FeminismSex and Sexuality

Dear America~size 12 is not plus sized, it’s average

I woke up this morning inundated with more media coverage of this “plus sized” model. Ugh. This isn’t even something I’d normally write or care about, but for reason, it’s really grinding my gears. Have you seen the new cover? Don’t get me wrong, she’s quite beautiful. Unfortunately I had to crop out most of the photo because it is much too sexual to put on a family website.

But if I hear one more time “She’s the first plus-sized model to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated….” I’m going to scream.

Dear America, size 12 is not plus sized. It’s average. I have my doubts anyway that she is in fact even a size 12, but letting that part slide and assuming she is…size 12 is not plus sized. I don’t work in fashion, so I don’t know what the hard and fast line is here…18, 20? maybe? But it’s not 12. Business Insider says that it is 14. They also state in that article that 67% of all American women are in the 14-34 or “plus sized” range.

So please, please stop trying to convince us that this is what plus-sized looks like. Trying to convince us that she is a plus-sized woman is just as dangerous as trying to convince us that your size 0 models are average. And I haven’t even touched on the fact of “what does a picture of a woman pulling down her bikini bottom (which is in the photo, but I cropped it) in a very suggestive and sexual way have to do with sports?”

Oh right….your key demographic.

It’s bad enough you’re getting young boys all hot and bothered with your legal soft-core porn available in the grocery store…please don’t insult the intelligence of their mothers too.

The kicker to all this? Her comment in Time Magazine: “I don’t know if I consider myself as a plus-size model or not,” Lawley, who is represented by Wilhelmina Models, says. “I just consider myself a model because I’m trying to help women in general accept their bodies. ”

Right. That’s exactly what you’re doing.

Lisa Lightner

Lisa Lightner lives in southeastern Pennsylvania with her husband, two boys and two dogs. When not screaming at her kids in public, she can be found on her special needs parenting blog, ADayInOurShoes.com where she offers advice, support and fun tips for special needs parents.

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  1. I am so shocked by this article that I wanted to like based on the headline. Are you really blaming a model for our society’s unfair standards? Are you shaming her because she, an adult woman, chose to wear a swimsuit in a magazine, at a size that the fashion industry clearly views as “plus size” and unacceptable. How is it her fault that the media responded in the way they did? How about criticizing an industry versus an individual who is a part of that industry. Also, are we really saying that Sports Illustrated belongs in a foil wrapper or behind the counter. On a feminist site? How is it any different than what you see on Shape or Cosmo? Or on prime time television. :/

    1. I didn’t consider that I was blaming the model, but yes, I am absolutely blaming SI. I don’t see where I said it is her fault. However…if she thinks that she is promoting women by being in a magazine in a bikini, hey, more power to her. I certainly don’t see it that way. Am I saying that SI belongs behind the counter? Maybe, have you seen the photo with the one model’s bikini bottom pulled down to just about where her pubic hair would be? I don’t want my kids seeing that. I’m not a prude, but I don’t feel like explaining that to a 5 year old. Nor should I have to….when I go to the Acme.

    2. I’m with Steph. I’m not real comfortable questioning her size, either. Size 12 looks different on different people, particularly when you factor in the fact that she’s 6’2″ Would I look as good in a bikini as she does? Not without a whole lot of photoshop. Then again, most models don’t look that good without a whole lot of photoshop.

      1. I get what you guys are saying, but if you are focusing on one phrase about me doubting her size, I think you’re missing the point I was trying to make. Admittedly I did this post quite quickly….but a) a women in a bikini in a magazine directed at men does not empower women b) it has no place in the grocery store and c) the size message that they are trying to send is dangerous, imo. Great, she is a size 12, or maybe she isn’t. She still is hardly what most of America would consider plus-size. She’s average, she’s gloriously average….and so then why are we congratulating SI for putting an average woman in the magazine? Isn’t that what they should be doing? No matter what size, it’s exploitative to women and has no business in the grocery store.

        1. If she chooses to pose in a magazine geared toward men then I support her. She’s got it, she should be able to flaunt it without being shamed. I think choosing to be a model when you aren’t what an industry considers as ideal is brave and empowering. Again, I blame society and congratulate her. These things are not mutually exclusive.

  2. You shamed her with your last two lines. Why do you question her sincerity?

    “The kicker to all this? Her comment in Time Magazine: “I don’t know if I consider myself as a plus-size model or not,” Lawley, who is represented by Wilhelmina Models, says. “I just consider myself a model because I’m trying to help women in general accept their bodies. ”

    Right. That’s exactly what you’re doing.”

    Also, you mention that this is a family site. My “family” values are progressive ones, not ones that find it inappropriate to wear a bikini. I support her right to model and be successful in this career. If she says that she hopes to inspire women, I don’t question her honesty.

  3. I’m probably the only person who would say this here but actually I have no problem with the idea of my child getting hot and bothered by softcore porn in the grocery store. More bothered by lack of diversity of body shapes and that sort of thing. Of course, when I was a preteen I simply got all my porn by checking out romances and horror with sexual elements (before the urban fantasy thing was a thing) from the library or buying them from bookstores. Heh heh.

  4. For me I think the previous comments have missed what you were trying to say. Whether SI are right or wrong to have a swimsuit edition is a separate issue and I think mostly unrelated to what this article is about.

    The article is about referring to size 12 at a plus size. By referring to it as plus implies that it is bigger than normal which the article is saying it is not. It is rather the average size. It is the smaller sizes that are below average (negative?). It is this that we should rather be focusing on. How are people supposed to know what is normal when normal gets skewed by labels like plus sized.

  5. Maybe if people could just stop making such a fuss about naked bodies?
    First of all, it’s hardly possible to shield our kids from images of sexualized and objectified half naked women. They’re everywhere. They’re on the covers of news magazines illustrating a story about cancer. They’re on billboards advertising boats you cannot even see. Women in bikinis advertising bikinis seems to be the least of our problems to me. At least there’s a really good reason for that woman just to wear a bikini (making a bikini shot suggesting that bikinis are all about the male gaze is a problem, of course).
    Second of all, I’m not concerned about eroticism in the presence of children. That’s different from the pronification of everything and different from oversuxualising children. So no, P.G., you’re not alone. If a kid gets hot then that’s their doing. Really, saying the image is problematic because young boys could get hot is a bit akin to saying girls need to cover themselves in school lest the boys get distracted.

      1. The adult construction of childhood innocence is an interesting topic. Yes I just read about it. Children must be systematically de-sexualized (in terms of own agency and sexuality) for the idea of innocence to persist. And I’ll stop now before I write an abstract…

          1. OK, this is the book I read as part of my research for my thesis: http://www.amazon.com/Fictions-Adolescent-Carnality-delinquent-Literature/dp/9027201552/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1423731121&sr=8-3&keywords=lydia+kokkola
            It’s mainly a literary analysis, but the introductory chapters have a really good analysis about how we constructed and naturalized the ideas of childhood, teenagehood and adulthood. It shows how over time the innocence vs experience gets defined as sexual innocence vs experience, with children being in the dark, adults in the know and teenagers being forever in the fight about getting into the know. As a result sexuality gets elevated to very important with the messages sent to teenagers being mostly negative.

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