Monday, May 19, 2008

The Incredible Shrinking Woman

Robin Givhan wrote a piece in yesterday's Washington Post about Cindy McCain's photo spread in Vogue. (Note that you might need to register in order to view the article. It's free). Noted by Ms. Givhan is the fact that as noted by Vogue, Mrs. McCain was wearing jeans, size zero.


It's not really enough anymore to describe someone as "slim", "slender", or even "skinny". It needs to be more quantitative than that, and just like in golf, the lowest score wins. As Stanley Tucci's Nigel declared in "The Devil Wears Prada" (an example of the rare occurence in which a movie is far superior to the so-called book which inspired it), "six is the new fourteen". If you really want to aspire to alpha-girl status, you'd better be no larger than a four, and "zero" is the pinnacle. Or the nadir. Whatever. Counting backwards is confusing me.

Size zero is a relatively new phenomenon, I think. I don't remember seeing size zero in a store until very recently. The existence of zero as a clothing size makes sense, in a peculiar way. If we're competing for the low score, attempting to demonstrate numerically that we take up less physical space than other women, zero would be the ultimate; zero means you no longer even exist. But as enc points out in her post today at Observationmode, what do the numbers really mean when designers are "vanity sizing" to make us all feel tinier? Perhaps I'll be wearing a zero in two years. Currently, I wear an eight or a ten in most clothes (eight being the new twenty-two), but when zero becomes the new fourteen, negative 12 will be the new number to aspire to. Or to descend to. Again with the backwards counting. I'm very easily confused.

Here's where I'm glad I'm blogging, and not writing professionally, because I really don't have a point to make with this and I don't have time today to really think it through. This is about something different than "body image" and eating disorders and all of that. I don't have a problem with women who wear size zero (and in fact, I hate it when people complain that thin women need to "eat a sandwich", because I don't get how that's less snide or mean than telling a heavy woman to lay off the cookies). Maybe that's my point. Everything is fair game now. A person's body should be sacred, off-limits to unsolicited comments and criticism. Magazines and red carpet shows, and people on the street, no longer confine their critical analysis of other people's appearance to a bad haircut or the wrong shoes. It's no less than your actual self that's subject to intense scrutiny, and you probably don't measure up. Or down. Maybe the Duchess of Windsor was right, and one can't be too thin. Size zero means you need to just disappear.


Anonymous said...

My not skinny, okay fat, body and I applaud you. I'm not thrilled about the upper arm fat that jiggles when we clap, but it shouldn't make anyone want to say hideous things to me, like "how about some push ups there, flabby!"

Your point is well taken. When I was really thin, I didn't like when my family pointed out that I had no butt either.

Great post!

FranIAm said...

Out-freaking-standing sister.


From Not Size Zero and even the Vanity Sizing is not making me vain...

CDP said...

I've seen you, and "fat" is not the word I'd use to describe you, missy. But in a vague and circumlocutious (sp?) way, I was trying to discuss the body totalitarianism that seems to have become so prevalent in the last five years. It just struck me that rather than describing Cindy McCain as thin, the writer had to point our her jeans size (how did they know, btw?), like it's some kind of accomplishment.

CDP said...

Fran--You commmented as I was responding to ()! I'm not a size zero, either, but give it a few years! Not that I'm going to become thinner, it's just that negative sizes are the future, I'm convinced. Anything higher than a zero will be available only in the plus size departments (plus size will now have actual mathematical significance).

WendyB said...

I hate the vanity sizing. In some chain stores, I'm probably a negative number because the sizes are so ridiculously off. I have no idea what to try on. Separately, I think I would slap someone down if they asked me my jean size during an interview. Though I will tell anyone my correct size for vintage dresses: 10! Put that in your size zero pipe and smoke it.

CDP said...

WendyB--I love that expression...I love to tell people to put A, B, or C into their pipes and smoke it.

I have to read the Vogue article, I wonder if someone just came out and asked her what size she wore, or if someone looked at her jeans while she was changing into whatever she was going to wear for the shoot? That was the first thing that occurred to do they know her size? Anyway, I'm glad that everyone gets that this wasn't a rant against thinness or thin women, just the idea of quantifying, and comparing everyone based on their numbers, and the silly desire to have the lowest score. And as you point out, it's just silly from a strictly practical standpoint...I have to just take a guess at what size I might wear if I'm unfamiliar with the store or line.

Anonymous said...

I generally dislike people who are a size zero - just for the hell of it.

Whiskeymarie said...

I wear a lot of vintage clothes, and by 1940's-50's standards I'm a size 16-18. By today's standards I'm anything from a 6 to a 10.
Vanity sizing, indeed.

CDP said...

See, I'm telling you...10 years from now, size 0 will be the highest socially-acceptable size...all of the fashionable women will be in the negatives. (Suze, you'll need to hate the negative eights).

MichaƩle said...

