from this type of thinking and for once women could learn a lot from men who for the most part are unashamedly at peace with their bodies.
Susan, England

I feel physically sick when I see pictures of "waif-like" models. Having had to come to terms with a member of my family suffering with anorexia nervosa, it makes me angry to see such thinness promoted as fashionable.
Sue Bayly, England



It is not the fault of the model that they are thin, or the fault of the designer for society's desire to see waifs in its magazines.

Jamie, UK
I have to question the logic in blaming anyone for this fashion apart from those people that pay for the magazines. It is not the fault of the model that they are thin, or the fault of the designer for society's desire to see waifs in its magazines.
I was under the impression that many eating disorders were caused by lack of self-confidence amongst other things and that many of the girls that suffer from these disorders weren't overweight to begin with. So perhaps the emphasis should be placed on finding the real cure for the problem?
Give me a woman with decent hips, a full (not fat, but that isn't the discussion!) bum and an hourglass figure! Marilyn Monroe, the ultimate body beautiful, was certainly no 'waif' and she could have had any man she wanted in her day!
Jamie, UK

Girls have to remember that being so thin is not attractive to most people. The driving force behind the having models so thin is to basically have a walking coat-hanger, that looks like the vision of a woman through a gay fashion designers eyes. That is, as unfeminine as possible.
Stuart Anderson, UK



Skinny models and actresses are attractive but so too are fuller bodied women like Kate Winslet.

Kerry, Scotland
I do not believe that you have to be thin to be beautiful. The average woman in Britain wears at least a size 12. Skinny models and actresses are attractive but so too are fuller bodied women like Kate Winslet. It's time fashion designers promoted what the women of the 21st century really look like and not what women looked like 50 years ago!
Kerry, Scotland

Referring to the comments from Janet (UK), who says the models are "anorexic, asexual, brainless, coat hangers"? Firstly, the clothes do look better on tall, thin models than they do on the average woman. Secondly, most women would never wear the clothes we see on the catwalks as half of them look ridiculous - OK for fashion shows but that's about it! I don't think the fashion industry makes people anorexic and shouldn't be blamed for the rising numbers of sufferers.
Louise, UK

If, during it's development, the human race had decided that having one arm cut off and attached to the top of you head was attractive, there'd be queues of models outside hospitals waiting for the operation. As it is, there's just no queues of models at Tescos waiting to buy food.
Although being fat is not healthy, there's no real problem with being a bit overweight as most of the human race in the developed world will tell you. Being extremely thin, whether anorexic or not, is more dangerous.
Steve Thompson, England



I would certainly not advocate the use of obese women as models as this is as bad as encouraging waifs.

Trevor Blayney, N. Ireland
Of course models should not have to be thin. I personally find stick thin women repulsive - the thought of getting ripped in the night by their razor sharp elbows and shoulder blades frightens me.
Women with a bit of meat on them will keep you warm and are something to snuggle up to. However I would certainly not advocate the use of obese women as models either as this is as bad as encouraging waifs.
Trevor Blayney, N. Ireland

I was amazed to read the comments from Tony Moss. He says the only reason we have thin models is to show clothes at their best. So what about the constant pressure on models to remain waif like so that they continue to be employed, and the influence they have on many young and influential girls who see these models as glamorous and would wish to be just like them.
I am sorry but that sort of pressure is morally incorrect. It takes maturity to see the damage that is being caused in the minds of these young girls, and it is about time that immature fashion designers got in touch with reality. If your clothes only look good on sticks, then I do not think much for your talents. Bring on a designer who can make clothes look good on everyone.
Steve, Denmark



Thin women are better looking than fat ones, that's why all the top models are thin.

PS Scotland, Scotland
It is about time that women stopped whining on about this subject. Thin women are better looking than fat ones, that's why all the top models are thin, it's not that hard to work out.
Those women who carp on about this would be better placed either settling for how they are and getting on with their life, or using the time they waste whining on about other people being too thin to lose some weight themselves.
PS Scotland, Scotland

Impossible role models are set for today's young women. They feel they have to be slim to be beautiful and are ugly and ignorant if they are heavier than a size 10. Much more education should be given towards healthy eating and more emphasis should be placed, at a very early age, on a beautiful mind.
Gail Russell, England



People really do forget about the feelings of thin people when discussing the subject of eating disorders.

