February 14, 2010

Normal size

Okay, so I just found out about this Kevin Smith thing. Director/writer Kevin Smith was apparently seated on a Southwest Airlines flight and was told he must return to the ticket counter to buy another ticket because he was oversize for the seat he was in. Basically Kevin live-tweeted his experience, causing a hullabaloo, Southwest responded with a public statement that was not exactly the same as his experience, yadda yadda.

I'm surprised to see the first handful of comments on that Gawker article are all about how it was a good thing Southwest is shaming people into losing weight and how it's not fun to sit next to large people. I figured they'd defend him.

So this brings me to something I've been thinking about regarding size and weight. I know I'm risking possibly offending some people, but I'm just starting some commentary here. I read a lot of fashion magazines, many of which have come under fire lately (well, it's basically an ongoing conversation, that flares up now and then) for not showing enough "normal-sized" models. Glamour magazine recently had a whole fashion thread with a plus-sized model and got rave reviews for it, but I couldn't help thinking that some of the shots could have been done a little more flattering for her. Any time weight comes up in fashion, experts always chime in that the average clothing size for a woman is a 12. That's not normal size to me. But does normal mean a healthy weight, or does it mean the number that the majority of Americans are? And just because the majority is something, does that make it normal?

Over 60% of Americans are overweight, something that is regularly identified as a health crisis. A size 12 would usually make someone overweight, depending on height of course. Now I make a definite distinction in fashion between normal and perhaps what is the "majority." I consider a normal-sized woman to be from a size 4-8, maybe thru 10. You can often be that size and not be over or under weight, and THOSE are the women that are not reflected in fashion. I tend to think that most women are that size, which of course is not true, since 60% of Americans are overweight, but I don't think it's doing anyone any favors if we glorify being fat in fashion or in the media either. If I can't fit in the clothes that I own or are on that magazine cover, well then it's time to get my ass to the gym. I don't think women should try to be a size they will NEVER be or so skinny they look like they'll break in half, but it's not okay to be complacent about being grossly overweight either.

That said, I think it's unrealistic and unhealthy (both physically and mentally) to show stick-skinny models and to tout toned and fit celebrities quite so much. A real human should not look like they would snap apart if you bumped into them. Models that look like skeletons are not pretty or healthy. Celebrities look that good because it's their job to. When you have that much $ and free time, you pay a trainer to keep you in shape, you can afford a nutritionist and quality healthy food. So many women have body-issues because of how we portray and value the way women look in the mainstream media and that's a real problem. Body shape changes with the times, and hopefully it will cycle back to a norm (ah, that word again, hard to get away, what does it really mean?).

I don't have an opinion really about Kevin Smith's situation. Certainly it's embarrassing, and perhaps not well-handled on the part of the airline, but there is a real concern about people being too large to fit in a seat. I don't think that just because a lot of people have a weight problem, we need to start re-building all movie seats, theatre chairs, metro seats, and plane seats twice as big. I keep seeing that scene in Wall-E where they show the humans on the craft in space, so large they have to have hoverchairs to take them around, their meals are in liquid form, and no one actually knows how to walk. That was a bitingly true social commentary about where we might be headed as a society if we keep up our current lifestyle.

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