Robyn Lawley‘s article in yesterday’s Daily Beast entitled “Why The Dangerous “Thigh Gap” Trend Makes Me Mad” is getting all kinds of positive, adoring responses. We don’t disagree—it’s fantastic that a public figure (a model, no less) is using her platform to bring attention to harmful messages women hear constantly about their bodies.
Nowadays, models are expected to do much more than pose for editorials and walk in runway shows–they’re constantly interviewed and act as spokespeople. Lawley is part of the growing contingent of celebrity models who are speaking publicly about body image—Doutzen Kroes, Felicity Hayward, and Crystal Renn, all come to mind as well. But there’s a marked difference in the way that plus size models like Lawley, Hayward, and Renn get lauded for talking about body issues than when straight-sized models do the same.
Here’s a smattering of you-go-girl reactions to Lawley’s piece:
- USA Today called the article “empowering.”
- Yahoo UK sort of embarrassingly said “We hear you, sister.”
- Styleite says that if “that doesn’t put things in perspective, we don’t know what will.”
Lawley has received nothing but praise (well deserved) for her post. Yet a few years back, conventionally perfect human and straight-sized model Miranda Kerr revealed that she had she had finally found the strength to accept her curves, and we called her out for it. And I think we were absolutely right for doing so. First of all, “curves” are a stupid, fake thing, since all bodies ever have curves. And it’s tone deaf of Kerr to pretend that curves, a euphemism for being larger, are something she has to deal with. In what could have been a real conversation about body image, Kerr missed the mark.
Maybe it’s an issue of language. Skinny people don’t have the language to deal with body images. “Curves?” That’s a euphemism for fat people, and doesn’t apply to skinny women. But they’re certainly capable of having significant body issues, and they also hear the dreaded “real women have curves” garbage, too. Maybe Kerr’s body image confession fell flat because she couldn’t articulate what she didn’t like about herself, so it seemed like she was making up fake problems to fish for compliments.
Let’s look at another conventionally perfect, straight sized model: Doutzen Kroes, who has also spoken up about body image. Yesterday, she was quoted criticizing the modeling industry and accepting blame for perpetuating negative body image and impossible standards. This is an instance of a straight-sized model effectively speaking about body image, because as Joanna put it on our sister site, Blisstree, “it is important that she and other models continue to criticize and analyze the context they work it in.” Kroes didn’t call herself fat or ugly, which would be pandering and frustrating, like Kerr’s comments were.
We seem to be much more accepting of plus size models when they talk about body image issues–I personally heaped praise on Felicity Hayward just a few months ago. There’s a sense that plus sized women are allowed to talk about body image. The first reason for this might be the appropriate lack of culturally relevant language for straight sized models to use, but the second reason is insidious: it’s that we expect plus size models to talk about body image. We expect them to struggle with it. This hurts bigger women and smaller women alike—smaller women are not allowed to have body image issues, and bigger women should.
This highlights a few of our expectations about plus-size models, and plus-size women in general. We think of them separately, instead of just models, or women, and think of the plus-size contingent to be a niche group (which in and of itself is completely ludicrous, becuase look at pictures of Lawley, Kroes, and Kerr and tell me that one really looks different from the other two).
This also shows that our beauty ideal has gone so far as to tell women who fit that abstract ideal that they aren’t individual people with individual body concerns. While it’s encouraging to see models speaking about issues of body image, we need to find better ways to communicate about body image, across body types. Because let’s face it. If you’re a woman with a body, someone will find something wrong with it.
Photo: Getty Images