Anna, UK
People really do forget about the feelings of thin people when discussing the subject of eating disorders. Some women are naturally thin, they are sizes 8 or 10 but they have difficulty in putting on weight: Now, how do they feel when words such as "skeleton" and "stick-like" are brought into it.
I think it unlikely that derogatory terms for overweight people would be tolerated on these pages, so why should it be for thin people? Being thin doesn't solve all your problems.
Anna, UK

I wonder if people really want to look like the models they see in magazines. Certainly in the case of men's magazines, the fashion pages are filled with miserable, depressed-looking people against grim, forbidding backgrounds. They're not really something to aspire to.
Mike, Scotland



Using skinny models is akin to misrepresentation.

Lesley, UK
If clothes were modelled in size 14, it would give buyers both larger and smaller, a better idea of how the clothes would look on them. Using skinny models is akin to misrepresentation.
Lesley, UK

With being a fuller figure girl myself I think that fuller figure girls should be models too. Big is Beautiful and big girls are glamorous too.
Ann Marie Lynch, England

Actually obesity is a far commoner, faster growing problem than eating disorders.
Andrew, UK



Those men and women who complain about the way models look are generally putting their priorities in other areas like food and money.

Steve, UK
As a guy who looks after himself at 38 to the point of making it a priority in my life, I don't wimp out at the male models with muscles and toned stomachs, if I like that look I work for it, which I have. Likewise those men and women who complain about the way models look are generally putting their priorities in other areas like food and money. So if you like the look work damn hard for it and be proud. For the record I would put 4 to 5 kg on the super models just for more shape. They'd still look unbelievable.
Steve, UK

It's not only women that face these eating disorders, it's men as well. At the end of the day, fashion needs to advertise fuller figures, of which Sophie Dahl is prime example.
Jenny, UK

Never mind the effect on young people, which is bad enough. How about getting designers to prove that 'normal' people can look good in their clothes too!
Lorna Noble, Scotland



All these issues at the end boil down to poor education at homes and schools in human matters.

Mikko Toivonen Finland
In my country most people, young people included, have a tendency to be rather bulky than naturally thin. The young girls see the same models as anywhere else but it does not seem to lead into any excess anorexia or panic to be thin. You have a few cases but then you have a few cases of mad cow disease too! I would let the models be as they or their employers want them to be and treat the disease separately. Alternatively you might try to educate youngsters at school to be reasonable with everything. All these issues at the end boil down to poor education at homes and schools in human matters.
Mikko Toivonen Finland

All these bench marks are created by the fashion industry. People should understand that being skinny doesn't mean that you are beautiful. I think the media has a very important role to play. It should discourage people from blindly doing whatever they can to become thin
Dilip, India

Eating disorders are not CAUSED by pictures of skinny waifs - I should know, I have still got mine! However, all the emphasis on "thin is beautiful" makes it harder to escape the feeling that you don't measure up unless you are less than seven stone. I will NEVER be that weight, I'm happy about that and I can live with it.... It just depresses me that all women, and myself included, are judged against very young, sometimes ill, drug addicted skeletal women who are held up as perfect examples of femininity! Why?
Sarah,

Apparently I am one of the majority in the UK i.e. I am a size 14. Bearing this in mind I should have an endless choice of clothing from the High Street. Unfortunately, it couldn't be further from the truth. Many stores only stock up to a size 14 so given the demand I find it increasingly difficult to find anything that fits. Although I am not overweight for my height and build I can't help but feel ignored by fashion.
Carolyn, UK

There is pressure on women of all ages to look slim. But I think a woman looks far sexier with curves, than a woman that is too thin.
Andrea, San Antonio, TEXAS



As that great social commentator Popeye once said; "I am what I am".

