I’ve been accused of being a cynic because I’m not more excited about the appearance of a sprinkling of plus-sized models in fashion magazines lately. Well, over the past few days, I’ve been reminded why it’s hard to be very optimistic. Last weekend, a firestorm of protest arose when a photo of Filippa Hamilton, a Ralph Lauren model, appeared online. Or rather, it was a photo of Hamilton’s face and an extremely elongated version of her body – to the point where, as the blog Photoshop Disasters pointed out, her head was bigger than her pelvis.
For people who hoped that this was a cruel joke, Ralph Lauren’s subsequent apology was shockingly pathetic: “For over 42 years we have built a brand based on quality and integrity. After further investigation, we have learned that we are responsible for the poor imaging and retouching that resulted in a very distorted image of a woman’s body. We have addressed the problem and going forward will take every precaution to ensure that the caliber of our artwork represents our brand appropriately.”
Except, it wasn’t even really an apology. There was no mention of the fact that they routinely photoshop women’s bodies – they simply regretted that the “poor imaging and retouching” that made the “caliber” of the “artwork” suffer. Essentially, they were apologizing for crossing the line between unrealistic perfection and horrifying distortion. But the really disturbing part is that the people who let this image through clearly didn’t realize that a line had been crossed.
As if this weren’t bad enough, Filippa Hamilton appeared on the “Today Show” this morning and made the shocking revelation that she was quietly fired from Ralph Lauren last April for being too fat. “They fired me because they said I was overweight and I couldn’t fit in their clothes anymore,” she said.
Overweight. Right. Except Hamilton is 5’10″, and weighs 120 pounds.
Ralph Lauren claims that there is no connection between Hamilton’s firing and the photoshopped ad. But Hamilton says that she was shocked to see the ad when it appeared, saying, “I was shocked to see that super skinny girl with my face,” she told the Daily News. “It’s very sad, I think, that Ralph Lauren could do something like that.”
The firing, and the photoshopping, are also sadly common, and rarely discussed. What’s exciting about this is that Hamilton is willing to talk about her experiences publicly. However, as Jenna over at Jezebel points out, there’s a difference between talking about an issue, or even identifying a problem, and taking responsibility for it. This is not to say that Hamilton was responsible for her firing, but it’s disappointing that we’re only hearing about it now, six months later, in the wake of the photoshopping incident.
And even more disappointing were the remarks of Cosmopolitan editor Kate White, who appeared on the “Today Show” with Hamilton. White admits that there’s a “cycle” of models getting thinner and thinner, but gives no reason for this cycle beginning except to say that “the clothes got smaller” (but how did that happen? Magic?), and gives no indication about how this cycle can be broken – or even that it should be. She then suggested that if women wanted heavier people on the covers of their magazines, they should complain, and back up their complaints with their money. Because it’s really the public’s fault that the fashion industry demands proscriptive beauty standards of its models.
The whole situation is disturbing, and I hope that it’s given the proper coverage that it deserves. Hamilton says she doesn’t think she’ll sue Ralph Lauren, and my question is why? This event could turn into a great forum on body image, models, and the fashion industry, but I don’t want Ralph Lauren to get away with half-heartedly covering two massive injustices. And hopefully, with our help, they won’t.
Photo courtesy of flickr.com/photos/92943848@N00/1395880087/.