Size 16 on the Sports Illustrated Cover: Has the Ideal Really Changed?
Just when it seems we are moving in a positive direction as far as the promotion of positive body image, there is pushback and resistance. I suppose this is to be expected when we have been inundated for so long with a specifically defined “ideal” body type for women. As we look back through history, the pendulum has swung back and forth. Within some of our lifetimes, we’ve gone from Twiggy to Marilyn Monroe to Beverly Johnson to Claudia Schiffer to Kate Moss to now. One could argue that even when the most popular models are said to have a “fuller figure” or “athletic build” that most of us would still describe them as thin. Regardless of how many celebrity women or models are held up to be a closer representation of you or me, there remains an incredibly strong tide in our culture that continually rushes in communicating very clearly the ultimate ideal women are pressured to strive to attain.
There has been an embrace of a more realistic portrayal of women in advertising during the last decade. Dove’s advertising campaign showcasing real women as opposed to models was so popular that it led other companies to follow suit. Aerie, American Eagle’s sister lingerie company also launched ads featuring women without retouching or airbrushing the photos with their “real is sexy” campaign. Ashley Graham has made headlines as the Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover girl. Much has been made of Graham being a size 16, and she has been celebrated for embodying a positive body image.
Then right on cue, former supermodel Cheryl Tiegs recently made headlines when she commented on Graham’s cover by saying “I don’t think it’s healthy. She’s got a beautiful face, but I don’t think it’s healthy.” I’ll spare you the part where she quotes “Dr.” Oz. Oh, Cheryl… the “such a pretty face” comment carries a strongly negative message wrapped up in a compliment.
Here’s the bottom line…only from a place of acceptance are we able to make change. So the debate isn’t about whether or not obesity is healthy when we clearly know from research that it is not. The point is that we come in all shapes and sizes, and shaming someone because of their size will absolutely not work to move that individual toward health.