The Glamour of a Real Stomach


I learned from Broadsheet about the above photo in Glamour Magazine, which has prompted a groundswell of positive reactions, and even prompted Glamour’s editor to say this shows a huge demand for real-looking women, which they plan to meet. Broadsheet is skeptical about whether this represents the beginning of a real change. I tend to think that change is slow, but it’s got to be a move in the right direction. Let’s hope they follow it up with women who differ in *lots* of ways from the usual models.

29 thoughts on “The Glamour of a Real Stomach

  1. I totally applaud this move on their part, and I’m glad to see people are making a big happy deal about it. But jeezis – this gal may be “plus-sized” by the standards of a fashion industry that prizes anorexic models, but in my world, she’s still a helluva lot slimmer than many. Some of my friends are gloriously, beautifully FAT and I sure don’t see that here, not to mention any other body differences from the norm.

  2. Looks to me like a woman who recently had a baby and the stretched belly skin and muscles haven’t yet gone back to normal – loose rather than fat-filled. (From an aging lady with a firm belly pillow)

  3. Andrea, agreed! I mean plus-sized!?!

    j – possibly, but CNN says she wears a 12-14, which in the Glamour world is BIG, I guess.

  4. I suppose the ‘plus’ has to do with the old chestnut that the average is an 8; that’s certainly outdated (12-14 is not only not ‘plus’, it’s actually completely average, and I believe 14 is currently the most common dress size). It would be interesting to know, however, how the 8 figure was arrived at in the first place, and I’ve never come across anything that says how. Was it just a figure pulled out of the air? Was there a survey done and, if so, who was counted? Does anyone know?

  5. I think anyone who doesn’t fit into sample sizes in the fashion world is considered plus size. Because they can’t fit into the size 0 or 2 the designer makes, they can’t walk the regular runway with “regular” models so the designer has to make special accommodations if she wants to incorporate plus size models. It’s not a good system, but I’m pretty sure that’s why “regular” models are all one size and “plus size” models come in every shape and size. The woman in the picture looks much thinner than most people to me, but she would never fit into a sample size so she is labeled “plus.”

  6. She is definitely a size 12-14 model. It’s evident in other photos of her. It’s because she’s bottom heavy as opposed to top heavy. Oh, and just because it’s “average” doesn’t mean it’s “healthy.” Morbid obesity skews the averages in America… Also, consider the average woman is 5′ 4″. So, whilst this model may carry the weight well, the average woman will look like a blob.

  7. Sofia, I’m going to assume that it takes a very young woman to dismiss average women as blobs. It doesn’t take much in the way of years for many women to find they’re no longer noticeable and might as well be just a blob.

  8. jj:

    5’4″ + size 12-14 = unhealthily overweight =|= healthy comparison for “averages”

    I am not saying I don’t sympathize with women who have found themselves in this situation, because I definitely do. I would not like to be gawked at as a de-sexualized, unattractive figure. But, I am unhappy about using the above model as a feel-good portrayal of the “average” woman who will continue her shame spiral by eating her way through a bucket of ho-hos.

    NOR, do I think magazines should use models who are unhealthily underweight, or else we’re going to have a generation of starving Susans. 90s models had it going for them since they were more likely to represent the average woman.

  9. Sofia, You’re making a lot of very big claims and nasty generalisations about women who don’t fit your ideal. These violate our blog rules.

  10. I’d like to respond to Sofia, but I suspect that pointing out her personal ignorance and bias would also violate blog rules.

  11. I should note that both of you (indeed all of you) are welcome to offer arguments drawing upon empirical data, as long as you do so while adhering to our policies. I am by no means closing down this discussion.

  12. I’ll just point out, then, that while obesity is dangerous, the effects on someone of being slightly overweight is a far more complex question. Here’s an example of a study; there are more out there:

    I’ll also point out that, whatever the current crop of size 0 women may think, a woman who’s 5’4″ and size 12 around the hips may well only be slightly overweight. I personally know a woman who fits those parameters who weighs around 150. Check the chart. (Leaving aside the question of whether BMI is useful for anything except pushing up the profits of diet food companies.)

    Finally, there is a significant body of work around the psychological effects of being on a reduced calorie regimen, which may well be relevant to the tone of Sofia’s posts.

  13. I in no way intended to violate the blog rules, and just took note of your “Policies” tab on the top right hand corner. In any case, I will try to use a more respectful tone from now on, even though I didn’t mean anything I said in a slanderous way, merely in jest.

