A "Vogue" editor giving a speech all about thinness and what to blame for a rise in eating disorders amongst young women is an unusual thing, but that's exactly what Italian "Vogue" editor Franca Sozzani did yesterday at Harvard. She should be applauded for the balls this surely took. Yet given that her magazine produces the kind of imagery that is commonly blamed for causing body image issues in young women, her messages couldn't help but be mixed — and her willingness to place considerable blame on the fashion industry for the problem wasn't exactly transparent.
Though she acknowledged the causes are varied and still not fully understood, Sozzani seemed to wrongly place most of the blame for the "globalization of eating disorders" on pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia sites, which exalt images of very thin women and offer tips on how to maintain eating disorders. She said:
One of the most disturbing aspects of the spread and globalization of Eating Disorders is the employment of the web to convey cultural models that emphasize thinness though websites that promote pathological behaviors aiming at weight control and offer extreme dieting advice. Pro-ana websites, where ana stands for anorexia, are one of the most effective channels to promote the disease especially with adolescents who employ such instrument daily and with extreme skill.
She also plugged the online petition she started to ban such sites, which now has 12,000 signatures. Yes, those sites are a problem. But have you looked at them lately? Do you know where the people who run them often get many of the images from? The fashion industry and its magazines, its ads, its catalogs.
Just in December, one image from an editorial of the model Karlie Kloss made the rounds on pro-ana sites. (The shot was mysteriously removed in an online edition of the editorial.)
If you comb the thinspo boards Pinterest is banning, you'll find lots of images of arguably more famous fashion models like Miranda Kerr and Candice Swanepoel.
That's not to say any of these women are necessarily unhealthy, but if Sozzani really wants to stop pro-ana content on the Internet, some more honest conversation might need to take place about cutting these sites off at the source.