Jay L. emailed me and pointed out a post at Glamour.com by the magazine’s editor-in-chief about a photo published on page 194 of the September 2009 print issue:
The editor says that positive, appreciative emails started arriving as soon as the magazine hit newsstands. She also asks,
With all the six-packs out there, do you even know what a normal belly looks like anymore–other than the one you see in the mirror?)
Well, of course we do–we see “normal” bodies all the time–but it is interesting to me how many women (and I’m sure men do it too) seem to only use celebrities’ and models’ bodies as comparisons to decide if they look “normal” (a sort of pointless term for a body shape, really–when do you cross the line from “normal” to “not-normal”?).
One reason magazine publishers often give for using extremely thin women as models is that it’s what the public wants and they’re just responding to consumers–that in fact people won’t buy magazines that have models with more realistic body shapes. Here we see an example of Glamour getting a lot of immediate positive feedback for using a woman who doesn’t fit the fashion model norm (she’s a size 12, which makes her a “plus-size” model). There have been other instances over the years. But somehow there don’t seem to be any lasting changes–the magazine pats itself on the back for its risk-taking…and then goes back to business as usual.
The model, Lizzi Miller, talks about learning to appreciate her body:
“When J. Lo and Beyoncé came out and were making curves sexy, I started to accept myself more. It’s funny, but just seeing them look and feel sexy enabled me to do the same.”
I’m all for giving women a more diverse range of role models and images of female beauty, and if J. Lo and Beyoncé provided that for Miller, great. But I have to admit that sometimes I get sick of hearing those women held up as examples of alternative beauty standards because they’re “curvy” (see our post on Beyoncé on the cover of Vogue‘s shape issue). In that context, “curvy” seems to mean having an hourglass shape with large breasts (Scarlett Johansson is also often described as curvy). But both J. Lo and Beyoncé are very thin overall, and are completely toned and muscular. So I think we have to be careful about thinking that the presence of a few women like that on magazine covers or in movies greatly changes the beauty standards that media outlets generally hold up for women (and men) to aspire to.
NEW! (Jan. ’10): H.A. sent in an image (found at Media Freak) in Glamour‘s first calendar:
Again we see body sizes we’re not used to seeing in magazines, though them being naked is a bit more typical.
NEW! (Mar. ’10): Dmitriy T.M. let us know that the French version of Elle has a similar fashion spread in the April 2010 issue, presented as a “spécial ronde,” specifically about women with larger bodies. The article/fashion spread is 20 pages long and features model Tara Lynn (from the Huffington Post):
Glad to see it, of course, but I liked it even better when Glamour used Crystal Renn in a fashion spread that wasn’t specifically about body size.