Danny Kirk, England
As that great social commentator Popeye once said; "I am what I am". People should heed his words and be happy with who they are. He wasn't exactly an oil painting but he always ended up with the girl.
Danny Kirk, England

I think a lot of teen girls should be reminded that the thin sickly looking models are not what all members of either sex like. I think there is a big difference between looking in good shape and looking almost ill like a supermodel. They would look a bit nicer if they put on a pound or two and developed some curvature instead of permanently looking like undernourished 10 year olds.
Jas, UK

From my experience I would say that women do feel under a LOT of pressure to conform to a certain shape. How many times have I heard 'God I feel so fat' from a friend whose figure I thought was fantastic and slim? Women equate what is publicised as beautiful with what they themselves and partners should want. So, do I think that models should be thin waifs? Well, yes if you want semi-human unbelievable's parading the collections. With fashion show footage I spend more time staring at the straight-up straight-down mechanical bodies than the clothes. Should we aspire to this "impossible image"? Unfortunately, these stick people prove that the image IS possible, if only for the few and at great personal cost in some cases.
Jenny Rigby, UK

Women or men cannot escape the media. The media I think does portray that if women are slim then they can live in a fantasy world - they'll get guys, they'll get the riches and the world will bow to them; they'll be famous. Can you blame them? I am under constant pressure to be slimmer and I used to not eat but now I have seen sense; pretty soon a race of intelligent, sensible women will be gone if this continues...
Selena , Hong Kong but Indian

Can anyone explain to me what these anorexic, asexual, brainless, coat hangers who strut up and down the catwalk have in common with us women?
Janet, UK

Models shouldn't have to be thin, this puts pressure on young girls to conform to this image of beauty. But face facts, if the larger models were found as attractive by the general public, fashion houses and the people who ultimately by the clothes, then why isn't their usage more widespread? Than the occasional staged "hey big girls can look great too" shots.
Glen, UK



I am 25 and the vast majority of my female friends have eating disorders.

Beverly Brewer, UK
There is so much emphasis on girls being thin. Clothes shops for instance stock clothes starting from size 6 and heavens knows where the average size 14 shoppers gets their clothes from nowadays! In this day and age being thin equals being beautiful, more and more children are becoming obsessed with how much they weigh and what they look like, it is only when you start getting older that you do realise beauty comes from within.
I am 25 and the vast majority of my female friends have eating disorders, I am sick to death of hearing "Do I look fat in this", "I can't eat this and that", "no chips/chocolate etc" for me thanks. AAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHH it drives me mad! Let's have some normal sized models strutting their stuff for a change.
Beverly Brewer, UK

Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes - it's not what you've got, it's what you do with it. So stop worrying, dress to kill, and sashay away!
Sean Stack, France



When you advertise clothing you put the clothes onto a model that looks the best.

Tony Moss, UK
Before asking whether or not models should be thin, ask whether or not there is any law or any rules in place that are keeping models thin. There are no rules of this kind in existence. So why are models thin? Because fashion designers want their clothes to look their absolute best.
If you are advertising food, you would not set the photograph of the food in a filthy kitchen, so when you advertise clothing you put the clothes onto a model that looks the best. There is no conspiracy theory at all, just an opinion prevalent at the moment that thin women are more beautiful than fat women. This will change with time, as it has always changed before.
Instead of blaming thin models for other women's lack of confidence, why not focus on the self-confidence issue itself. There needs to be more done to treat the symptoms at the moment, than to apportion blame.
Tony Moss, UK

Personally I don't find skinniness attractive. A healthy woman looks attractive - both mentally and physically, in body-language and body form. That includes appropriate curves.
Stick-like limbs imply poor self-image, neuroticism and a lack of fitness.
Michael Grazebrook, UK



I don't find catwalk models remotely attractive, as most have no shape whatsoever.

TIB, UK
Full marks to Jenni, for sounding like a woman with realistic views about the female form. As a typical straight male, I can't bring myself to feel that large women are as attractive as physically attractive as slim ones, but equally I don't find catwalk models remotely attractive either, as most have no shape whatsoever.
Thank God most of the clothes we see on the catwalks never make it to the High Street - I wish the same could be said of the industry's attitudes towards female beauty.
Also - to any women who say buying clothes is difficult because they are not waif-sized, I take the most average size in male clothing, and as a result have extraordinary difficulty in finding the right clothes myself, precisely because certain manufacturers don't supply enough in average men's sizes. It's a funny old world....
TIB, UK

Everyone knows that women have different shapes and these other shapes also are extremely beautiful, not just the skinny girls. It makes our girls all over the world diet unwillingly just to satisfy the fashion industry.
I congratulate the British minister Tessa Jowell for the idea. In Tanzania groups have tried to organise other beauty contests like khanga parties which attract fat women too.
Jumanne Mwinshehe, Tanzania



It is not fun watching your child try to destroy herself.

