• Tue, Apr 3 2012

Franca Sozzani Gives Speech On Thinness & Body Image At Harvard, Misses Point

Detail from the removed image of Kloss, which surfaced almost immediately on pro-ana sites

Franca Sozzani, editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia, gave a speech at Harvard yesterday, covering eating disorders, pro-ana websites and thinness as beauty ideal. You may have noticed that in recent months, Sozzani has been an outspoken opponent of pro-ana websites, championed plus size models in a landmark issue and even pulled an image of Karlie Kloss from a Steven Meisel-lensed editorial because Kloss looked too thin. She’s also blogged extensively on matters of body image and eating disorders over at the magazine’s website.

All the while, she’s undermined her crusade by running a fashion magazine. How exactly does one defeat pro-ana websites when one provides the content? Doesn’t congratulating oneself for casting plus-size models (and black models, for that matter) marginalize the project in the first place? As for Kloss, we can think of one obvious workaround to not publishing photos in which she looks too thin: declining to photograph her.

But… no. Sozzani posted the speech in its entirety today, in which she asks many excellent questions about dubious beauty standards and evolving aesthetic preferences, but answers none and levies no blame at herself:

Anorexia and bulimia may also be caused by the fact that the individual suffers particularity traumatic situations such as, for instance, sexual abuse, abusive behavior on the part of family or non-family members, a difficulty in being accepted socially and within one’s family. One of the reasons why a girl starts a too-strict diet is the necessity to correspond to an aesthetic standard which rewards thinness, also in its excesses. According to numerous psychiatrists, in fact, the current inclination to embrace a female beauty standard that exalts thinness has devastating consequences on many adolescents’ eating habits. And this is where fashion comes into play, alongside models, fashion magazines and everything regarding aesthetics. What lead us to establish that thin is beautiful and that thinness is the aesthetic code we should follow? Why the age of supermodels, who were beautiful and womanly, slowly started decreasing and we now have still undeveloped adolescents with no sign of curves? Why is this considered beautiful? Marylin Monroe, Liz Taylor and Sophia Loren today would appear in our Curvy channel and be defined shapely.

Yet they are beauty icons still today. What has really happened? Trends change also regarding aesthetics, and today we accept such standards as the most normal thing. And this is a negative example.

Soon after, she says we cannot criticize young girls on the runway for being anorexic; they are simple “undeveloped.” Surely she realizes that casting “undeveloped” girls as the standard of beauty… is the problem?

Moreover, it’s not just fashion’s fault! There’s other contributors (but, fashion also, obviously):

I can accept that fashion may exaggerate, but I cannot help but mention all the negative tools that society employs to spread false information on food and aesthetics. How can all this be possibly caused by fashion?

Look, we think Vogue Italia is phenomenal (if not consistently tone-deaf) and we’re glad that Sozzani is has been so public in her battle against extreme thinness as a beauty ideal. We just wish the pages of the magazine would reflect that.

(Vogue Italia)

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  • Hallie

    i really hope Harvard chewed her up for her incredibly flawed logic…the pro-ana sites are using pictures /she/ chose to be in /her/ magazine…looks like to end pro-ana sites you need to start at what INFLUENCES them – these pictures.