    J-Bro, firstly, I never advocated BMI as a measurement of health. Secondly, I don’t think BMI is some clever manipulation engineered to promote diet foods. In fact, the standards for BMI have become more lax over the past 50-60 years, to adjust for the larger proportions that Western society is experiencing. I think being unhealthy/overweight is intuitive to a large extent.

    Also, reduced calorie regimen as it relates to the tone of my posts? I don’t diet. I’ve never been on a diet. I eat three square meals a day. Again, I’m sorry if my tone came across as abrasive; it was intended in a different spirit that I suppose, is hard to translate over the internet.

  14. Having said all that, nothing changes about justifying unhealthy eating by portrayals of the minority of well-proportioned, (above average) tall, size 12-14 plus-size models. There is an is/ought distinction.

  15. No-one tells you – this is what happens to your tummy when you have a caesarian. And no, it doesn’t always go back to ‘normal’.
    From an emergency c-section mum.

  16. Sofia, you need to be careful about invoking an is-ought distinction. Ought appears to imply can, and moral theories are vulnerable to the objection that they’re mistaken about human capabilities. Dietary ‘oughts’ carry even more complicated empirical commitments about what people can do, especially if we think the “can” is “can do while living a reasonable human life.” For this reason, and perhaps others, people who have simple views about what everyone ought to eat/not eat or weigh are almost certainly wrong and all too likely to be adding to the harmful pressure on women to have publicly acceptable bodies.

  17. Sofia, all of my comments stand. I don’t think you’re contributing anything to this discussion apart from bias and (now more veiled) snipes at women who aren’t as skinny as you feel they should be.

  18. Then “living a reasonable human life” needs to be expounded upon. I am pretty sure eating healthily and working nine to five (which the average person does, is fully managaeable. It’s unncessary to remind anyone that the lowest, most deprived class of society is not average, so if they are working 2-3 jobs and don’t have time to manage making a meal, that’s the exception to the rule. So, is the caesarian – for women who have had babies, obviously. Still doesn’t change the general application of what I said.

    J-Bro, you didn’t respond to any of what I said, and in fact, decided to pretty explicitly insult me by calling me ignorant, and biased. How am I biased? How does any of what I said stand to benefit me in any way? You also made a pretty stark implication that I starved myself in some way, so I’m inclined not to take any of what you say seriously.

  19. Here are the facts:
    America is the #6 country in the WORLD for obesity and gaining ground every year. There are believed to be 195 total.
    63% of Americans are overweight
    31% are obese
    Childhood obesity has tripled since the 80’s
    300,000 deaths a year are due to obesity
    I am not supportive of my children seeing photos of overweight women and men and being told that this is “normal” and acceptable. It disturbes me when I watch a Disney movie or television show with my children and see that all of the child actors are overweight. I am not going to give in to society’s belief that it is all ok just because everyone is gaining weight and not taking care of themselves. I fight my scales every single day by hard exercise, less driving, no processed foods, small portions and common sense. If I ever want to throw in the towel and join the 63% of Americans who don’t have the willpower I simply drive to the nearest McDonald’s or amusement park and observe the behavior of the typical American. It will get you refocused really fast. Oh, by the way – I am 5’8″, 145 lbs. and a solid size 8. I have two children, work full time and make no excuses. You have to live by example and I want my children to know the truth; Americans were not meant to be overweight, they chose it.

  20. Let’s back up a step. What, exactly, are you arguing? It seems to shift, so I’d like to be clear.

  21. Sofia, there was a subtext to my remark: it is foolish to claim to know what is within the capabilities of millions and millions of people, especially when on average they are not doing what you think they ought to do.

    It is remarkable that you do this. I’d really advise you to stop. Spend your time on your own problems. Seriously.

  22. My hunch is that there isn’t much more in the way of reasoned debate that’s going to come out of this thread, though I suspect there’s a lot that may come out of it in the way of violations of our blog policies, so I’m going to call this to a close. Thanks.

  23. ashley (and all who may be sympathetic with ashley’s views):
    I, also, a not an advocate of being overweight (however problematic determining that may be)…however, there is a difference between publicizing an image of a woman who is quite obviously not overweight…yet who does not conform to western standards of beauty, and showcasing clearly overweight women as healthy. What I think is so striking about the image above is that this is a woman who can be BOTH healthy yet not *perfect* according to our very high beauty standards. Having a belly does not mean one is overweight, just as being rail thin does not mean one is healthy.

    we’ve got a lot of work to do on this issue…

  24. A good topic – I would also like to point out that one of the subtleties in terms of health and obesity is that there are racial differences. South and East Asians for example, are more likely to be afflicted by diabetes at lower weights than other races. So a doctor may shrug off a person who is “slightly overweight” as being not at risk for diabetes even when there are symptoms.

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