Thursday, December 22, 2011

Case closed

Perhaps in an effort to win over the Unsolicited Character Witness To Glamorous Person award from a certain Ivy League prof, Garance Doré has decided to take a stand and defend a young model against charges of anorexia. That anorexia is a mental illness or, in the modeling world, an occupational hazard, and not a crime, might be worth pointing out. But anyway, Doré, who does not appear know the model in question except as someone who's photographed her, and is a fashion blogger, which last I checked is not a kind of medical professional, has this to say to the accusers:

That just doesn’t match the image I have of Karlie Kloss at all. She’s one of the healthiest, happiest models I know – this photo I took of her on her bike* on her way from one show to another during Fashion Week in September is much more in sync with what I see as the real Karlie.
Well that's certainly definitive. A model projects a wholesome image (the American ones always must), and is not the absolute most emaciated of the bunch, so health clearance here! (Never mind that plenty of girls and women with anorexia are a whole lot larger than this model, or that "orthorexia" - basically anorexia plus working out too much - is by now women's-mag old news.)

But it gets more absurd. According to Doré, Kloss can't possibly be anorexic because she reminds one "of a ballet dancer." And she even is a dancer. Case closed! Ballet dancers are famously immune to eating disorders, as we all know, if not from growing up with girls who did ballet, then at least from "The Black Swan." In other words, Doré somehow manages to make claiming that this model doesn't have an eating disorder more ridiculous than the also-ridiculous claims from strangers who couldn't possibly know that the model does indeed suffer from one.

Meanwhile, the question of whether a model has an eating disorder is a) unknowable to outside observers, and b) hardly the main issue. If it turns out that 0.00002% of girls and women between the ages of 14 and 22 have a certain build naturally (whatever that means), that's still the one build the fashion industry promotes as acceptable, a build that the rest of the population could only obtain through dangerous means. What's ick about Doré's response is that it's wrong to claim this model is anorexic, not because it's wrong to diagnose strangers, but because rather than looking skeptically at these images, we should be celebrating them. 

All of which brings up yet another issue, which is whether a celebration of the appearance of "health" is actually such an unequivocal improvement. Counterarguments being, a) health is not necessarily visible externally - e.g., on some, pale skin and eye circles are a skin type, not signs of illness, and b) do we really want to be telling those who are and look ill that they're also not beautiful, and telling those who look less than robust but are in fact healthy that they are unattractive? But I digress.

*I reacted to the photo as someone who has a lot of near misses getting hit by cars while biking in traffic, and was thinking headphones plus no helmet, living on the edge. But if Kloss is a dancer, and able to walk the runways, she's probably someone a bit better-coordinated than I am.