Whatever you think of Sports Illustrated’s swim suit issue — and believe me, I have a lot of thoughts about it — it is remarkable that they include Ashley Graham, a plus size model, as one of their cover models. Usually the so-called “plus-size” models we see are nowhere near what the average woman who buys her clothes in plus sizes looks like. Plus size in the world of models is a woman size 8 and above. That’s right — size 8! When asked by Ellen DeGeneres what plus size is, Graham replied, "“Plus size starts at a size 8 and it goes up to a size 16/18. So the majority of this room is considered plus size”. When the average American woman wears a size 14 or above, that range does not begin to look like the average Lane Bryant or Making It Big customer.
Of course in the climate we live in, no good deed like including a woman who looks far more like women we see every day can go unpunished.Up pops Cheryl Tiegs to let us know that showing a woman like Graham in a positive light glamorizes fat and supports being unhealthy. She knows this because she believes what Dr. Amos Oz says — he who says every fat patient he has suffers from heart disease, as if it should be otherwise for a cardiologist. There is always someone to tell us we are unhealthy, that we should not be encouraged to be as we are, that we must do anything and everything to conform to the standard they believe to be healthy, regardless of our actual health.
So when I saw this article, Is It Brave For A Woman To Like Her Body? in Huffington Post, my first thought was, “Damned right it is brave and braver still if like me, you are fat!” The author, Summer Innanen, recognizes that we are not close to the ideal where bravery would not be needed here:
I want to live in a world where it's not radical for a woman to like her body. Where it's not brave for a woman to wear a bikini. Where it's not newsworthy to be fat and happy or fit or healthy. But, unfortunately we're not there yet.
The only way to get there is to normalize it. Make it so mainstream that it becomes boring and average. So if we need to proclaim these moments as brave to encourage more women to like their bodies, then so be it.
I think of my own reluctance to bare my arms in the summer and know that in order to wear a sleeveless dress without some covering for my upper arms, I do need to be brave, to dare to bare arms. And I am a woman who has learned to like my body. How much harder still for someone who hasn’t gotten to where I am.