If you were to hear someone say “she looks like a model,” I can bet that you instantly pictured a tall, thin, gorgeous-looking woman with curves in all the right places — someone who could be walking the runway among Victoria’s Secret Angels and not look out of place.

I have a newsflash for everyone and advertising companies take note: Normal people do not look like those whom we describe as “models.” The idea of a “model” implies that there is an acceptable standard of being that people can use as a basis to imitate. Last time I checked, the real world wasn’t completely made up of people that look like Victoria’s Secret Angels.

Having a specific “perfect body” image shown throughout all aspects of one’s life, such as movies, magazines, televisions and — most importantly — advertisements is detrimental to the confidence of women everywhere. Even girls as young as age 10 are concerned about how their bodies look. Why are we pressuring young girls, who are already insecure, to be rail-thin and believe that to be perfect, one needs to have unrealistic body proportions?

It seems that at least some of the fashion industry has finally caught on to the fact that not only is sustaining this image of perfection damaging to young people, but women are sick of being compared to a body image that very little of the population actually has. During the Emmys on Sept. 20, Lane Bryant, a clothing company that caters to what society has dubbed “plus-sized women,” debuted their “Plus is Equal” campaign, featuring models sizes 14-34 in a line of lingerie that is designed for the body type of the average American woman.

This type of advertising is exactly what is needed to make sure women of every size feel comfortable in their own skin. As Lane Bryant’s brand proclaims, “67 percent of women are size 14 to 34. But they’re underrepresented on billboards, magazines … everywhere. We believe all women should be seen and celebrated equally.” And with such a notable debut, hopefully this new campaign will propel other companies to reevaluate how they advertise female body image.

This campaign comes on the heels of Ashley Graham, the first “plus-sized” model to make her debut during New York Fashion Week, forcing the media to focus on a different idea of beauty than the preconceived notions already in their minds. By having a “plus-sized” model right alongside those considered “normal,” the steps toward achieving equality and embracement of all body types is finally making some headway. Perhaps next Fashion Week, we’ll see not only Graham owning the runway, but also other women with a “plus-sized” figure as well. Fashion models should showcase beauty in all its forms — not just the mainstream one that the media focuses on.

When one opens a magazine, looks on a billboard, or sees an actress on television or in a movie, the same body type is shown across these media outlets — and it’s not the one 67 percent of the female population has. So why is there a term, “plus-sized” to describe over half of the female population?

Is there not already enough of a divide in terms of beauty standards that society and the media also feels the need to label models and people? I wonder if it is possible to put any more pressure on young girls to be a size four and to fear becoming a size 12 or 14 and being labeled as “plus-sized.” What we really need is to get rid of the label “plus-sized” all together. How are we supposed to preach about equality if we continue to place labels on things that we deem as unconventional or different?

Not seeing your body type in the media in a positive way leads to deeper problems that I believe many do not think of. Besides insecurity, lack of representation can lead people to think less of themselves, believe that they are not good enough and that they will only achieve this standard when they have lost weight.

Lane Bryant’s campaign is setting in motion a way to get to the root of the issue: changing the way society thinks. We live in a media-based world where we are judged on our bodies, how many “likes” we get and what we wear. It needs to stop and, for that to happen, society as a whole needs to rethink what body types constitute as “perfect.” Unlike what the Victoria’s Secret “Perfect Body” campaign says, the answer is all body types, in case you haven’t been following.

For an equal representation, it needs to become expected that on catwalks and runways, there will be a size 34 woman strutting her stuff right next to someone who’s a size four, with a range of sizes in between.

Plus is equal because it shouldn’t be different to begin with. We should not, as a society, as a sex and as a gender, make woman of any age feel bad about their bodies because of what size they are. Women, girls, young and old, let me tell you something: You are beautiful and perfect the way you are and it’s high time that you’re recognized for it. Lane Bryant has realized this, and hopefully other clothing brands will too. If you want plus to be equal, you need to support it fully and at all levels of your life. We should not be tearing each other apart based on looks. There are already enough people in the world that will do that. We must come to a realization that beauty is not a typecast with specific features to be filled out; it is the embracing of who we are and self-acceptance.

If we, as a society, as a gender and as a nation, stop labeling someone as perfect or a model just because they’re skinny, then we will be taking steps like Lane Bryant toward achieving the goal of equality. The bottom line is to embrace yourself for who you are, not who society or mainstream media is pressuring you to be.

One Response

  1. Edward Jackowski, Ph.D.

    Nice article Meaghan, but I wish everyone would stop misusing the term body type as the size of someone has nothing to do with body type. If you are small, large, skinny, petite, or overweight, these are not words that are synonymous with body type – as your body type describes how & where your weight is distributed throughout your body. For example, Ashley has an Hourglass body type just as Sophia Vergara has an Hourglass body type, and Reese Witherspoon has an Hourglass body type, as one gal is bigger, one gal is medium size and one woman is a more slender/smaller Hourglass, but all possess an hourglass body type. So when the media or others say that we need to “embrace” all body types, what they are trying to say is that we need to embrace women of all sizes… Another mistake is the misuse of the word “curvy” or “plus size” to describe heavier or overweight women – as you can be petite and curvy or big and curvy or not big and curvy. You can also be big/overweight and not be curvy…

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