David O'Leary, UK
I cannot believe that it is normal for young women to look like stick insects and as a man, I certainly do not find them attractive and I have a teenage daughter who is suffering with anorexia, so I can comment. It is not fun watching your child try to destroy herself.
David O 'Leary, UK

It's interesting to note that nowadays models are on average 23% lighter than the "normal" woman. A quarter of a century or so ago, the differential between the weight of models and average women was only 8%. Have models become thinner, do women on average weigh more, or is there a combination of these two factors? In any event, whatever the reason, the image of women portrayed by models in the media is much further away from reality than it was in the 1970s - and surely that can't be good.
Martin Raby, England



The fashion industry will use whatever they feel best sells their products, just like any other industry.

Graham Bell, Brazil
In modern society, lots of people are under pressure to conform to lots of things. I'm not as rich or handsome as adverts tell me I should be, but then, nor are most of my friends. The fashion industry will use whatever they feel best sells their products, just like any other industry. To try to impose anything else is daft and unworkable. The real problem is the insecurity of people who think they must be perfect, and for whom image has become so over-ridingly important.
Graham Bell, Brazil

It doesn't really bother me that super models are waif like, as they are essentially clothes horses (skinny bits of wood supporting clothes). The problem comes when these are presented as ideals for women and girls to aspire to.
It is a strange paradox that voluptuous women are seen as the sexual ideal while the media seems to want to present the image of a skeletal girl as the height of attractiveness. I think time will prove that the ideal of the super model was just a silly fad and that future models will be fuller of figure.
After all, who do men and women REALLY prefer as a role model: Monroe or Twiggy?
Rob Docherty, England



Remember real women have curves.

Jeff, England
When will people learn that scrawny bony models are a real turn off? Curves used to be celebrated and the emphasis on skin and bone showing has caused untold misery to women and girls who feel forced to conform to the norm. Please can we encourage people not to worship the skinny and praise the fuller figure instead. Remember real women have curves.
Jeff, England

To say that size 16+ models would not make clothes look as attractive as size 6 is ridiculous. You just have to look at people like Dawn French whose designs look just as attractive and sexy and are made specifically for larger sized women.
Most of the comments from men say that we don't like stick insect figures and yet the fashion world refuses to display models of a larger size. Until this is redressed I find it unlikely that diseases such as anorexia will decline.
Chris Bsey, Spain

The fashion industry should use people of all sizes to model their clothes. It must be very difficult for fat people to find beautiful clothes to wear, as nobody seems to think about them when designing collections.
Helena Castro, Spain

My wife suffered anorexia as a young woman and has now recovered. This was undoubtedly due to the pressure on teenage women to be like the stick insects we see in women fashion magazines rather than the "normal" sized women we all see in the street.
If a brand name only sells to the size 8 and size 10s of this world then they are cutting out a large proportion of the buying market, as most women seem to be bigger than that. My wife is now a size 14 which I am more than happy with but more importantly she is happy with the size she is
Mike, UK



The majority of clothes look better on a tall, thin woman than a short, round one like myself.

Jenni, UK
It is an unfortunate fact that the majority of clothes look better on a tall, thin woman than a short, round one like myself. The clothes hang better and the majority of models do have curves to which the clothes fit attractively.
The fact that the clothes will look nothing like as nice on an average female body is a sad one but unavoidable. If "average build" models were used, the clothes would look more realistic and less attractive.
Many of the catwalk shows are for high-fashion women who can afford personal trainers, dieticians etc who can help them mould their body to match the models' shape. If this is the target audience, what is the point in using 16+ models for the sake of political correctness? The fashion-conscious won't be attracted.
Jenni, UK

Yes, on one hand I do feel jealous of skinny people but on the other I don't. Yes I'd like to be slimmer than I am presently but I wouldn't want to be like the girls that walk around today who look ill, fragile and ridiculous in today's fashions because they're too skinny.
You do need some flesh on you in order to look good. I, my boyfriend and my friends all believe a woman looks sexy with some flesh on her (be that a size 12 or 18) rather than being a size 4 or 6 looking like a skeleton with a paper thin layer of skin on her.
Mel, England

In Texas we like our women to jiggle.
Murf, USA



Botticelli had the right idea!!

