Where the masculine ideal of as recently as 2000 was a buff 6-footer with six-pack abs, the man of the moment is an urchin, a wraith or an underfed runt. [...]
Wasn’t it just a short time ago that the industry was up in arms about skinny models? [...] The models in question were women, and it’s safe to say that they remain as waiflike as ever. But something occurred while no one was looking. Somebody shrunk the men.
“Skinny, skinny, skinny,” said Dave Fothergill, a director of the agency of the moment, Red Model Management. “Everybody’s shrinking themselves.”
The new male model is supposed to look younger, pubescent, rather than adult; and like with female models, that means casting them young and skinny.
It is disturbing that this is happening. I’d much rather see female models get more latitude; this is moving towards equality in the wrong direction.
The article makes a couple of “this was a big deal when women were thin, but no one cares that the men are now expected to be thin” comments. (“Far from inspiring a spate of industry breast-beating, as occurred after the international news media got hold of the deaths of two young female models who died from eating disorders, the trend favoring very skinny male models has been accepted as a matter or course.”)
The article should have pointed out that male models are still allowed to carry a lot more weight, proportionately, than female models. Which is probably why we haven’t yet had any young male models die of heart attacks (although if the thin trend continues, probably that will happen, alas).
According to the article, “Stas Svetlichnyy of Russia typified the new norm… about 145 pounds. He is 6 feet tall with a 28-inch waist.” Later, a booking agent says that a male model who is 6 foot one should weigh 155. Both of those work out to a BMI of 20, which is officially categorized as “normal” weight. But a BMI of 20 would probably make a female model unemployable:
Many suspect that some of the world’s top models, from Kate Moss to Jacquetta Wheeler, will be banned if a cut off BMI of 18 in enforced. [...] The average runway model is estimated to be 5 feet 9 inches tall and to weigh in at 110 lbs.– resulting in a BMI of just 16, according to the British newspaper the Evening Standard.
According to the standard BMI categorization, BMIs under 18.5 are “underweight.” That doesn’t make what’s being done to the male models acceptable. But for people who aren’t naturally superthin, trying to maintain a BMI of 20 probably isn’t as unhealthy as trying to maintain a BMI of 16.
Finally, the article’s language sometimes seemed to suggest that thin male models aren’t male. Not everyone will see it, but comments like “underfed runt” and “chicken-chested” feel loaded with sexism, implying that the models are not only thin but also inadequate as men.