The Evolving Definition of Beauty

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In a time when magazine covers are filled with seemingly-breakable less-than-size-zero models, it’s no wonder that last week’s issue of V magazine made waves in the fashion world when it featured “curvaceous” women. V magazine no doubt deserves praise, but was the accompanying media circus necessary?

V magazine is known for pushing the envelope on fashion journalism, especially after Lady Gaga’s topless photo shoot of last year. The current issue that’s causing a stir is the “Size” issue, which contains a spread with voluptuous women in skimpy swimsuits, hip-hugging jeans, and lingerie. The so-called “plus-size” models (models who tend to measure a perfectly healthy and normal size 12 or 14) flaunt real-life stomachs and existent thighs, as opposed to the usual crowd of twig-skinny models. (I’d like to throw those girls a hearty sandwich.)

First things first—thank you, V magazine! Thank you for putting real (and still gorgeous!) women in your magazine and promoting an evolved definition of beauty. The current photo spread is not only inspiring, but also just plain healthy. It’s healthy to look at healthy women in magazines for a change.

As a young woman, though I feel secure (relatively…) in the way I look, being inundated with images of skin-and-bone women takes a toll, and understandably so, on my self-image. (It’s near impossible to eat anything but celery-sticks and read a fashion magazine simultaneously.)

According to The New York Times, V magazine’s creative director Stephen Gan recently issued a statement, “Big, little, pint size, plus size—everybody is beautiful and this issue is out to prove it.”

No matter what V’s motive was for putting what The New York Times terms “flamboyantly curvy” models in their magazine, the staff there are entitled to applause (written applause, that is).

Still, the media frenzy that followed the early release of the photos on Models.com surely says something about American society and our current take on beauty. Why should average-sized—not “plus” sized!—women in a magazine provoke so much discourse and controversy? And does the attention take away from the point of the photo shoot: that beauty comes in other shapes and sizes other than simply “stick”?

Though the magazine faced mostly good press for the issue, some critics have even denounced the photos for “promoting unhealthy living” or for being in “bad taste,” according to MSNBC news. Andrea Marks, a specialist in adolescent medicine in Manhattan featured in The New York Times, suspects that the majority of overweight girls are “not so happy,” and thus pans a growing trend for mainstream clothing stores to offer a line for plus-size teen girls.

As aforementioned, the women featured in V are nowhere near fat or “plus-sized.” According to MSNBC news, the average woman in the U.S. is a size 14, and 41 percent of women are larger than that. Plus-sized models are normally a size 12 or 14.

Wow. Was this story news at all? It obviously was newsworthy enough that reputable sources such as The New York Times and The Huffington Post felt the need to report it. Even the Today Show of NBC news mentioned the story.

The V magazine spread is not the only instance of perfectly average women being featured as models, and similar stories in the past have received the same hype. Last summer a single photo in Glamour magazine of a size 12 Lizzie Miller, a 20-year-old, 180-pound, 5-foot-11 woman baring her fleshier-than-the-usual-model-type midsection caused a comparable stir.

The reporters are not so intrigued when a bone-thin woman poses essentially naked. Perhaps all of this attention to the “curvy” models actually demeans the photo spread, as the images are not being treated in the same manner. Is this stir further objectifying women using a different standard of beauty? And then, an even more unanswerable question: is the definition of beauty actually driven by the fashion industry?
Whether positive or negative, does the V magazine shoot merit all of this attention? Probably not. Especially with news of exponentially greater importance, such as the magnitude-7 earthquake in Haiti, the sheer notion that this photo shoot made it to The Times is frightening.
Normal-sized, beautiful women are modeling in a fashion magazine. Holy. Cow. (No pun intended.)





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