Curvaceous and bodacious
Growing up in the 1960s, Lesley Lawson – known as Twiggy when she graced various magazines as a model – was the body standard girls my age strived to achieve. Very thin with long legs without much muscle definition – the antithesis of voluptuous if you will. Twiggy, Jean Shrimpton, and the other ultra-thin models of the day set the tone for what I thought was body perfection. This is what I thought I was supposed to look like.
Alas, my genetics are not those of Twiggy. Look at a picture of me in my tap dancing costume for my dance recital at age 4 and you will see that already I had legs more shapely and muscular than those of Twiggy. For that matter, look around at the other women in my family – particularly my grandmother whose build I inherited – and you will see that I was not destined to be a waif. Fast forward to my college days in my mid-20s. I’m on a date, on the way to a movie and the gentleman reaches over to rest his hand on my thigh and exclaims: “Man! I feel like I’m out with Flo Jo or something.” I’m still not sure if he meant it as a compliment or not but I took pride in being muscular if in fact I was not destined to be petite.
For years – my whole life really – I have hated my body. I’m not thin. I have an hourglass type shape with ample hips and bust. I’ve always been active, though, so tend to also be kind of “solid” or as current slang would say “thick.” My calves – although too muscular to fit into many styles of tall boots – were once admired by a fellow at the gym. He wanted to know how I got those calves because that was what he was striving for. I didn’t want to tell him that 30 years of ballet classes probably had something to do with it.
Things have changed a bit since the 1960s. There are now variations of the ideal body. Women are working out, lifting weights, kickboxing, running, biking and the solid, muscular build is more prevalent. Folks like Jennifer Lopez and Kim Kardashian have paved the way for women with “much back”. Queen Latifah and Hillary Scott have shown that beauty comes in packages of all sizes. We’ve come so far, it seems. Or have we?
Last week there was a minor furor when it was announced that a swimsuit ad in the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition would feature a plus sized model in a string bikini. Ashley Graham is the model and she is a size 16. Very curvy. Very beautiful. Her body looks a lot like mine looked when I was that age. Additionally, size 12 model Robyn Lawley (who is also considered plus size by the way) is being featured in one of the photo layouts in the magazine. This is big stuff for SI which typically features models that look more like this year’s SI cover girl Hannah Davis.
I happened to catch a couple of radio hosts on a local sports talk station discussing Graham and her string bikini. One host was disgusted. He called Graham unhealthy and felt that her appearance in this ad was a promotion of an unhealthy lifestyle and sent the message that it is OK to be overweight. The other host thought it was refreshing to see a model that looked like a “normal woman”. He felt the ad might help girls and women to realize that they can be beautiful at any size be it 6 or 16.
I was even more surprised by the tone of the discussion that erupted in a Facebook fitness group to which I belong. Even here – a place where we are all at various points of our weight loss journey – some people were of the opinion that Graham should not be flaunting her curvy, size 16 figure. The prevailing opinion seemed to be that until you are a size 0 you should hide yourself from the world.
Like I said, I grew up in the 1960s so I saw the fight for racial equality unfold and feminism come to the forefront. The current fight against discrimination based on sexual preference and the strides being made there are great to see. But it seems that those who are overweight or simply have a larger build than what is the norm – or what is pictured in glossy fashion magazines — are still the target of ridicule.
Before anyone accuses be of discriminating against thin folks, let me just say that I know women of all sizes experience discomfort with their own bodies. My running partner is a beautiful and very slender woman who is extremely self-conscious about being thin and having a small bust line. I just see her as beautiful – both inside and out – and feel angry that any woman of any size is made to feel that they are less than they are because of some notion of perfection that does not exist.
I like that Swim Suits for All has Graham launching its #curvesinbikinis campaign and that they have chosen to advertise in SI. Even though I don’t think of size 12 as being “plus size” I’m glad to see SI branching out as far as the actual swimsuit models featured in the annual issue. I just wish we could come to a place where instead of saying “What a beautiful plus sized woman” or “What a beautiful petite woman” we could simply say: “What a beautiful woman.”
If you are on Twitter,feel free to follow Susan @leglace19
and as always,you can follow me @Jinzo_2400
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