With eating disorder week fast approaching (22-28 February), I thought this would be the apt time to discuss the pressures of the curvy girls in Exeter (and outside in the real world) to conform to the skinny ‘ideal’ model. Everyday, one sees the toned, fit and sporty sports girls flexing their muscles up forum hill in their tight leggings. As a curvy girl myself, I definitely don’t fit the mould of a size 8 with a tiny waist and a thigh gap. However, I’m proud of my shapeliness. Yes I have boobs and an arse which does bump into things — unfortunately it does not rival Beyoncé or Kim K. That’s what makes me me, and I won’t change that for social perception, pressure or my boyfriend (who happens to like a girl who eats chicken wings).
The fashion industry and air-brushed images of the female body in magazines have been challenged on their influence on young (and old) impressionable girls to look a certain way and be a certain size. Breaking the size 0 (in American terms) is Ashley Graham – designer, body positive campaigner and model, who has hailed Sports Illustrated for choosing her in a non-traditional front cover. It is challenging narrow and unrealistic perceptions of beauty in its feature of the first UK size 16 woman to be on the front of its glossy pages. Graham, 28, has already made history by being one of the first ever curvy models to feature in an advert that ran in the magazine last year. MJ Day, managing editor, has hailed Graham a “champion for all women”.
This can be seen in her inspirational quotes including “We are the norm, and putting curvy girls on the cover is the norm. I think it has catapulted people’s perception of beauty into a whole different place where it doesn’t matter what size a woman is – it matters what she’s doing in the world and how she feels about herself.”
Graham has honestly recounted of being ridiculed as a teenager for her weight and gave a TED Talk on how accepting and loving her body as it is helped her succeed within an industry “that defines perfection from the outside in” and insists on labelling her plus size. She certainly needs a confident and self-assured persona for the amount of push-back and criticism that may be coming her way within the industry.
“I, like you, possess a wonderfully unique and diverse physique,” she said in her speech. “Now the fashion industry may persist to label me as ‘plus size’, but I like to think of it as ‘my size’. Truly inspiring words.
Furthermore, Graham has led calls for the fashion world to look beyond plus size paradigms and has offered her support to the Plus is Equal campaign. This calls for the plus-size women who make up 67 per cent of the US to be equally represented in the media and fashion industry. Here’s to that much needed change in the US an the UK.
Now, I’m not saying that skinny girls should feel ashamed of being that way at all. It’s all about genes and your own lifestyle choices. What is most important is being healthy and not feeling body shamed to eat that chocolate twist after your 8.30 seminar or to sweat profusely in the gym. Be you, and think of whatever your body shape and size as “my size”.