Banning Gucci Ad With 'Unhealthily Thin' Model Seems Like a Double Standard

For all the talk about super skinny models in the '90s and the early '00s, it feels like now we're spending more time talking about plus-size models -- both in terms of what that means and what that looks like. But we're not quite ready to be done with the skinny model discussion yet -- especially after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) of Britain made the controversial decision to pull a Gucci ad with a model deemed "unhealthily thin."


Here's the ad we're talking about:

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When you look at this photo, it's true that her thinness is striking. It's not just the size of her head compared to the size of her waist -- it's the way her arm hangs and her dark eye makeup, making her look almost gaunt.

No, she doesn't look healthy. But who are we to say whether she is or isn't? 

This isn't any easy topic to talk about because there are so many people involved -- we have to worry about our personal beauty standards and the ideas and role models we want to pass down to our daughters, but we also have to think about the mental health and body image of the models and the company and the products they're trying to sell.

And oftentimes, the well-being of all these parties conflict. 

We don't want young girls to look at this image and harm themselves to look like her, but we also don't want to tell the model, Avery Blanchard, that her body is bad or wrong or unwanted if that is her natural body.

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It's the same argument we apply to plus-size models. We can't sit here and talk about how disgusting it is that trolls call size-22 Tess Holliday unhealthily obese when we're letting the ASA take down equally "unhealthy" photos of Blanchard.

You could argue that neither a size 00 nor a size 22 should be promoted in advertisements, but the truth is that these body types exist with or without media's help. Since it's not our place to make assumptions about the health of women on either end of the spectrum, isn't it ultimately more beneficial to create a fashion industry that supports women of both sizes -- and every size in between?

Of course, it's easier to defend the right of Tess Holliday to exist in the fashion world because she's quite literally the first of her kind. Though Avery Blanchard's controversy is similar in tone to a lot of what Holliday has faced, Blanchard is coming off a 30-year wave of ultra skinny, "heroin chic" models.

That means that when we, the adults who grew up trying to find that extreme thinness in our own bodies, look at Blanchard, we think of our personal histories with body image and the models who turned that history into a battle. Then we look at the young girls behind us and hope, for their sake, that they never have to deal with the same thing.

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The easy solution to ensure that they don't is to banish images of too-skinny women so girls never have to think that's the ideal. The more complex solution is to idolize more women -- skinny women and fat women and disabled women and muscular women and average women -- so the ideal is detailed and varied enough that girls can find their bodies in their idols no matter how big or small they may be.

Of course, that means rewriting our collective conditioning and then convincing the fashion industry that we'll buy more dresses if we see models wearing our size. It won't be easy. But we have to believe it's important.


Image via Gucci

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