*Trigger Warning* This past weekend, we caught wind of a visually shocking ad campaign meant to discourage women and girls from developing eating disorders. The brainchild of Brazilian modeling agency Star Models, the ads depict real models Photoshopped to resemble fashion sketches. The altered women in the images seem mere breaths away from an untimely death and will make you cringe –but when you move past the shock value, how effective is this campaign?
It’s a step, but in which direction is up for debate. First, let’s analyze this ad’s catchphrase: “You are not a sketch. Say no to anorexia.” Well-meaning? Maybe, but it fosters a culture in which women and girls are blamed and shamed for having a mental disorder. And while designers should stray from depicting only the willowy, oftentimes unrealistic figures we’re so used to seeing, forcing women and artists to shoulder the culpability for the epidemic of body hatred (and not the society and entire industries that glorify extreme thinness) seems hypocritical to say the least.
Meanwhile, the modeling industry in general is notorious for hiring emaciated young women to sell luxury goods and services. According to eating disorder treatment center Rader Programs, the average model in the United States stands at 5’11 yet weighs only 117 pounds, which is considered underweight. Moreover, a majority of runway models have a body mass index (BMI) so low that they meet the criteria for anorexia. Perhaps most shocking is a recent expose detailing a major Swedish modeling agency’s repulsive attempts at recruiting eating disorder clinic patients. And after we paid a visit to what we believe is Star Models’ Facebook page (the listed agency is located in Brazil and both the page and the ads share the same logo), we noticed images of waif-like women (only!) staring back at us.
Last, these images could be painfully triggering to women who are anorexic or have survived an eating disorder and encourages women who are considered physically healthy to gawk at and express hatred toward these bodies. At the end of the day, this ad propagates finger pointing at women and designers without addressing our society’s obsession with thinness at any cost. We can –and must– do so much better.
Diana Denza is BettyConfidential’s contributing editor.