Role models vs models


August 13, 2012 by talkaboutyork

I wanted to write this early today but things ran away with me, so I hope I’m not too behind the curve on this subject, but it’s not often things wind me up so much that I feel a blogrant is necessary.

The issue: the fashion/models segment during the Olympics closing ceremony.

When those billboards featuring models came out I thought, no way are they doing this. But then, what’s this?! The actual models emerging like some kind of goddesses we should all bow before, strutting their skinny stuff….. well that just tipped me from mildly annoyed to sodding pissed.

Why in the name of all things holy were they included?

Yes I understand that British fashion is a major part of our culture/lifestyle/economy so you could argue that it deserves to to showcased, the same way that British music acts were or the NHS and Great Ormond Street were in the opening ceremony. And obviously it is a massive global stage in which to give our designers a bit of plug.

But seriously? Someone thought it was appropriate to put a bunch of stick insects who do nothing more onerous than live the life of a coat hanger and get high on drugs into an Olympics show? (I know I’m generalising but if the Jimmy Choo fits…..).

What has moved me most about these games are the children I see getting autographs of the athletes, the awe and admiration written blatantly across their faces. You can see how they’ve been inspired, how they want to do a sport too when they’d never previously considered it an option. These were their new heroes, not the wanna-be slebs from Big Brother or X-factor, not the ‘icons’ they see on TOWIE or Britain’s Next Top Model.

The athletes – both male and female – put on a jaw dropping display of human flesh. Their bodies were what the human bodies are meant to look like if you strip back the layers of McDonalds, pizza, sofa surfing, binge drinking, plastic surgery, fake-tanning or eating disorders.

I could see adults and kids alike aspiring to look like them, to eat healthily and to get up off their backsides so that they can try to find that body that lurks in all of us. Similarly, young girls obsessed with the ‘model women’ they see in magazines, the waif-like stick insects we’re meant to aspire to be like, were for two weeks shunned in favour of healthy, toned, athletic and bloody sexy physiques.

Yet in just three minutes, we were reminded once again of the false image of womanhood we’re meant to be aspiring towards. Fashion, draping yourself in finery and looking gorgeous was once again back on the agenda. No sweaty, messed up hair or make up free faces that had been on display for 14 days, which had radiated natural beauty. It was like a mini reminder of the plastic world of nothingness we were all about to return to.

It was completely and utterly the wrong message at the wrong time at the wrong place. And it was utterly depressing.

If they really wanted to show beautiful women wearing stunning fashion, then why not use the exceptional women who have turned these Olympic games into the ‘Women’s Games’. This was the first time every country attending had women as part of their team. It was the first time women’s boxing was allowed. The first time Saudi women were allowed to compete. And 45% of the athletes participating were women – up from zero in 1896.

You won’t find better role models or better bodies. And while we may not all become Olympians, aspiring to be one is surely better than aspiring to fit into a size 0?

While the opening ceremony featured suffragettes, the closing ceremony had supermodels dressed up like dolls. The irony is ridiculous.






5 thoughts on “Role models vs models

  1. Amanda says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I was horrified when Kate Moss et al appeared like bloody Christmas presents. I had exactly the same thought as you, and tweeted it, that why on earth not use our TeamGB athletes? Jess Ennis, Laura Trott, Vic Pendleton, Cathy Grainger and on and on would have all looked superb in those dresses and it would have been amazing to see them out of their sports kit! I found it terribly despressing having found the entire games incredibly uplifting (wrote a post today about the Union Jack reclamation!). Well done for writing this, well-written and perfectly put! Thanks. Great post.

  2. Thank you – I thought maybe it was just me having an aversion to the models.

  3. Tasha Goddard (WAHM-BAM!) says:

    Yes, I thought the same. As you say, I appreciate that fashion is a big part of our culture, but it was completely the wrong message. I did feel the closing ceremony did not live up to the opening one, though it did improve toward the end (loved the Monty Python bit!). But, yes, the amazing positive role models that have been presented to us for two weeks, especially for women, as you say, and to end with that message. Just wrong.

  4. […] you watch the closing ceremony of The Olympics? Melissa At Talk About York has and she wasn’t too impressed with the models as she felt it took away from the message of […]

  5. Iota says:

    This is an issue that I’m usually quite sensitive about, but it didn’t hit me as I watched the closing ceremony. I just thought of it as a celebration of the fashion industry being a big part of British culture, as you say. I have enjoyed the Olympics as a celebration of bodies, and found it inspiring for all the reasons you describe, so I’m surprised this passed me by. You have a good point.

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