There are two things that I want to address before delving into beauty and the fashion industry.

1) Fashion models do not look like little boys because fashion designers are gay men.  Think about what you are saying when you make that argument.  You are equating homosexuality to pedophilia.  Gay men are attracted to men not children.  Get the fuck out of here with that offensive and ignorant opinion.

2) Fashion models are not supposed to turn men on.  Fashion models are not hired to appeal to a heterosexual male’s sexual ideal.  Porn stars are hired for that reason.  Fashion models do not look like porn stars.  Do you know why they do not look like porn stars?  Because the image that fashion sells women is not an image of being the most sexually attractive woman in the room.  It’s the image of being the most powerful.

Some fashion lines are specifically designed to make women more sexually attractive.  Victoria’s Secret has a runway show that is designed for exactly that.  However, it is the exception and not the rule.

I don’t know why some people make the false assumption that most fashion is designed to make women look sexually attractive; however, I have noticed people huff and puff and think they’re terribly clever for deriding runway shows when the fashion lines are clearly not designed to make the models doe-eyed sexpots.  So I’ll spell this out for you.

Fashion sells women the idea that they are the most high status person in the room.  Women are sold the image of social power.  Social power can include being the most sexually attractive woman in the room but sexual power is the least powerful way to be powerful.

This is not powerful.

This is powerful.

It’s interesting the way fashion will convey power.  I often hear complaints from the body acceptance set that there is a very narrow beauty ideal that the fashion industry promotes.  I don’t agree with them but I understand why they think that.  I think it is more accurate to say the fashion industry promotes an image of power and that power is expressed in only a few ways that naturally very few people can mimic.

It is not a coincidence that being poor is strongly correlated to being fat.  Regular exercise and healthy food are expensive to come by.  Being really thin requires a certain amount of leisure time and wealth.  That is why models are really thin.  Thin models sell you the idea that one day you too could look powerful.  You just need to spend an extraordinary amount of money.

It is also not surprising that fashion models look like the financially dominant race in the given location they work in.  In the United States we have a lot of white models and ethnic models with white features because being white is being powerful in the United States.

But it’s interesting to note what isn’t left out of the power ideal in fashion.  Disability is embraced by the fashion world.  Age is celebrated by the fashion world.  Gender means nothing to the fashion world.  Every fashion show should begin with the disclaimer:

“We don’t care about gender, religion, nationality, age, body functions, etc.  We care about feathers.”

or

“Your ideas about identity are cute.  Have some taffeta.”

Let’s look at some examples.

This is a man who is a female model.

Andrej Pejic

This is a woman who is a male model.

Casey Legler

Do you think the fashion world gives a flying fuck that both their sex and gender identities do not match up with the gender identity they are hired for?  No.  Zero people in the fashion world give a fuck what you think your gender is.  In fact, you would be a pariah if you spoke out against Andrej Pejic or Casey Legler’s careers.  It would be tantamount to saying you were afraid of electricity to be in favor of traditional gender roles on a runway.

Not only do models with physical disabilities appear on runways, designers use their disabilities as a springboard for creativity. I find it hilariously opportunistic that a fashion designer would see a blind woman as an opportunity to wrap a bunch of fabric over her face.  I will accept no other explanation for this next picture.  So one day a designer decided,

“I want to put a bunch of fabric over a woman’s face.  Maybe some lace.”

“But then she won’t be able to see.”

“Then get me a blind model.”

This woman doesn’t have legs below the knee.

So intricately carved wooden boots were specially made for her to wear as prosthetics.  Aimee Mullins is actually known for not choosing prosthetics that look like human legs because she thinks human legs are limiting and she’s a super human.  Seriously, she’s a badass.

People with disabilities are discriminated against and often do not represent the financial elite but we live in a world where they could.  It is shocking to a lot of people to look at disabilities.  It is attention grabbing to have a disability and a disability doesn’t necessary imply that one is not elite.  Unlike fat, which is almost exclusively associated with disease or poverty in our cultural narrative, disability is fetishized as exotic because it lacks a pervasive narrative.  It is not uncommon to see a model with a disability.

Age is a controversial thing for me to defend when discussing the fashion industry.  Many people think children are exploited in fashion.  I think the fashion industry just doesn’t care about age the way it doesn’t care about gender.  You will see twelve year olds on a runway.  You’ll also see eighty-one year olds.  A model is useful in the fashion world as long as they represent the idea that a brand is trying to sell.  Brands target all age demographics and there is work for all age demographics.

If you really think the fashion world is narrow in their model selection, I’d like to leave you with just one thought.  How do you think the political world would handle an elderly man dressing up in tween girl’s clothing and taking pictures to sell that clothing to tween girls as a family business?  Just take a second to think of a couple possible outcomes to that scenario in politics.  Or if a teacher did that?  Or if an astronaut were to do that?

Alright, now how do you think the fashion world would handle it?