I’ve never been overly vocal or critical about the whole skinny obsession. Even with all the anorexic-looking models filling the pages of the magazines I read, as a woman, I never really liked it, but suppose I accepted it.
But when we have fashion experts deeming even an iconic, animated rodent as too fat for fashion, I feel that we’ve crossed some kind of absurd line.
If you haven’t heard, Barney’s New York launched an “Electric Holiday” campaign that stretches and slenderizes some familiar childhood figures. Several Disney characters were used—from Daisy Duck and Goofy to Cruella De Vil—but it was Minnie Mouse—as the epitome of sweet, childhood memories, who ignited the uproar. Plus, of course, we have those Skinny Minnie references waiting for us.
In the campaign, they transformed Minnie from a curvy, loveable cartoon into a tall, super-skinny, smug character just to don a lavish designer dress. And before we talk about how we might be overanalyzing the insta-slim treatment, we have this comically ridiculous quote to back up the absurdity of the premeditated move.
“The standard Minnie Mouse will not look so good in a Lanvin dress,” Barneys’ creative director Dennis Freedman told Women’s Wear Daily last month.
The transformation is ridiculous for numerous reasons: One, it’s in poor taste to skinnify a healthy looking cartoon character adored by children around the world. And secondly, we all know Minnie would never ditch her signature red polka-dotted dress and yellow pumps. Duh. Do these people know nothing?
Apparently. Because the whole thing has become pretty controversial: A petition for Barneys and Disney to essentially leave Minnie Mouse alone has collected some 137,000 signatures so far. It also includes statistics such as hospitalizations for eating disorders and its effect on young girls. Did you know eating disorders rose a whopping 119 percent for children under 12 from 1999 to 2006? And, 42 percent of 1st to 3rd grade girls say they want to be thinner, and 81 percent of 10-year-olds say they're afraid of being fat. Roughly half of girls from middle school to high school want to lose weight because of those pretty, thin models they see in magazine pictures.
“Girls have enough pressure to be thin, now the beloved Disney mouse of their childhood has to add to the message that the only good body is a tall, size 0 body? Enough already,” the petition from change.org read. “Let’s give girls a chance to celebrate the actual bodies they have instead of hating them for not fitting into a Lanvin dress. Then maybe enough girls will get together and demand dresses that look good on their actual, non-digitally altered bodies and designers will just have to become talented enough to design a dress that looks good on them.”
And though Barney’s and Disney released a joint statement to say they’re sorry—sorry that “activists have repeatedly tried to distort a lighthearted holiday project in order to draw media attention to themselves” (ah, an apology that warms my heart)—they shouldn't be surprised by the negative backlash, and they certainly should be smarter than to mock it.
Far be it from me to disagree with Disney, but this campaign represents an important issue: Besides being bombarded by impossible body standards in media, fashion and entertainment, we’re also berated by constant warnings about the obesity epidemic.
I understand the “war on obesity” is a noble idea, but it’s also a message that might be unclear to kids. If at the same time they’re watching super skinny models on TV while they’re being told they need to watch what they eat, constantly exercise, not eat as much, not eat anything containing sugar, etc., what kind of blurred lines might this lead to? It’s very possible young girls will then expect they need to turn into some kind of sad, thin version of themselves to resemble a model—or even the new Minnie Mouse.
It’s also important to remember that healthy and thin are not synonymous. Forget even a few extra pounds—research even shows that obese people can be physically healthy, while having no greater risk for heart disease or cancer than people of normal weight.
I really hope this new Minnie image doesn’t stick. I’m going to Disney World in a couple months and while I’m usually very excited to see my old friend, if I saw her and she looked like that, I’d probably run away screaming—and very possibly right toward the ice cream cart. I’m all for doing my part to show kids not to be afraid of any curves.
photo credit: Barney's