"Twenty years ago the average fashion model weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today, she weighs 23% less."
This is just one of the messages accompanying a bold series of nude photos of Katya Zharkova, a U.S. size 12, in the January issue of PLUS Model Magazine, which asks its readers "What's wrong with our bodies, anyway?" Quite obviously, there has been a fair amount of publicity and plenty of controversy as some praise the statements made in the shoot while others claim that endorsing a fuller figure is no safer than promoting the current fashion model ideal.
And this is where I want to grab society by its collective throat and shake some sense into it. I realize my limitations, however. One online column by an eating-disordered woman isn't going to do any more to change your mind about what is beautiful than the PLUS Model Magazine feature will have an immediate effect on how the fashion industry continues to prize the skinny ideal. That being said, I can tell you how I wish I had seen something like this when I was 14. I can only imagine the positive impact a feature such as this would have had on a girl who would become bulimic the following year. Not to mention its effect on me today, as the mother to a preschool daughter, has been quite profound.
When I look at these images, I see pride and confidence and healthy, beautiful curves. I see myself, my friends, my sisters, and my neighbors. I see the mentality I wish to instill in my four-year-old daughter as she grows into a strong young woman who can shrug off society's standards, obsession with diets, and focus on her health instead of the size on the tag.
"We are bombarded with weight-loss ads every single day, multiple times a day because it’s a multi-billion dollar industry that preys on the fear of being fat. Not everyone is meant to be skinny, our bodies are beautiful and we are not talking about health here because not every skinny person is healthy,” magazine editor-in-chief Madeline Figueroa-Jones is quoted as saying.
“What we desire is equality to shop and have fashion options just like smaller women. Small women cannot be marketed to with pictures of plus-size women, why are we expected to respond to pictures of small size 6 and 8 women? We don’t! When the plus size modeling industry began, the models ranged in size from 14 to 18/20, and as customers we long for those days when we identify with the models and feel happy about shopping."
I'm not going to hold my breath for designers to wake up and start using real women as inspiration for their newest collections or for photos of models like Zharkova to become as accepted as those of Heidi Klum. Instead, I'm going to pretend that the world is a giant playground full of children who haven't yet learned that we are all beautiful in our own way, ignore their taunts about the size of my ass, and focus on learning to love what I see in the mirror. And maybe that's the point.
What do you think? Do you see the PLUS Model Magazine feature as a positive reminder to women to accept their bodies as they are? Why or why not?
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