In case you missed it, Sports Illustrated is making history this year by including a "plus-sized" model in its annual swimsuit issue, meaning that fat-ish people everywhere can finally stop feeling ashamed of their bodies and start living normal lives. Finally, Ashley Graham will provide a relatable body type for big girls everywhere. Well, not really big girls, but you know, baby steps. This girl must be a little thick, like Megan Traynor, right?
Well, not exactly. It turns out Ashley Graham is just plain smokin' hot, and so Sports Illustrated is only illustrating the degree to which our idea of "plus size" is distorted. Not only that, but as not-fat as Ashley clearly is, she actually isn't part of the swimsuit issue, she's only featured in an ad campaign in the issue. This is where we all get to congratulate ourselves on how sexy we think Ashley is despite her disgusting, obviously unhealthy plus-sizedness, while also excoriating Sports Illustrated for only letting Ashley in through the back door, by the kitchen. Here's a little sampling of that:
"I actually think this is a health issue."
It never ceases to amaze me how some other woman's body magically imparts medical expertise to people who otherwise know fuck-all about the subject. Makes you wonder what the hell we need X-rays and CAT scans for.
So, maybe this is a huge step forward for body image, maybe it isn't. I don't think it is. If the message here is that it's possible to be as fat as Ashley Graham and still be beautiful, then we're simply treading on Captain Obvious's turf. Sexy women come in all shapes and sizes, and sexy also isn't just about how someone looks. The point that a lot of people miss when it comes to media messaging about body image is that while this is a mere matter of taste for most people, there is a population of people for whom distorted standards of beauty can have devastating effects. Wanting women to be okay with their bodies can actually be a matter of life and death.
As it turns out, though, I also don't think inclusion in Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue (an issue devoted entirely to the one thing no one will actually be looking at in that issue) is such a huge step forward for anyone. I've never understood the purpose of this thinly-veiled exercise in soft porn, since there is much better pornography available year-round, at reasonable prices, and in staggering variety. Then, there's the ad campaign that Ashley Graham is appearing in, which appears to consist of three dudes engaged in a series of microaggressions that include symbolically jizzing all over each other with sunscreen:
Now, my visual medical diagnostic skills are a little weak these days, so can anyone tell me if those guys are in good health?
We are about to hold an election that could very well result in the election of the first woman president of the United States, so maybe it's time we stop using the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue as a cultural bellwether, and give our girls something more worthwhile to aspire to.