Issues (Magazines, Personal & Otherwise)
I don’t have time to write this today, but I figured I’d write it here instead of doing a thread of 63 tweets.
It’s been rattling around in my head the last few days — I “worry” that I’m unfairly (or fairly, who knows) perceived as objecting to the representation of white/white passing/light skinned women of color, sizes 8 to 16 (16 is generous).
I don’t object to the representation. I take issue with their overrepresentation and the persistent idea that their representation is appropriate representation for me or worst of all, that I need to “wait my turn, because change takes time.”
I flipped through the recently renovated guide-to-the-revolution Teen Vogue and noticed one person that could be reasonably described as ~not thin. A white, acceptably curvy, working plus model wearing underwear from Lovesick. Which means they are likely a size 10, 12 tops. And that was it.
In what world is this meaningful body diversity if that’s the only thing in the magazine? Keep in mind that Teen Vogue is frequently heralded as a progressive media outlet. I don’t dispute that this meant something for someone. Or that Iskra Lawrence or Ashley Graham or Hunter McGrady means something to someone. But everyone seems content to rest at that place.
I frequently hear that those names and other similar individuals are really important, especially for younger girls and teens. I’ve been a size US 18 since I was in high school. Teenage Ariel, while not as cynical as thirtysomething Ariel is, would have still been able to figure out that the appearance and success of these white women would still have little, if any impact on my personal body image or how my body was received by my peers.
What else complicates the problem of media and fashion’s half-hearted attempts at diverse representation of body size and shape? Many of the individuals featured are more than happy to lean in and claim the title of “body image advocate/activist” without doing any meaningful work or even saying anything vaguely meaningful to highlight the fact that their oppression (not getting the work or pay or prestige they feel entitled to from their chosen profession) is relatively minimal compared to what the bodies they are tasked with representing face on a daily basis.
Pushing diet plans? Swimwear lines that don’t even cover the bare minimum of what consumers reasonably expect from plus lines? Suggesting that “plus-size” is an antiquated term when you don’t rely on it to find your corner of clothes? What good is Vogue or Sports Illustrated or a handful of plus models at NYFW if this doesn’t change anything for the black size 20 box-bodied person? The size 26/28 brown skinned woman with B cup breasts? The size 32 person with no brick and mortar options for shopping that gets mean-mugged on the plane? How is any of this useful, besides lining the pockets of the selected individuals and giving ashy Twitter more fodder for “white girls winning” memes?
It is not unreasonable to demand more. It is not wrong to say this isn’t enough. The representation we get in media, the lack of access to fashion — those aren’t minor issues. It is a deliberate tactic to further deny the existence and humanity of people by never letting them see themselves. By carefully restricting the way they are able to present themselves. This probably seems like a really strong statement. That’s fine.