13 -19 year old models don’t represent real women

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They know what they want ... Director of Gear Model Management, Dragan Dimovski and booking agent Naomi Fitzgerald / Pic: Katrina Tepper Source: The Daily Telegraph

This recent story sparked controversy in Australia.  How young is too young to model women’s clothes.  New boutique modelling agency, ‘Gear Model Management’ attracted some harsh words from many critics, including Changing Women for their promotion of super thin and very young models.  This article in the Telegraph, by Letitia Rowlands, November 16 2011 screams;

“Sixteen too old for model career, young girls told

GIRLS as young as 13 are being sought by a Sydney modelling agency which has described 16-year-olds as “too old” for the international industry.

Gear Model Management director Dragan Dimovski was quoted in the article as saying that  “other Australian modelling agencies were “very conservative” about the minimum age of the girls they employ.”  So in a bid to find young models, the agency launched a talent search across Sydney, and the talent search was open to ‘models’ from the ages of 13 to 19.  What is conservative?  Why does Dimovski refer to the models as ‘girls’ and why do they need to find ‘younger models’.  This statement seems to indicate that the ‘very conservative’ agencies are not employing models that are young enough.

Dimovski and partner, Naomi Fitzgerald de Grave,  “a former model, said girls were missing out on international modelling work because they were not starting young enough.”  The Telegraphy article quoted her as,  “I know people may think that 13 is very young, but that’s what the international brands are currently looking for in Europe. Models are too old at 16 now,” she said.”

And this is what has caused the controversy.  Just because 13 is OK overseas, does not mean that  Australia need accept it, or promote modelling from the age of 13.  Apart from the obvious issues of 13, 14, 15, 16, or even 17 year old potentially being at risk in a world so focused on body image, this age group hardly represents a women’s body type.  Whilst there has been many attempts to employ models that have more realistic body shapes, the focus still remains on the super thin model.

When you start to really look at the modelling industry it is concerning.  Apart from the unrealistic body image and focus on beauty, there are other issues rarely talked about.  Let’s take a look at the word ‘model’ and how the ‘models’ are portrayed.  The way that we use the word ‘model’ in every day conversation is interesting We talk about model cars, model numbers and model types in our everyday language when referring to goods, products, commodities.  For example, when buying a car, you can choose to have a particular model type that will give you the options that you prefer for the price you can afford.

By using this same term when we refer to fashion models, we have removed the personal from these beautiful women (and men) on the catwalk by referring to them in the same way as a product’.  This term intimates that you can get one in any style, shape or colour that you like, and just like a car, there is an accompanying price attached by way of model fee’s attached to the choice.  Worse, it reduces them to mere commodities, goods, products, used to display a garment.  The value is in what they are displaying, not in the person, the ‘model’.  It is understandable that the designers and fashion houses want you to look at their designs and not be focused on the model, but it still dehumanize’s the model.

Many fashion parades and fashion shoots portray the ‘models’ as expressionless and emotionless, staring blankly into the camera.  Or, they are over sexualised and the emphasis is on demonstrating sexuality, in poses that make them look like they are in an orgasmic trance.  This only serves to portray women (and men) as objects to be used and directed as required.  It is impersonal and makes it difficult to connect to the ‘model’ as a real person with real emotion, real hopes and dreams.  Yet our society has held up this ‘model’ image of woman to be the pinnacle of success and glamor.  Millions of women and girls strive to succeed in this very industry, or strive to emulate the ‘model look’ in their own lives.

When Changing Women found this story and others like it, we went to the Gear Model Management Facebook page to make some comments.  The comments and the responses by Fitzgerald de Grave have been reprinted below and are self-explanatory.  Fitzgerald de Grave reportedly became a model herself at 13 so may not understand what all the fuss was about.  De Grave responds by accusing detractors of not understanding the fashion industry, “To susanne obv you are not in the industry and fro an outsider looking in yes 13 is young but we are NOT putting them to work at that age, its basically to watch them grow and develop so that when they are ready to enter into this industry at a later age they are prepared.”  Prepared for what?

However, Changing Women thinks that ALL women understand the fashion industry to the extent that we are the clients that keep the models and the modelling agencies in business.  The question must then be, when are they ready to enter into the industry that they have been prepared for?

Here is Changing Women’s comment on the Gear Facebook page.  (please note:   this is an open Facebook page and comments were public at the time that Changing Women posted these comments.)

