Back in August I posted about an article in Glamour that showed a “normal” woman’s body–that is, a woman who wasn’t stick-skinny and whose abs weren’t rock hard. Apparently the article was extremely popular and Glamour got a lot of positive feedback about it. The editor promised more images of “normal” looking women in the future.

I have to admit, I wasn’t entirely convinced. Many magazines have articles about the dangers of eating disorders or crash diets right next to photos of extremely thin models. And the Glamour article was specifically about the woman’s body and unrealistic beauty standards.

The article is about wearing “nude” colored clothing–which is in itself an assumption of whose skin is neutral, much like the AP story about Michelle Obama’s “flesh” colored dress. The model is Crystal Renn, one of the best-known “plus-size” models (at a size 12, which wouldn’t usually be considered plus-size to most of us in our daily lives). What struck me is that she is used, without comment, in a regular fashion spread, not one specifically about body image, loving yourself no matter what size you are, or clothes that look good on plus-size women. Here are the first two pages of the article:

By no means is she what most of us would consider plus-sized. When I saw the photos, I suspected she’d been airbrushed in any number of ways, including to look smaller than she actually is (the shape of her top leg in that first photo looks particularly suspicious).

In this photo, her arm looks thinner than it might actually be, and her collar bones are prominent, as is so popular for models these days. But she also clearly has thighs and calves that have not been airbrushed completely out of existence and that look like those of some actual women I know: 

In this photo she even has a little bulge around her stomach, and her arms aren’t tiny:

On the one hand we have a model in Glamour who is clearly larger than most models we see in magazines, and her weight isn’t the point of the article–the article is targeted at all readers (except non-White ones, of course) and her body is not remarked on at all. She’s normalized, just another model in the magazine. I can’t help but be happy about that.

But…here is a photo of Renn from the May 2009 issue of the Australian version of Harper’s Bazaar (found at Corpulent):

She’s clearly larger than in the Glamour article. I don’t know if the article was specifically about her body size and accentuating her curves, or just presenting her as a regular model in an article about fashion meant for everyone.

And here’s an un-retouched photo from the Harper’s Bazaar shoot that did not run in the magazine:

Now we see cellulite, which was clearly airbrushed out of both the Harper’s Bazaar and Glamour photos.

So what to make of all this? A “plus-size” model used in a fashion shoot without comment on her size–yay! But it turns out Glamour still touched her up to look smaller than she actually is (unless she’s lost quite a bit of weight)–boo! Images of a body that actual women could aspire to–woo hoo! Except she’s still airbrushed to present a level of perfection we can aspire to, but never attain–drat!

And while readers clearly welcomed Glamour‘s portrayal of a “real” woman’s body in the September issue, would they regularly want to see non-airbrushed models, cellulite and all? I have no idea.

So what do you all make of this? A step forward? Step back? Doing the splits with one step forward and the other foot staying in place? No movement at all?

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