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Making sense of the debate on Armine Harutyunyan

Why, even today, a woman's beauty can be a subject of discussion?

Making sense of the debate on Armine Harutyunyan Why, even today, a woman's beauty can be a subject of discussion?

Over the last few days, there's been a lot of talking about Armine Harutyunyan, a 23-year-old Armenian model, a long-time Gucci favourite and a usual presence on the catwalks of the brand led by Alessandro Michele. It is not entirely clear why the model has become the subject of discussion, apparently due to an alleged list drawn up by Gucci gathering the 100 sexiest models in the world - a list that never existed. Over the weekend, the model became the target of insults and negative comments regarding her physical appearance and even fake photos in which she is portrayed doing the Roman salute in front of the Altare della Patria. 

It should be emphasized that the appearance of the young model has become the subject of discussion only in Italy, proving to what extent our country can be behind the times when it comes to female beauty. Another important aspect of the issue is that Harutyunyan is not a new face in the Gucci line-up, on the contrary, those who are passionate about fashion and follow the fashion shows, know that the model has opened one of the latest shows of the brand and that her appearance is perfectly in line with the imagery promoted by the Maison. As Jonathan Bazzi, finalist of the 2020 Premio Strega 2020 wrote, for decades now models have stopped (having to) be sex bombs, the embodiment of the erotic fantasies of the audience, becoming instead pure symbols, final representation of values, references, and history of a brand. The fashion world has been used to this type of beauty - annoyingly defined as “particular” - for years, at least in the last six years, those of Alessandro Michele at Gucci. Anyone who knows the brand was not surprised at the choice of Armine, because that appearance, often labelled as unconventional, antithetical to the rules of the industry, is exactly what Michele has been selling for years. After the opulent years of Tom Ford - whose campaigns sold sex - and the less impactful ones under Frida Giannini, the Roman designer introduced a new aesthetic, populated by freaks, from everything that had never been defined as 'fashionable', or simply 'beautiful', whether they are models with Down syndrome, niche artists or gender fluid personalities. 

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Il dibattito su Armine Harutyunyan, la modella scelta da Gucci, è tutto sbagliato. Innanzitutto perché modelle e modelli molto spesso oggi non sono "belli": il sistema moda ha linguaggi che non sono più quelli di venti, trent'anni fa. Caratteri e volti vengono scelti sulla base dei significati e delle atmosfere che interessano ai direttori creativi: non sono più ideali erotici incarnati usati per solleticare le fantasie del pubblico, dando vita a un catalogo di partner potenziali. Questo è semmai quello che fanno i marchi più cheap, a buon mercato. Le modelle non sono etère inaccessibili, ragazze immagine, accompagnatrici troppo costose: devono accendere e rimodulare l'immaginazione collettiva e non per forza la vostra libido. Sono più interpreti, attrici, puntelli narrativi, fisionomie scelte ad hoc per evocare, raccontare una storia. Quindi chi si mette a insultare la modella di Gucci dimostra soprattutto di vivere nel decennio sbagliato, di non capire nulla di contemporaneo. Fa coming out di ignoranza. E pace. Ma sbagliano anche i (finti) progressisti contrari al "regime del politicamente corretto" (ormai sempre di più) che stanno scrivendo cose come: 'Armine oggettivamente non è bella e dobbiamo essere liberi di dirlo' o che affermarlo 'non è affatto bodyshaming'. Perché la moda – e non parliamo di altri campi, tipo la televisione – usa miriadi di uomini "oggettivamente non belli" ma ovviamente non si è finiti a parlare di loro, non si finisce mai a parlare di loro. Ancora oggi un maschio non conforme o proprio brutto (sono gay, posso dirlo: siamo pieni, sommersi) può essere 'un tipo', 'normale' – o perfino 'particolare', 'interessante' –, in ogni caso tutto ciò senza grande risonanza, senza suscitare interesse. Una femmina invece è cessa, e la polis si mobilita indignata, affinché venga emanata la sentenza. È questo che pare immutabile, immortale: che la libido maschile sia misura di tutte le cose, il presupposto accentratore e ineliminabile quando si parla di donne, immagine e scena pubblica. #armineharutyunyan

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Let's say instead that you are not passionate about fashion, that you do not know who Michele is and what he has done at Gucci in recent years. Well, does this justify your insults? 
The debate on Armine's beauty is the result of a totally sexualized vision of the woman, who most of all needs and requires the validation of the man - and his libido - in order to feel beautiful. The mentality still resists that the woman is beautiful, valuable and interesting only if she's able to whet the man's sexual appetite. Otherwise, she will always be labelled with expressions like "She's unconventional", "She is a particular beauty", "At least she's funny". We are discussing the concept of beauty, a topic that could never, ever become the subject of so many articles and debates if it concerned a man. As Bazzi writes, the double standard persists in this as well. In fashion, as in many other fields, men can be ugly, because it does not matter because it will never be a relevant aspect of their person, while if a woman is not beautiful - or does not conform to traditional beauty standards - then immediately this aspect must be emphasized, not only that, it must be underlined and highlighted, as if to say "She's not hot, so she must be really good". It is not a matter of female empowerment or liberalism being able to explicitly write that Armine is not beautiful, but it is another, subtle form of body shaming, that does not open a debate on the current concept of beauty, but makes women fall into anachronistic and male chauvinists. 

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stars fill my dreams , yes corny

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But if the world of fashion, which by definition is built on aesthetics and appearance, has come to terms with Michele, it has praised, rewarded him from a commercial point of view, and with Armine Harutyunyan as well, with her eyebrows and with her features, why can't we do it too? Why do we still have to stay here to discuss female beauty as if it were the only relevant aspect of a woman, as if it were still an insurmountable obstacle or a necessary requirement for her personal fulfilment, in her private life as in society? 
Many times it has been said that the world of fashion works looking to the future, becoming a forerunner of languages ​​and imaginaries. The fact that Armine has been chosen as the face of Gucci should make us understand how much the fashion industry (whether for convenience or for pure ideals it is up to you to judge), has welcomed and made itself representative of a new, fluid, inclusive ideal of beauty. A utopian ideal for which we are not quite ready yet.