Early in my life, it became apparent that I inherited my mother’s razor-tongue and dry, sarcastic humor. Not long after this revelation, my mother taught me a simple, fundamental lesson. “If you can’t say something nice, you keep your mouth shut and your opinion to yourself.”
This had grown into an appreciation for a very specific kind of criticism: constructive criticism. Mom’s point, more acutely and in subtext, was that if you look hard enough, there is always something nice to be said. Even if there are negative sentiments in tandem.
The formula for giving negative feedback is very, very simple. You start with praise. You cite the area for improvement. You end with a positive note. Not only does this make the receiving party more receptive to your invaluable insight, but it creates an interaction from which nobody has to leave feeling trampled upon. I learned this more advanced principle in high school, but that fundamental tidbit about reigning in negativity and blunt honesty? I learned that in kindergarten. This leads me to believe that it is not, in fact, rocket science.
So when I stumbled across Adrien Field’s reaction to the Glamour Magazine model who slumped forward and showed the world what a woman who doesn’t have a team of stylists and make up artists fussing over her every second of the day looks like, my knee-jerk reaction was They give this guy a byline? This uneducated and shortsighted opinion should have been kept locked up in the small recesses of this dude’s tiny, dusty little brain.
Oh, but what would my mother think? Better stick to the formula and give this poor, simpleminded man the benefit of the doubt. Let’s first take a look at what he stated that merged on accuracy.
1. She is a very pretty woman, and Adrien credits her for such.
2. He states that his thoughts are just an opinion, then cited in an addendum to his original piece that he prefers his models stick-skinny and emaciated.
3. He brings up a semi-valid reasoning, that fashion to him is not about lauding the everyday woman, but rather about indulgence, opulence and a world of fantasy.
But there are areas of his audacious piece that I feel he could have phrased more tactfully.
1. Calling anyone fat is just mean. I don’t care who you are or what your perceived status in any given industry is. No title gives anyone the right to be so openly rude and so blatantly disregard the feelings of another human being in this crass manner. He should wholly be ashamed of himself for such a fundamental act of disrespect.
2. This woman did not put these photographs into the magazine under the pretense of being a supermodel. The point of the article was to focus on everyday women with normal bodies. We can’t all be super-models. (And to speak to the comment he made that I find singularly the most infuriating, the one about the model needing to unhand the cheeseburgers: the shape of her stomach more closely resembles a woman’s body after bearing children than it does after a McDonald’s binge. As it turns out, the girl is a plus-size model, age 20, and avidly plays softball and belly dances. Some women have a specific body type, and any girl who has glanced at her mother’s thighs and had a small heart attack over her curvy destiny will tell you: you can’t cheat genetics. It’s a fact of life, sir. Not a fact of fat.)
3. Adrien seems to be out of touch with two pivotal factors in contemporary print media content planning: the economy and the consumers. Glamour’s demographic encompasses women aged 18 to 49. Their mission statements and content speak to functional and practical garments, their pervasive theme being practicality. Anna Wintour can focus solely on the couture and highest-end designers and the skinniest stick-insect-model prototypes all she pleases; that’s what her readers expect when they collect their hefty Vogue September issue. But the reader of Glamour does not have a real vested interest in or practical use for a pair of $3,000.00 shoes. She reads Glamour for the warm wit and best-girlfriends-swapping-secrets take on beauty, health, fashion and social lives.
Which hones in on two pointed issues here: Adrien isn’t the demographic, and Glamour consequently does not speak to him. I’m not shocked; it’s not supposed to. Even if his post had been aimed at the actual content of the article instead of the subsequent reaction to it, he would not have liked it. It doesn’t play into his ideal of fashion– fantasy and unattainable body types. Which is to applaud Glamour for holding true to what it stands for as a publication and providing the Every Woman with relatable fashion and beauty content.
Now let’s end on a positive, shall we? There are enormous opportunities for lessons-learned here.
First, one must always consider the feelings of the people about whom they speak their opinions. In sure Adrien will not see this, nor would he care if he did, as I am, admittedly, a nobody. Still I’ve tried to be diplomatic in language and tone, and have tried to critique his opinions, not his person.
And this uproar has given us yet another priceless opportunity to discuss body imaging and positive self-imaging. It’s an issue that warrants constant and increased attention, and I’m glad that it’s back in cultural focus
Most importantly, I don’t want criticism like Adrien’s to stop other brave women– and I do believe that model to be brave, knowing that she was willingly opening herself to such scrutiny– from putting themselves out there. The first steps toward creating new outlets and facets in any industry is challenging, fashion not the least difficult culture on that list. Women who applauded this model, whose name is Lizzi Miller, applauded a woman who advocated for the acceptance of normalcy. Who normalized something with which most women struggle on a daily basis. And no, I’m not talking about weight. I’m talking about body image. They’re distinct.
And yes, I appreciate that sensationalism was probably Adrien’s motive here; chances are good he did this to boost traffic to his website and generate buzz around his name. In which case, and to his merit, he was successful. Many of my outraged friends read the article after it hit Twitter.
Bravo to Glamour, too, for embracing the sensationalism– even the ugly bits– with grace and poise, and their signature wry wit in this special article.
Regardless, I encourage anyone who was affected to decide how they’d have liked to see this play out differently, and get involved. Use the links below, educate yourself, and find your voice.
Dove Campaign for Real Beauty Stand Up, Stand Out Girl Scouts USA
But don’t forget mother’s formula. She does, afterall, absolutely always know best.