Amy Schumer, Lena Dunham, Demi Lovato, Jennifer Lawrence, Iggy Azalea, all the Kardashians and many other women celebrities have been outspoken about body image and the skewed perception that everyone should be as thin as Taylor Swift. The topic hit home and newsstands big time this week with a special issue of Glamour magazine purportedly celebrating women who are “chic at any size!” Unfortunately, Glamour’s cover list of “Women Who Inspire Us” were Amy Schumer, Melissa McCarthy, Adele and Ashley Graham, and the reaction to the list/issue illustrates the plus-size body image problem today.
There were several fundamental things with the magazine issue that could be construed as a Glamour Don’t (the magazine used to feature pictures of someone poorly dressed or wearing something ill-fitting as a Don’t):
- A Special Issue – This heralded look at fashion for those size 12 and up is a stand-alone special issue, not part of the regular monthly publication. So, whether they intended to or not, Glamour is continuing to marginalize women who are not rail thin by keeping them out of their regular magazine. If they truly wanted to be inclusive, why not make fashion for all sizes and a commitment to showing women with varying shapes part of the monthly periodical?
- Poor Choice of Cover Copy – As Glamour editor Cindi Leive has pointed out on Twitter, the magazine never called Schumer plus size. However, they implied it by listing three other women who are larger along with her on a publication aimed at women who are size 12 and up. If they wanted to be more inclusive, there might names of those have been a variety of body types, not to mention races. The actual article did quote women who varied in race, height and weight like Tracee Ellis Ross, Dunham, Portia de Rossi and Nicole Richie.
- Sponsorship – The special issue is a result of a partnership between Glamour and Lane Bryant, a women’s apparel retail chain where sizes start at 14. Lane Bryant uses a body-positive mantra in its advertising. Additionally, the two firms work on a clothing collection for the stores. So the entire magazine issue could be viewed as an advertisement for that collaboration.
- Definition of Plus Size — Schumer posted on social media, “Young girls seeing my body type thinking that is plus size?” She also wrote on an Instagram post about the reaction: “Plus size is considered size 16 in America. I go between a size six and an eight. [Glamour] put me in their plus size only issue without asking or letting me know and it doesn’t feel right to me.” Actually, as Leive posted, “Even size 12 – frequent size of “plus” models – is smaller than average American woman!” The fact is that the models used to show inclusiveness are too small for plus size clothing as places like Lane Bryant.
- Body Positivity – Glamour indicated Schumer was included in the issue not because she is a curvy, but because “we believe her passionate and vocal message of body positivity IS inspiring, as is the message of the many other women, of all sizes, featured.” The comedian has addressed body image many times in public. The negative reaction to the coverage and Schumer’s vehement protests about being mislabeled by the inclusion illustrates just how negative perceptions are about body types, from women who are heavier earning less to other forms of weight discrimination.
Amy Schumer’s reaction to Glamour using her in their special issue illustrates the plus-size image problem. Plus size, like petite or tall, should be a term without any connotations added. As long as it is perceived as something undesirable, which Schumer inadvertently promoted, body shaming will continue. That does not mean ignoring the obesity epidemic. It means accepting that everyone is not built the same, and inspiring people with role models of all sizes and shapes every day, not just in special issues.
Written and Edited by Dyanne Weiss
Glamour: Chic At Any Size
Los Angeles Times: Don’t call Amy Schumer plus size: ‘These labels are unnecessary’
Vogue: How Amy Schumer’s Stance on “Plus Size” Is Changing the Way We Talk About Women
Perez-Hilton: Glamour’s Editor In Chief Responds To Amy Schumer’s Objection To Being Called Plus-Size
Washington Post: Amy Schumer’s reaction to Glamour’s ‘plus-size’ issue is still a win for the magazine
Retail Dive: Lane Bryant, Glamour collaborating on body-positive fall fashion collection
Photo of Schumar courtesy of Ms Magazine – Creative Commons license