Fashion Week kicked off just a few days ago, and Daily Beast writer Lisa Hilton celebrated its start with a sadly misguided essay entitled,“What's Wrong With Skinny?” The basic gist: Maybe the critics should take a break from rallying against rail-thin models like Karlie Kloss (featured in an accompanying “Skinny Model” slideshow) because the fact of the matter is, these women are powerful, disciplined professionals on pace to make a name for themselves while they rake in millions. (“Is it a coincidence that modeling is the one profession outside the porn industry where women consistently out-earn their male counterparts?” she posits.) Oh, she also strives to drive home the point that obesity is a far more prevalent health issue than anorexia, so perhaps it’s time us Whopper-chomping wide-loads stopped focusing our energies on models who are literally dying to get on the catwalk and focus on the heavy. (“Arguably, the ‘size zero’ debate is merely another side of the infantilized, hysterical box women thought they had clawed their way out of a century ago, an insidious means of suggesting that though we can run companies and governments we're still not quite rational creatures, too dainty and delicate to cope with the dissonances between the Bambi-limbed aspirations of the catwalk and our own wretched, cellulite-smothered carcasses.") Who does this woman think she is, MeMe Roth?! I don’t know if she’s gunning for Simon Cowell’s soon-to-be-empty AI seat or what, but my God, Hilton (educated at Oxford, stunningly) sounds like one mean, delusional lady. The examples she offers are misinformed at best, intentionally deceptive at worst. As proof of the sort of praise-worthy discipline today’s top couture models posses, she offers this little conversational snippet: “I spoke to one ex-model, Sasha (not her real name), who in her heyday walked for Tom Ford and Galliano; "Sure, we had to be skinny. I lived on Diet Coke and apples for two years. For the couture, we had to get up at 4 a.m. to be sewn into the clothes and there was huge pressure to be thin. But I made a million dollars by the time I was 20, I bought a town house in Manhattan and put myself through Columbia. Does that make me a victim?" For every Sasha, there are a hundred hungry wannabes who fall by the wayside, but why are we so keen to dismiss the professionalism and discipline of models who are prepared to make sacrifices to reach the top??” Hilton also intimates that many of the haters (I’d guess I’m among them, in her eyes?) are simply fat, catty, skinny-obsessed women, envious of the jutting collarbones and visible inner thigh space we see during Fashion Week. Over at True/Slant, Katie Drummond does an excellent job of highlighting the various flaws in Hilton’s thinking…and there are many. But maybe the worst is that Hilton seems to think that we can only afford to worry about one eating disorder at a time: It’s either anorexia or obesity, not both. And if we choose the former as our cause, our efforts would be better spent helping to alleviate wasting and malnutrition in Ethiopia. It’s like saying, “Why, year after year, do we spend all of October worrying about breast cancer? Cardiac disease kills far more women and besides, you can always get breast implants and be good as new in just a few weeks. Maybe the 192,370 American women newly diagnosed with invasive breast cancer last year should quit whining because 435,000 of their female counterparts suffered heart attacks and those are way worse!” Two other things that jump out at me: 1) Hilton, a woman herself, still believes that eating disorders are a choice we make. “Obviously, we're not all brainless enough to starve ourselves out of existence because a sinister conglomerate of designers and editors says we should.” This displays a frighteningly inept, misogynistic grasp of what a psychiatric disease is. Women don’t choose to be anorexic any more than we choose to be bipolar or depressed or obsessive-compulsive.
2) Oxford needs to be a little stingier when it comes to handing out diplomas.