24 November 2011

“I heard that your company wants 13 year girls as 16 year old’s are too old to model in Europe? Surely this is just more sexploitation of women in the form of younger women. What we all need is responsible representations of women and girls in the fashion industry, not more pandering to a fad. As an Australian company, you can leverage our ethics and values and not support this European trend. Changingwomen.org is about the representation of real women – they have bodies that are changing and not a stereotype of the model image Fashion is one area where there is little equality amongst women. Help to address this issue and not add to it.”
Naomi Fitzgerald de Grave Clearly you are both [she means the comment from Susanne Moore and the comment from Changing Women] small minded and do not work in the industry and believe everything that you read in the press/media or hear on the radio.
to changing women clearly you havent watched our youtube video where we clearly state girls aged 13-19.. yes thats right 19.
To susanne obv you are not in the industry and fro an outsider looking in yes 13 is young but we are NOT putting them to work at that age, its basically to watch them grow and develop so that when they are ready to enter into this industry at a later age they are prepared.24 November at 09:17 ·
Changing Women No Naomi, I am far from small minded and through my organisation Changing Women (and others like mine) we are targeting fashion practices that belittle, sexualise, abuse or neglect the true attributes that are women. In fact, I am a women myself who was once model like and could wear (and model) anything. Changing Women is about promoting real women’s bodies and there has been some movement towards that trend in the fashion industry in recent years with larger size models and that is good. I have read numerous articles on blogs and newspaper sites (and your video) about your latest venture – so my comments come from this perspective. It is the 13 years old that I am concerned about – if they are modelling women’s clothes. The body shape of girls this young and even 19 is not representative of a women’s body. It is silly of you to call fashion clients (yes all of the Changing Women community) small minded because we are not in the fashion industry (and by the way do you know that?). Who do you think buys the clothes that your models model and keeps the whole industry going? People like us! Perhaps you should do some research on us before you go off and start calling people names. Go to http://changingwomen.org/and have a look for yourself. This is no way to handle other women. By trying to invalidate my comments you only invalidate all other women and continue the cycle of inequity. Remember, you might not always be thin, young and gorgeous, in work and popular. Eventually you need to develop substance and that is what Changing Women is about. Hope to see you on our site, I have certainly sent others to you…Changing Women changingwomen.org

A forum for women
24 November at 09:38
Naomi Fitzgerald de Grave Thanks for promoting your business/venture on our wall, i wish you all the best with it.
good luck to you and hopefully one day you will say these things to my face and not be saying them from behind a computer screen using “changing women” as your “name”
All the best to you.
Naomi Fitzgerald de Grave24 November at 09:59 ·

Changing Women Hi Naomi, it is not a business, it is not for profit and I would love to speak to you in person. I am also in Sydney and not far from Bondi even if my organisation is global. I am Susanne Moore for Changing Women and you can contact me at changingwomen@hotmail.com with your phone number and I will give you a call. I would love to interview you for my site and get your perspective on this issue. If you really do think that 13 year old’s can be looked after and that real women can be represented it would be great to get your view. If you visited the site (the main site not the facebook one) you will already know that I have started interviewing many women about their achievements. Hope to hear from you soon!24 November at 10:06 · Like

Since my invitation for a face to face meeting with de Grave I have not received an email for a  meeting as I suggested.

Here is another post on the Gear Facebook site which Changing Women responded to:
Is 13 too young to be a model?
Like · · Share · 19 November at 11:12 ·

Changing Women  If it is to model women’s clothes – Yes it is. We need to promote positive images of women for all women, not unrealistic images. A good mix of body shapes on the runways would really help the issues of body image and self esteem and empower women to make positive choices for themselves.

24 November at 07:14

HOW CAN WE TAKE POSITIVE ACTION?

  1. Help your children to develop high self esteem – a self worth that is not dependent on external beauty.
  2. Be a positive role model yourself.  There is nothing wrong with looking your best, but demonstrate that substance is what makes a person truly beautiful.
  3. Don’t accept inappropriate language from your sons and daughters, or your husband or male partner.  Question “bitch talk” and derogatory comments when you hear them and don’t encourage “bitchy gossip”.
  4. Understand the drivers behind the fashion industry – it is in their interest to keep models looking the way that they do because in the current constructed fashion industry – it sells clothes.  We need to change the way that fashion is marketed and force designers and fashion houses to represent real women.  They will argue that their clothes look better on super slim models, and this is great as long as that is the market that they are going for.  More likely, it is older women, mothers, career women and the “changing women that will be buying their clothes, so we need to voice our concerns and take positive action.
  5. If you are invited to a fashion show, check to see what type of models they are using and refuse to attend fashion shows using unrealistic body shapes.
  6. Don’t buy clothes from designers that don’t represent you on the catwalk and this will send a message that these images will no longer be tolerated.
  7. Write emails or send letters when you are offended by unrealistic body images being portrayed.
  8. Better still, buy a marketing agency, a fashion house or fashion magazine and do it differently.

RESOURCES and OTHER ARTICLES ON THE SAME TOPIC

A great article by Mia Freedman – Modelling at 13 – no winners here

Mia Freedman – Send this clip to every woman you know

Model miss Chloe Glassie is walking in Miranda Kerr’s footsteps 

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