As social media spread, a new trend arrived on the scene: journalists looking for stories on Twitter (and that can be considered reasonable up to a certain point....) and writers asking for suggestions from their readers (obviously, no, you won’t be credited as Brett Easton Ellis replied his readers after asking them to send him some ideas on Twitter...).
Dementia strikes at every level, though, so a few days ago Vogue Italia editor Franca Sozzani shared on her blog her pains and worries about writing a speech for Harvard.
It was important to consider her focus - mainly eating habits and disorders such as anorexia and bulimia - and her audience of professors and students (so no vapid bloggers and condescending arselickers from the fashion industry), she pointed out.
In that post in which she talked about the difficulties of writing such a speech, she also highlighted how she had spent hours studying “each and every lecture” given on eating disorders and speaking on the phone with specialists and professors.
The speech - delivered on Monday - was then published on her blog yesterday (you can read it here) and I must admit that, despite her efforts and statements about her reading and researching so many lectures, I’m appalled at the banality of its contents (tell us, did you actually write it, or was it put together by three different interns with a penchant for rhetorical questions equipped with a medical manual?). In fact I never thought it was possible to spread such banalities at Harvard level.
We can all see her point – fighting against anorexia and bulimia – but the editor seems to be lost in looking for causes, reporting data and statistics and shifting the focus from fashion to the food industry, while forgetting about real people suffering from these disorders.
But let’s start from the beginning: after trying to list the various and many causes for anorexia and bulimia, Ms Franca “Rapunzel” Sozzani starts wondering a series of banal questions (“What lead us to establish that thin is beautiful and that thinness is the aesthetic code we should follow? Why the age of supermodels, who were beautiful and womanly, slowly started decreasing and we now have still undeveloped adolescents with no sign of curves? Why is this considered beautiful?”) that could all easily find answers in the images of the usual skeletons populating the fashion runways and in reminding her that, one day, most fashion magazines, adverts, designers etc - in a nutshell, the entire fashion industry - suddenly thought (for financial reasons - the "thin" concept is indeed accompanied by beauty and health products that sell well even during a crisis) that thin was beautiful, so we all went with that.
Sozzani mentions the usual icons - Marylin Monroe, Liz Taylor and Sophia Loren - taken as examples of beauty standards in the past, stating they would end up in Vogue’s “Curvy” channel, basically a ghetto for all us women who can’t squeeze into a size zero dress. But then again you are the editor, Franca, so in such a case, you would ultimately decide what and who goes were, so if you put Monroe & Co. in the “Curvy” channel, you would be the one saying they are curvy.
The speech continues pointing out how discovering the pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia sites on the Internet prompted Sozzani to launch a petitition and a campaign against them. Shame, she didn’t remind her audience how she invited high profile blogger Bryanboy to have a nice and civilised chat with her in her own office in September 2010.
Just four years earlier, in 2006, Bryanboy’s posts were full of pro-anorexia messages (the one dated 31/05/2006 and entitled “Aiming for Anorexia: The Official Bryanboy 'Dying To Be Thin' Diet and Faggotry in Motion #004” is currently protected, so you can’t have access to it, but the title says already a lot).
An ambassador for every thinspiration addict out there, Bryanboy also lamented going fat on another site (http://2468-diet.blogspot.it/), announced at the time that he was opting for the controversial 2468 diet and, on a daily basis, started chronicling his progresses about losing wait and turning a Prada belt into a torture instrument.
But that was the past his fans will say, yet it's still rather easy to find messages encouraging thinness in his Twitter roll (December 3: “wow this vegetarian diet is paying off. i look so thin in my outfit, coat included. like a matchstick wearing a femidom”).
Sozzani also accidentally forgot to mention in her speech how she sparked an Internet debate when she put a skeletal looking Karlie Kloss on the cover of Vogue Italia (December 2011 issue) and featured a controversial 18-page editorial with the model that caused debates on her weight and forced Sozzani to remove a picture from the magazine's site.
Yet, interestingly enough, while Miss Rapunzel seems to have a rather short memory when it comes to such fashion faux pas, she managed to remind her audience how Vogue Italia “released last year an issue of the magazine entirely devoted to curvy girls which was a real hit. They were beautiful and sexy.” Yes, they were beautiful and sexy, they were models and they had probably also been photoshopped – so they were acceptable by Vogue standards. So, should one "curvy" issue be enough to satisfy most women with, well, human sizes? Besides, you see, the problem if you’re curvy may not just be how and where to find “trendy clothes without getting frustrated”, as Sozzani may think, but it’s about the perceptions that other people and society in general have of you, though the editor doesn’t seem to have any suggestion on how to change that perception.
