14 January 2010

"Plus" Sized Models

The Times has a feel-good story today about Crystal Renn, a plus-size model whose career has taken off in the (really rather minor) backlash against the fashion industry's backlash against emaciated models.

According to the Times, Ms. Renn is 5'9 inches tall, has a 30-inch waist, and weighs 165 pounds. She wears a size 12, as compared to the average for American women of size 14.

Not only that, she's an unusually tall, slender size 12. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the average American woman is nearly 5'4 inches tall, has a 37-inch waist, and weighs ... 165 pounds. But the same amount of weight on a body 5 inches shorter is going to sit very differently.

(Digression: how they determined Ms. Renn's dress size, or that of the average American, is somewhat of a mystery to me, as my own clothes run anywhere from size 4 to size 10, depending on the manufacturer.)

In any case, the fact that the world's most famous plus-sized model is far thinner than the average American woman is not, in my mind, particularly good news. The image of beauty being sold may be somewhat less unrealistic than Kate Moss, but that doesn't make it appropriate.

But the other problem is that Americans are in fact overweight in large numbers, for structural reasons that are not addressed by a microscopic shift in the world of high fashion.

The agriculture industry is motivated by a bizarre system of federal subsidies for the manufacture of corn and dairy products to sell large quantities of them in various unhealthy combinations, which they advertise incessantly. Make high-fructose corn syrup more expensive by eliminiting federal agricultural subsidies for its production, and all of a sudden its presence on your supermarket shelf will diminish.

I actually saw a billboard some months ago claiming that you could get a healthy breakfast at Dunkin' Donuts. Do they sell any fruit in their stores? anything at all made out of anything close to 100 percent whole grains? Not the last time I bought a cup of coffee.