Simon Bayliss, England
A lot of the most powerful people in the fashion world are gay men, and whilst they have excellent skills in many areas of life, they aren't the most reliable group of people to determine whether or not a woman is alluring. Most heterosexual men I know prefer a woman to be curvy, which necessitates a bit of padding here and there. Botticelli had the right idea!!
Simon Bayliss, England

I think magazines should be able to print what they like. It isn't the role of the government to interfere. However, I think that maybe some pressure could be put on TV companies to recruit attractive presenters and actresses of all shapes and sizes.
Deb Eyre, UK

Whilst it is undeniably true that the fashion industry has put great pressure on women to be often abnormally thin, I have found that society in general has greeted this notion with open arms.
I myself am a size 18, and quite happy with my figure, yet it has become increasingly difficult for me to shop for the clothes I want, due to size restrictions in most women's wear retailers.
To add insult to injury, I have often been stared at, whispered about and generally shown a shocking lack of respect on the rare occasions I have entered these shops. And that's by the customers.
Anon, UK



My wife is a size six and she finds it as hard (if not harder) to find nice clothes as those of a larger size do.

Mark, UK
What about the pressure on thin people? This issue cuts both ways just as some people are naturally large some people are naturally small.
I suspect that many people may even see the opening sentence and laugh saying that there is no pressure and that they should stop moaning.
Well there is pressure, my wife is a size six and she finds it as hard (if not harder) to find nice clothes as those of a larger size do. Alongside that commercial pressure there's pressure from some corners of the media who label women of such sizes "stick insects" or suggest that they are ill. Imagine the outrage if a columnist labelled all women who were more than a size 12 "fat slugs" or some other derogatory comment. I've read countless articles attacking small women labelling them "bags of bones", "mentally weak" or just as plain "ugly" and "un-feminine".
Mark, UK

I think that future models must give attention to natural beauty, it means that they have to follow their own way of living, eating, breathing, etc. Mother Nature created all beautiful creatures, beauty is not how you look but how you feel because "beauty comes from inside your spirit".
Lulzim Guhelli, Kosova



I want to see healthy women on the catwalk - women who can give me a real idea of how I would look in the clothes they are wearing.

Charlotte Fox, UK
As the average size and shape of the UK woman is growing and changing year on year, isn't it time that models and the fashion industry kept up?
I want to see healthy women on the catwalk - women who can give me a real idea how I would look in the clothes they are wearing, and not women who look under nourished and possibly on drugs.
In magazines, it's even more important for young girls to aspire to women of a more natural size, and not people who are stick-thin like Posh Spice. All I'm saying is give kids a break. Haven't they enough to worry about, without throwing anorexia into the mix?
Charlotte Fox, UK

The fashion industry should use models of all sizes. Not only for the teen's self image, but because what is the point of showing off clothes destined for the "average" woman [5'5" & Size 14-16] on tall, skinny women?
Yes, seeing women like that paraded as icons of "beauty" is both degrading and hurtful to those who are not, and are too young/insecure to know better. But yes, clothes look better on tiny models, but hey - if they made clothes for real women and showed it, their profit may go up too!
Sue, UK



These girls are striving to achieve an ideal that will often make them less attractive, not more so!

John B, UK
I must admit the size 26+ women, as a rule, are too fat for my liking. I also think that the size 10 and below are too thin.
I have a number of female friends who regard size 8 -10 as an ideal and most of them seem surprised to hear that a lot of men (myself included) simply don't find a stick figure attractive at all. These girls are striving to achieve an ideal that will often make them less attractive, not more so!
John B, UK

Fashion models have always been very slim, look at Twiggy, but there no does seem to be more influence to be thin and this is now causing medical problems. Being a size 14 myself I have no desire to be thin, but I do wish clothing manufacturers would stop altering shapes and sizes to force us into slimming. No two women are the same, therefore as such we such not be dictated to. We should lead the way.
Sam Varnam, England

There is an over-emphasis on models to be thin and a gaunt looking Posh Spice is no help to teenage girls.
Colin, Netherlands

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
See also:

10 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Government 'summit' over thin models
08 Jul 98 | Latest News
Media slammed over superthin models
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Links to other Talking Point stories