Last week I was standing in the checkout line at the grocery store when the most recent Glamour magazine caught my eye. It was marked Special Edition, with a plus-size model gracing its cover. Without even looking at the price tag, I scooped it up. It cost $12.99…so it had to be amazing, right?
I started to flip through. My first reaction to the content? Annoyance…but not for the reasons you may think. A little digging at home, and I found out that this issue is the first of two (the other will debut in the fall), editorialized by Lane Bryant. The pages are filled with gorgeous “normal” and “plus size” women, fashionably dressed, with articles on dressing the best for your body, tailoring, and feeling confident. Featured celebrities included Amy Schumer, Lena Dunham and Melissa McCarthy.
The idea was to celebrate every body.
Glamour should be commended for publishing such an inclusive issue. Right? Not so fast.
I want to know why there has to be a separate issue at all.
In this article, from Fashionista.com, the author notes that readers who are a size 14 and above feel that they’re not represented in magazines. And they should be angry! Why aren’t we celebrating all body types all the time, giving all women a chance to look and feel beautiful? So this issue was a planned response to reader frustration. But it doesn’t fix the problem. It’s a special issue of a nationally circulated fashion magazine to help all women feel good about their normal sized bodies. We’re celebrated, but just once a year. Seriously? No way. Not even close to enough.
I love looking at fabulous clothes, shoes and accessories. Even though I no longer have the size four body I had throughout my twenties, I still want to see elaborate ensembles and women who look beautiful with unique accessory choices and fun shoes. And I want to see women with my body type (and others!) wearing them. In. Every. Issue. Is that too much to ask?
They’re a big deal, bodies. Big ones, little ones, curvy ones, thin ones. We talk about it all the time. How much weight should we lose, when can we be bikini ready, how can we get rid of the mommy tummy, the flabby legs, the too thick waist. Body expectations and body goals are everywhere. If we could just be thinner, if we could just look more like that girl on that cover…maybe our clothes would look better, maybe we’d even be happier. Those are the typical messages sent by magazines.
But maybe if what we saw reflected back at us was more realistic, our expectations wouldn’t be so impossible to achieve. Glamour, you didn’t do a bad thing here. Your intention was good, but your execution made the problem more glaring. This special edition issue just segregated types of women inside one magazine, leaving the “real” models for the “real” issues. I don’t care how happy and beautiful the models in this issue look, readers know they’re not in the real magazine, and that makes this a failed and fake attempt at teaching body confidence.
If you’d just include every body in every month (and not just the before/after stories where women celebrate their journey to thinness!), without making a big deal every time you include a model who isn’t the typical model size, maybe then you’d have a shot at really changing the body image culture. There’s no need for any special edition issue. You’re a magazine for women. So be a magazine for all women, all the time.
PS. Amy Schumer just made a statement about her reaction to being included in the issue (without her knowledge!)…and guess what? She’s not thrilled at all.