One Man’s Thoughts on Plus Size and Ashley Graham’s Inclusion in Sports Illustrated

The recent release of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue has created a frenzy of sorts over the subject of plus sized women and modeling. While I am no where near an authority on the subject, I happen to be someone who has always felt that women who are plus sized have gotten the short end of the stick from the world at large. When model Ashley Graham became the first of what is most assuredly going to be many of shapelier women to grace the pages of this issue, several things stuck out for me.

  • One Small Step: The first thing I noticed is that while being chosen to be included in this issue, it was an ad and not as an actually included swimsuit model. Many will pass this off as one small step for the curvy girl, suggesting that acceptance should be expected to come in stages; however, remembering what it was like to see Tyra Banks having to share the cover rather than be the focal model as the first African American to be featured face shows me that on the whole, the fashion industry still chooses to face this gradually rather than forcefully tearing down the barriers that in other circumstances willingly smash down.
  • Statement Maker: Something positive that I noticed about the choice of Ashley is that in choosing her, although a safe choice, was a wise choice. In choosing her, she is giving voice to many in her category positive exposure. Since the release of the issue, there have been numerous public appearances and news coverage opportunities which has allowed people to see that not all women who fit into this category are anguishing over their size, but enthusiastically hoping for the acceptance from those who have the power to style them as well as the rest of the world. When CBS This Morning reported how  plus size is an 18 million dollar industry which 64% of American women are classified as being, yet account for only 17% of purchasing, it struck me that more moments like this are needed so that there becomes more choice for.
  • The Message of Healthy: As a voice for the “curvy girl” Ashley has gone so far to state that skinny doesn’t equate to healthy, something that even the medical society consistently fails to point this out, preferring to emphasize that health standards are still modeled after outdated opinions. If there is no change from the medical community to acknowledge that healthy is more than what has been state by the current Body Mass Index, there will continue to be a great stress from women and men to fit a mold that is both unrealistic and furthers the struggle to know what healthy for them actually is.

As a husband of a woman who has been plus sized for far longer than I’ve known her, it is difficult for me to know that this is one of the greatest struggles to still be faced in a day and age where innovation should have caught up to the point of acceptance of so great a populace of society. You can no longer say that there is no money in this area when the numbers are proving otherwise. The willingness to buy is there, if only the availability for choice was also there. Women like Monif Clarke and Tawni Haynes are proof positive that it’s high time for changing the game of fashion. I can only hope and pray that this change will come more swiftly than the time it took for one shapely woman to be included in a standard magazine.

 

QUESTION: What has the recent inclusion of Ashley Graham in Sports Illustrated meant for you?

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