So, I’m annoyed about something again. You might as well go and get a cup of tea now. We’re gonna be here a while, I reckon.
A new magazine for plus-size women has been launched. I am loathed to link to the Daily Mail, but here it is. Let’s try to ignore the stomach-churning design (which is itself worthy of a despairing ramble) for now, and skip straight to the title: ‘Just as Beautiful’. Just as Beautiful? How utterly patronising.
Yes, I get that the magazine is a validation of ‘Smokin’ hot big girls’, but ‘Just as Beautiful’ sounds like the words uttered by despairing parents when their spotty, brace-laden daughter comes home sobbing tears of low self-esteem. It’s weak. A lifestyle publication aimed at this market should have a strong, punchy name, and ‘Just as Beautiful’ serves only to draw attention to the obvious question, ‘Just as beautiful as what?’, thereby exacerbating the skinny/curvy divide.
But this title’s entire existence only serves to exacerbate the divide. One magazine for skinnies, another for larger ladies. Why? Because as Editor Sue Thomason says:
“We want our readers to know that they don’t need to change their appearance to ‘fit in’ or be truly happy. Most people only think they need to change because they’re constantly exposed to the message that they do – and shown images of impossibly skinny models that they’re told they ‘should’ look like.”
Well, you can’t say fairer than that. But this sentiment works on the assumption that magazines featuring slimmer models have got strap lines like ‘Smokin’ hot thin girls’ emblazoned across their covers in some hideous font. Magazines have traditionally always used skinny models. Sad fact. But the magazines don’t wax lyrical about how wonderfully skinny they are. Indeed, a number of mags, notably Glamour, have taken steps to create inclusiveness by using ‘real models’. Efforts like this, of course, are not without their own criticisms, but ultimately the content within is applicable to women regardless of their size or weight. Those that argue otherwise probably haven’t explored much of the women’s magazine market lately.
Just as Beautiful, however, seems to deliberately alienate a section of the female market by making clear its target demographic: size 14 and over. And thus an esteemed peer, who happens to work for a very high-profile women’s title, makes the following point: If traditional women’s glossies are, according to JaB’s Editor, for skinny chicks (and, based on the typical models used here, we’re assuming this is under size 10, more likely under size 8), and this ‘pioneering’ new title is aimed at size 14+, what the hell do size 12 women read “that doesn’t make you feel like you’re too big or ‘wrong’”. They don’t fit in anywhere! Who’ll cater for them? Perhaps we need magazines for a range of body sizes, so we can all feel validated in our weight and appearance and develop a crushing loathing for women of any size that isn’t our own. Wrong’uns!
Brilliantly, Thomason remarks, “The point of the magazine is not to make such a big deal about women’s figures like other magazines do.” An argument which caves in on itself when the entire ethos of the magazine is, clearly, about women’s figures.