In her speech Sozzani anticipates there will be another Vogue Italia “health issue”. I wonder if it will feature further sick images about models having plastic surgery à la Stevein Meisel circa Vogue Italia 2005, or if it will ever include serious interviews with women who had cancer and survived it without losing their self-esteem after an operation that affected their bodies, or interviews with young girls attending specialised centres, clinics and institutions and fighting against anorexia and bulimia.
While the contents of the health issue are not discussed, Ms Sozzani moves onto something else: having come across a bunch of data and statistics, she uses them like a drunken man would use a lamp post - for support rather than for illumination and to shift the focus from the deranged fashion industry.
“According to one of the most influential environmental research organization in the US, the Worldwatch Institute (WWI), the number of overweight people has risen by 25% in the span of 8 years (from 2002 to 2010),” Sozzani states, discovering for the first time in her life that there are more overweight people in richer countries. So, from anorexia and bulimia, she moves onto attacking obesity, using it as an excuse to shift the focus onto the food - and in particular the fast food - industry and onto OGM foods. In her opinion, all this is caused by the lack of food education.
Having spent most of her time probably brushing her hair, shopping, and flaunting her title of Goodwill Ambassador for Fashion (whatever this title means/implies...) in undeveloped countries, Sozzani forgot that there are hundreds of books, films and documentaries about and against fast food chains and OGM foods, that some towns in Italy fought against certain American fast food chains spreading their tentacles in their areas, and that the Slow Food association (founded in 1986 in Italy) spawned rather than a just trend, a global lifestyle.
The editrix also ignores the hundreds of researches published on the Internet and in book format pointing out how specific foods and high levels of sugar intake increase risks of cancer and other diseases or how there are quite a few projects and campaigns launched all over the world encouraging children to eat more fruit and vegetables or delivering free fruit to schools (did you know, Franca, that there are families for whom fast foods are not an easy option or a choice, but a forced rule, as they can’t afford fruit and veg and they can't therefore feed their kids properly? And you don't have to go far to find such situations as this may happen also in families living in the outskirts of your glossy and glam Milan).
So having spotted the evil - lack of education - Sozzani’s speech concludes with a Joan of Arc purpose: she announces that the battle against thinness continues while picturing in her mind not just the fashion industry fighting against it (unlikely my dear...) but a world of parents fighting with their children. Shame Sozzani missed the April 2012 issue of US Vogue featuring a sad, annoying and totally deranged feature about a sad, annoying and totally deranged mother putting her 7-year-old daughter on a year-long humiliating diet (ever heard about less humiliating practices such as sports and exercising, what about swimming for example?).
Society has enough “negative tools”, as Sozzani calls them, that it “employs to spread false information on food and aesthetics”. Totally right there, Franca, but you reconfirm with your words and your speech that the fashion industry still has the most negative ones, the ones that have a strong impact on cultural notions of health, beauty and self-esteem (we could talk about body mutations for hours, from corsets to silicone implants reshaping the body, stretching it to alien forms, and this doesn’t have anything to do with food, but it has a lot to do with beauty/fashion/trends…).
The best thing about Sozzani's speech remains the conclusion. Ms Sozzani ends with further questions: "Why are we so outraged and disgusted by pedophile sites, and do absolutely nothing against sites that instruct people to cut themselves and feel pain to distract their attention from food, or to throw up and let themselves die? Isn’t this a crime, too? A kind of abuse affecting the weakest?". Now, this statement is interesting since while pedophilia is a psychiatric disorder that implies the sexual interest of a grown up for a helpless and defenceless child, people cutting or starving themselves are usually affected by a different type of psychiatric disorder that implies a very low self-esteem and therefore a will to hurt their own bodies and not somebody else (and this usually happens after seeing images such as Karlie Kloss stark naked her thin arms bent almost forming the wings of a fragile butterfly). Bizarrely enough, Sozzani's worst mistake here was accidentally opening an undesirable Pandora's Box labelled as "sexualisation of children in fashion/on Vogue Bambini" that could be somehow compared to pedophilia itself. Ops.
Dear Franca, maybe next time you have to write a speech, rather than turning to your zelant interns, phoning professors and reading too many statistics, just spend some time in hospitals and with real people who are actually suffering from the disorders you're claiming to fight for. I can assure you they will offer you more suggestions than anybody else and will give you a clearer perspective on life than anybody populating the self-obsessed, body conscious and fake fashion industry.
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