Yossi Loloi and the digital rise of the SSBBW

Yossi Loloi. Sound familiar? Thought not.

Yossi Loloi. Sound familiar? Thought not. Pretty soon though, this photographer will be a hot topic as people discuss his latest series of images, an art project called Full Beauty that features a series of naked women, all weighing in excess of 30 stone, in various provocative positions.

Despite the obvious controversy of these images, Loloi denies that they are for shock value, insisting that they are supposed to convince viewers that “beauty isn’t owned by skinny people alone” and describes his project as a “form of protest against discrimination.” Now that all sounds very nice, and at first, the naive part of me thought that it was nice, kind of empowering to women who don’t adhere to the norms of what is deemed attractive by society. However, having viewed the images, I was forced to reconsider.

First, the assertion that beauty is not restricted to skinny supermodels is based on the assumption that everybody in society thinks that it is, which is something that is simply not true. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard people complaining about rail-thin runway models and how “real men like curves because only dogs go for bones.” You only have to look at the cover of a lads mag to see curvaceous, healthy women gracing the covers, and the campaigns against size zero models have been widely publicised in the media for years.

Loloi is mistaken in thinking that society only views anorexic models as attractive, and these images are almost a step back for society. They are more likely to encourage weight loss than anything! Sure, taking a stance against size zero models can only be deemed a positive thing, but why does the alternative ideal have to be such an extreme? Why could Loloi not have used healthier models of an average size in the way that the Dove advertisements do?

I also must disagree with Loloi’s point that this campaign is one against discrimination. I believe that, plastered over the internet in all their glory, these women will acquire more of a victim status than anything close to empowerment. I dread to think how many internet trolls have taken to commenting on such pictures with insults and name-calling. Loloi is setting these poor women up for ridicule, reeling them in with a pretentious line about the photographs creating “a sense of liberation and serenity,” probably knowing full well the abuse that his subjects would be, er, subjected to. It is a strong statement to make, but I honestly feel as if Loloi is exploiting these women for shock value in order to gain popularity. I certainly hadn’t heard of him before. Had you?

What’s more, he surely can’t be of the impression that the general public is going to find these kind of images attractive. By forcing these women to strip naked and pose in provocative ways, Loloi is sexualising them, and for what end? Being attracted to SSBBW (super-sized, big beautiful women) is a fetish, just in the same way that being attracted to feet is a fetish. There are websites that cater specifically for men of this persuasion—websites that you actually have to go looking for. This campaign is not aimed at people who will appreciate SSBBW’s. It is aimed at the general public, the masses who, quite rightly, find this sort of thing grotesque, and I fail to believe that Loloi isn’t aware of this.

Another way in which Loloi is being irresponsible is in his saying that people should overlook “the health issue” when viewing his images. Surely the health of these women is more important than anything Loloi has to gain from his project? Imagine the uproar if one of the big fashion houses sent out a 5-stone model, before telling the press to “overlook the health issue.” What human being, on viewing these photographs, is going to be able to overlook the fact that these women are dangerously unwell and at risk of developing a whole range of ailments? Rather than swanning around in the nude having their egos stroked and being photographed, these women should be seeking help for something that is clearly going to become a major issue to them, if it isn’t already.

I know that some will say “well if they’re happy in their own skin then that’s all that matters,” but even this I can’t agree with! How can women like this be happy in their own skin? Being this big surely has a detrimental effect on one’s life. How happy are these women, knowing that they will probably not live to see their children graduate, that by age 40 they will probably have the health of an 80 year old, that they can never go for walks or go on ski holidays, can never go to nightclubs and dance with their friends, that they can’t really do anything aside from sitting in front of the television and eating?

This campaign is nothing but exploitation in the name of art. Loloi and all of his hip photography friends are taking advantage of unhealthy women in order to climb a few rungs on the ladder of success. If promoting obesity and exposing unhealthy women to an endless tirade of internet abuse is what you have to do to become successful these days, I think I’ll give success a miss.

What do you think of the campaign? Have your say in the comments section below, on Facebook or on Twitter.