Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Lagerfeld's "curvy girls" scandal

Ten years ago he said, "“No one wants to see curvy women.” Vox goes on to tell us, " This was not an outlier in the world of misogynistic and fatphobic Lagerfeld quotes."

First, we have to acknowledge that we're dealing with a level of euphemism you rarely see outside a pharmacy. "Curvy" as Vox implicitly acknowledges means "fat" in this context. In truth, no one minds seeing curvy women, quite the opposite. Later in the post I will use Gal Gadot and Melissa Benoist as examples of thin women both have curves to spare.

He is also quoted talking about public health issues related to weight by Vox, "The hole in social security, it’s also [due to] all the diseases caught by people who are too fat. There are less than one percent of anorexic girls. But there are — in France, I don’t know in England — over 30 percent of girls [who are] big, big, overweight. And that is much more dangerous and very bad for the health." Read literally, the last sentence is wrong. Being overweight is not more dangerous than anorexia. That said, it's clear from the context that he means that being overweight is a greater public health problem and he is very much correct on that point. More than half of the European population and more than 70 percent of Americans are overweight.

In North America the average height for a woman is roughly* 5' 4". Healthy BMI is classified as 18.5 to 24.9. For a woman at 5' 4" that translates into 108 to 145 pounds. There is no breakdown by height but the average weight of a North American woman is 170 lbs. You can, and lots of people have, thrown doubt on the usefulness of BMI.

On the other hand, "The average prevalence rates for anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa among young females are 0.3 and 1%, respectively."

Lagerfeld had his facts right.

Are female models on average thinner than most women? Yes. The same is true of male models. They are also better looking than most people and, can we be honest and admit that thinner people are better looking. Gal Gadot's BMI is 18.7, which is to say at the very bottom of the healthy range. Melissa Benoist's BMI is 18.4, which is borderline. I picked these two women because they play characters that have been much praised as representing positive role models for girls and women. Neither could have the career they do if they weren't that thin.

* American women are a fraction of an inch shorter on average.

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