Columbus and Modeling: An Ugly Truth

Columbus and Modeling: An Ugly Truth


Eden Farber
Eden Farber

I don’t know if I’ve just been reading the wrong pop-culture news sources or if a pattern is truly occurring, but it sure seems like it to me.

For the past couple weeks, headlines have been reading “More Models Come Forward with Allegations against Fashion Photographers” (Jezebel), or “Beauty Isn’t Everything, Trust Me I’m a Model” (Cameron Russel on TED).

[emember_protected custom_msg=”TO CONTINUE READING THIS STORY, PLEASE <a href=””>CLICK HERE</a>” ]

It seems to me that the past month has contained more coming out stories about the dangerous and degrading life of modeling than in the past year.

A lot of kudos to the models who are standing up against eating disorders and sexual abuse, as well as trying to send the message (one that their careers haven’t exactly supported) to younger kids, especially girls, that beauty is not just about the body.

Yet, the modeling business is still running smoothly and no one has suggested any long-term changes.

Last Monday, October 14th, America celebrated Columbus Day.

Many historical myths have been mixed up with the story of Columbus over the years – Columbus being the first explorer, his colleagues believing the world was flat, etc. – that our schools are (hopefully) working to right.

And it’s no wonder we’ve been covering him up with glory. It’s not simply that he wasn’t the first to discover the “new world”; we can handle some misinformation. It’s a question of who he was as a person.

And the answer is rather unsettling.

“In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue” and then he got to the New World and then . . . he enslaved all the natives. Enslaved the men, raped the women, and cut off the ears of the rebels to make his point.

Frankly, from a historical stand point, Christopher Columbus was not a very nice man. So why do we celebrate Columbus Day? Because it’s just what we do in America.

You can argue that we don’t do much celebrating – most people don’t really remember what day it is, myself included – and that it doesn’t matter, and so we can call it whatever we want.

Hopefully, we’re at least a little bit ashamed of our ancestry, but we’re happy we have America and it’s a good reminder to be kind and get back some good karma. Many writers or public figures have been issuing apologies for the gruesome mistreatment of the natives, and I’m certain that if we put our hearts into it in 10 years the day will have a very different tone.

Yet, same as always, we still have Columbus Day every single year.

What does this have to do with the new anti-model modeling agenda?

American media and our culture in general are very pro-modeling. Our advertisements are fairly objectifying (to men and women) and our models are still mistreated and abused; but modeling is just part of how our media runs.

It’s time to stop relying on tradition. Models are beginning to tell us, all around, that it’s a bad business.

It’s one we don’t need to support.

If you look at advertisements, you’ll see, overwhelmingly, that the models have the same unhealthy body, picked and pressed to look the way photo-shoppers want it to. It’s having a major impact.

Recent statistics show that young teens see about 500 advertisements a day between TV time, the internet, signs, and magazines. About 65 percent of women and girls in America report having eating disorders.

Society doesn’t change quickly. But what we as people with voices and hearts choose to idolize and appreciate make a huge impact. We still have Columbus Day, despite the historical proof that Columbus was a violent, immoral human being.

And we still glorify the modeling industry, despite proof that both its workers and its watchers suffer from it. So even though all the facts are on the table, we don’t want to change anything because change is hard.

Well, change may be hard, but without it, we’re celebrating violence and self-hate as building blocks of our country. Is this really the America you want to live in?


read more: