A Response to the NY Times 8/10/08 FASHION SECTION

Having watched the media’s portrayal of fashion with regard to the female body, in particular, I feel compelled to speak now, after 67 years of living with and lamenting about what I perceive to be abusive. In fact, I find myself wondering why so many of us question the fact that seemingly reasonable – albeit impressionable – female teenagers and young adults are obediently parading about attempting to replicate what the fashion industry insidiously dictates.

I would add further that fashion photographers – more often than not – dress and pose male models as up-scale businessmen at work, dining, sailing or golfing, always appearing handsome, pleasant, and appealing, while female models are posed/dressed to look afflicted: facial expressions pained, bodies anorectic and cloaked in anything but flattering apparel, and always, always, with a subliminal sexuality that speaks of rage rather than a full range of emotions that would more readily be recognized as reality.

None of this helps to promote the health or beauty of female sexuality and we, their elders, should not be surprised when we then see how an industry is able to influence not merely how our girls and young women dress but how they then behave.

Once again, if female models are to be gainfully employed, it is apparent (at least to those who agree with me)that they must choose to perpetuate dramatically posed, often unappealing stances which, at best, reflect a coerced sexuality, if you will, with eyes blackened and/or pained, lips parted wide enough to fit a football, in bodies bent and twisted into perplexing puppet-like positions. Perhaps that is precisely how our so-called pop culture’s perspective parades its bird’s eye view of what constitutes beauty and trickles down to the young people we see strutting about. We should not then be surprised to find them losing their innocence all too quickly, becoming out of touch with their natural beauty and, ultimately, influenced/ misguided as to the effective/contributing/successful roles they might play in society’s ever growing need for sanity.

How welcoming it would be to see women – beautiful, natural-looking women – smile, appear normal, and dress in a style complementary to their figures and reflective of their day-to-day lives, as opposed to a moment in time when a photographer has purposely distorted their stance and a camera’s lens has captured the dis-grace of our female gender. I challenge the fashion industry to photograph women as wives, significant others, stay-at-home or working mothers, secretaries, executives, physicians, educators, politicians, astronauts – the many and varied roles in which woman of the 21st century are proving their strengths and sensibilities! We have never been – and hopefully never will be – the stick-figure mannequins created by the perverted eyes of a confused culture.

Submitted by Linda Appleman Shapiro:  psychotherapist/addictions counselor/oral historian/ author,
FOUR ROOMS, UPSTAIRS (a memoir).                                                          


  • Anonymous says:

    I posted a review of Four Rooms, Upstairs on my blog:

    I’d like to post Abuse Comes in Many Guises, it fits in well with the topic we’ve been on.

    Please contact me at [email protected]

  • Pamposh Dhar says:

    You’ve put into words exactly what I think of the female models in most fashion shows! It isn’t just that they’re impossibly thin, sometimes actually anorexic — that fact has at least received some attention in recent months.

    But, really, the pouting, the angry or deeply unhappy looks, the twisted poses, as you point out — that’s something else.

    A couple of years ago, my mother and I happened upon a fashion show in a hotel. (We’d just gone there for coffee.) My Mum, who was then 81, asked me in great surprise why all the women looked so awful!

    Although I don’t usually judge people’s looks, I had to agree with her assessment — they really did look unpleasant. But after the fashion show, a group of the models passed by our table — laughing, smiling, chatting with each other — and looking quite beautiful!