I am not the first to make this plea, and I certainly hope I won’t be the last.
I don’t actually want my fashion magazines to show photographs of women who look like me from cover to cover. I also don’t want them to show photographs of women taller or heavier or curvier or older or more muscular or longer-waisted or more petite or higher-cheekboned or bigger-breasted than me. Not exclusively.
I want it all.
I want diversity.
Countless studies have proven that magazines packed with images of rail-thin models have screwed up our daughters’ ideas about bodies. That the constant barrage of waif-like celebrities scrambles and scars our own ideas about bodies. Decades of damage have been done, across age, geographic, sexual, religious, and political boundaries. And it’s downright sickening.
But I get really riled when I hear bits of the outraged backlash. Because much of it seems so damn short-sighted to me. Yes, it’s harmful and fucked up to make thin women – and thin women alone – the paradigm of female beauty. But in my opinion, demanding that thin models be completely removed and/or replaced with curvier or heavier women is not the solution.
I hear people saying, “Ban tall, thin, hipless models from the runways, ads, and magazines. Show us REAL women! Women who look like us.” I hear people saying, “Those women are so far from the national average, none of us can relate.” I hear people saying, “One plus-sized model in a magazine of skinnies isn’t enough! You’re still harming us with all those other images.”
But all women are real. And WE look like everyone. And the fact is that both skinny women and fat women can be beautiful. Both short and tall women can be beautiful. Both old and young women can be beautiful. And the most visibly insidious and undeniably universal aspect of this issue is weight-related, and that aspect is potent, harmful, and oppressive. But we can chose to address the issue holistically, seize the opportunity to knock down thin-centricity AND a handful of less-acknowledged prejudices with one strategic blow.
I want to see short women with huge boobs in my magazines. I want to see women with pancake-butt. I want to see women with salt-and-pepper hair who have to shave off their chin whiskers before the photographer starts clicking. I want to see women who have a 36″ inseam. I want to see pear-shaped women and apple-shaped women, and I want their figures to be complemented by the stylish clothes they don. I want to see women who are super athletic and muscled to the gills.
And I want to see skinny women. The kind that have been stalking the runways for years. Because they, too, can be beautiful. And the end goal should be to teach readers and viewers and consumers that there isn’t ONE type of beautiful body. There are many. Infinite, even. Bodies are beautiful because they are diverse. Don’t replace tall, thin, hipless models with curvy size 14 models. Bust it open and let us all in.
I feel like there is a theory that swinging the pendulum to a different body extreme will eventually create a more equalized, diverse, healthy beauty/body paradigm. That we need to go hard in the opposite direction before we can reach the middle ground. But I truly do believe there is a better way. That we can, instead, petition for bodily diversity from the get-go and get what we’re after faster.
Demanding a clean slate from entrenched industries is wholly unreasonable. Saying “no more thin models” to the fashion and entertainment industries is like yelling into a well. Demanding diversity is actually more feasible, because it allows more and varied body types to work their way into fashion images and TV plot-lines gradually and organically. This has been happening slowly for several years, but PRAISING it can only speed the process. It’s more financially and logistically appealing to the industries, yet still gives us what we want: To see ourselves reflected back as beauties. Additionally, including more women of more body types gives more of us the chance to identify with the figures we see portrayed as desirable on television, in magazines, and on the runways. Win-win.
Insisting on media portrayal of bodily diversity makes sense from a body image perspective, and even from a business perspective. And yet, it’s still asking a lot. A LOT. And don’t I know it. Diversity scares the shit out of people because it’s complicated and unwieldy and cannot be described or defined or labeled. The demands I’m demanding are big, and may overwhelm both demander and demandee. But you know something? It’s totally worth it. It is worth biting off more, battling for the big picture, attempting to kill a giant flock of birds with one well-placed stone.
Because the world is a big, indefinable, diverse place and we all deserve to feel at home in it. We, all of us – tall, heavy, curvy, old, muscular, long-waisted, petite, high-cheekboned, big-breasted, and thin – deserve to see ourselves included in the definition of physical beauty. And we can be. We absolutely can be.
For my part, I will always encourage the portrayal of MULTIPLE body types as desirable, lovely, and good. Because they are.
They absolutely are.
Originally posted 2009-09-22 05:49:00.