A few years ago, when discussing some clothing I had ordered online, I mentioned to a friend (who is really no longer a'll see why) that the size 6 I had ordered was too big and that I was going to have to send it back for a 4 and I hated to send things back. She looked me straight in the eye and said, "Their clothes run big, you know." This is the same friend who asked me after a BBQ that we had both attended how many toasted marshmallows I had eaten. And I quote....Friend: "I said 11 but my husband said you ate 15."

I ceased friendship with the above-mentioned person immediately.

I figured if she had issues with her weight and felt the need to watch what I ate, that was her problem and I didn't need to inherit it via friendship osmosis.

Yes, I myself have eating issues (9 years of bulimia) but I am trying so hard not to get upset when a size in one store fits me different in another...or to feel giddy when a smaller size fits better when in my heart I KNOW it's not me that has lost weight but that the tag has a vanity size on it.

Sheesh...can life get ANY more complicated?!?!? Great topic, always make me think!!!

Matt said...

"Vanity sizing"?!? Seriously. You women can complain about what size you wear all you want. Have any of you considered what this does to men!! How are we suppose to pick out clothes for our women if they won't make the sizes the same.

I can just see it now. I'll show up with a 8 when it's really a 12 and I will get this "What do you think I'm fat" "Don't you notice me" "You don't know anything you stupid male"

I'm sorry I got distracted. You all get together and make a decision on sizes and let us know please.

Thanks for your time.


enc said...

You made some really good points here. I'm glad you took this up, because you discussed angles we all think about.

I think when we all try to cram ourselves into a "size" number, we do ourselves a disservice.

And the media who critique us don't really have a right to rend us limb from limb with their comments on our "fatness" or "skininess."

BeckEye said...

What's ridiculous is that I can never find anything in my size when I go to the store because all of the FAT GIRL SIZES (y'know, sizes 10-14) in everything are always the first to go and you're left with a rack full of zeros and 2s. Who the hell are the buyers for these stores? Shouldn't they all be fired? OBVIOUSLY there are a hell of a lot more people in this world who are super-sized than super-skinny.

r cubed said...

Great post.
"zero means you no longer even exist"
I hadn't thought of it that way, but that really makes me think. Odd, that we're trying to disappear. Or hide. Why?

The older I get the more I try to loosen my grip on vanity and focus more on what I do rather than what I look like. It's very difficult though.

Sauntering Soul said...

Awesome post!

I have seen people write things along the lines of "even though she's chubby/overweight/obese/chunky/plus-sized, etc." that a woman is still pretty. As if the two descriptions of a person are normally impossible to pair together.

I have had so many people make snide remarks about my weight to my face and without fail it makes me burst into tears. Why do people think it's okay to comment on anyone's weight whether thin or overweight?

Normally when you read something about a person's size in an article it has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the article. Our society has just become so obsessed with weight/size, etc. that they feel it must be mentioned for some reason. Unless the article is about a man. How often do you hear "John McCain's jeans are a size ____"? Never.

CDP said...

Michaele--thank you! And wise of you to drop that so-called "friend". How dare she?

Matt--you made me laugh, and I can't even pretend that this wouldn't happen. I almost wrote a post about how my husband can't win...if he tells me I look nice when I know I look bad, I immediately think "oh, so you think THIS is good?" Can't live with us...

enc--I hadn't even thought about the "vanity sizing" aspect until I read your post...the thing about the comment about Cindy McCain was that it wasn't enough to tell the reader that she's thin...we have to know exactly HOW thin, and how that compares to others. And then the absurdity of "zero" as a size, like we should all aspire to just take up less space.

Beckeye--Zero will soon be the fat girls' size...I predict that within 10 years, any positive integer will be (literally) the "plus" size.

RCubed-- I know. The one thing I'm grateful for (and she who was once known as Dcup and I discussed this once) is that at least the physical changes that occur with aging do so gradually. Can you imagine if you went to sleep as your 18 year old self and woke up as yourself in mid-30s or 40s? You'd surely lose the will to live!

SS--Great point about John McCain; I definitely haven't heard any comments about HIS weight. I think remarks to someone's face about appearance should absolutely be limited to "you look really good"...with the exception of a situation that's wrong that they can fix...spinach in the teeth, an unbuttoned button. And the body is so personal, no one should feel free to just critique other people's bodies.

Dr. Zaius said...

How come the price is never "size zero"?

CDP said...

Dr. Z--brilliant!

dguzman said...

Leave it to Dr Zaius!

Great post, CDP. And WTF was Cindy McCain doing, sharing her jeans size? Would that interviewer have asked if she had a body like Oprah's? Or Nicole Richie's?

CDP said...

DG--I know, Dr. Z thought of an angle I hadn't considered.

I didn't read the article, but I probably will, I pick up Vogue about every other month. I wonder if she was asked, or if someone took a peek at her jeans when she changed into the photo shoot outfit? Either way, it's completely outrageous.

All material on this blog copyright CDP 2007-2010 unless otherwise noted.