The 5 Ways Glamour Undermines Its Size-12 Self-Acceptance Message

There’s been quite a bit of discussion recently about the photo of model Lizzi Miller in September’s Glamour_Sept09_JessicaSimpson Glamour. See, Lizzi has something that rarely appears in fashion glossies: a non-concave stomach. So readers—in the apparent joy of seeing a body that remotely resembles their own in a magazine—have sent letter after letter of praise to Glamour HQ.

In her blog, editor-in-chief Cindi Leive mentions Glamour’s “commitment
to celebrating all kinds of beauty,”

which makes me wonder whether she even reads her own magazine. I’ll give credit where credit is due: this photo and the overwhelming response give me a little hope. But a photo—even this photo—isn’t enough.

Here’s why:

1.    Lizzi Miller’s photo appears in a story called “What Everyone But You Sees About Your Body,” which is ostensibly promoting body confidence. But why illustrate this piece with a plus-size model? The implication is that larger women are the ones who need this advice, because, you know, skinny femalesGlamour_Sept09_LizzieMiller apparently pop out of the womb bursting with self-confidence.

2.    Leive describes Miller as a non-supermodel whose body is “wait for it…normal,” as if she (Leive) has nothing to do with the models who populate every other page of the magazine. Yeah, I’m pretty sure it isn’t readers who clamor for a parade of sylphs month after month.

3.    The hubbub over Miller doesn’t just mean they’ve done something positive. It means Glamour is failing its readers. If a single photo has generated such a response, then the magazine isn’t regularly depicting the women it purportedly speaks to. A picture of a plus-size model shouldn’t be a favor to readers. It should be a frequent way of representing them—not to the exclusion of slender women, but alongside and equal with them.

4.    If I could say one word to Cindi Leive, it would be this: “context.” A plus-size model in Glamour is great. Loving your body is fantastic. But the positive message is diluted by the rest of this issue’s content: a “Health Answers, Please!” column about weight-loss supplements, a feature called “Beware the 1,140-Calorie Breakfast,” the usual spate of super-thin models, and in “Your Instant Whole-Body Makeover,” the warning that poor posture “can even make you look like you’ve gained a few pounds.” The horror! Here’s a thought: Stop fear-mongering about fat and maybe there wouldn’t be a need for articles about self-acceptance. Which brings me to…

5.    Leive’s blog post completely fails to acknowledge that Glamour is complicit in this situation. You know why it’s refreshing to see a model who looks like Miller? Because we so rarely see anyone who looks like her in any fashion magazine. Sure, Glamour is leagues beyond Vogue or W in terms of body-type diversity, but that’s damning with faint praise.   

What do you think?

Related: What W Really Thinks About Women’s Bodies

8 thoughts on “The 5 Ways Glamour Undermines Its Size-12 Self-Acceptance Message

  1. My sister is a flight attendant & brings home magazines I don’t normally read, such as Glamour. I was so hoping you’d rag on the article ‘sex with a stranger’!
    In the do’s & don’t of these anonymous online hook ups, they suggest -
    Do talk before meeting. Call him from a private line that won’t appear on his caller id. His voice will tell you a lot.
    I also love that they suggest bringing a friend with you.
    Again, WTF??? What friend is going to let you do that? Scary…

  2. I’m sorry Jen, but I have to disagree with your point B. I think that positive portrayals of larger women are good and needed. Larger people can be very healthy…one never knows, simply by looking at someone, if they are unhealthy or healthy. Plenty of people are a bigger size yet still exercise, eat well, and have low cholesterol and blood pressure. They just happen to be larger people. Who knows why that happens? Just like who knows why some people are just naturally thin. And some people have medical conditions that contribute to their weight – be it over or under weight. I certainly don’t think that broad statements like “all fat people will be dead before they’re 50″ is in any way helpful or progressive towards accepting each and every body type. It is harmful and wrong to judge others’ healthfullness simply by their weight and to make blanket statements about the possible health risks of being overweight.

  3. Thank you so much for point one! I am a thin woman and I think I feel just as much pressure to look “better”. Skinny people aren’t oozing with self confidence because it’s not about fat or skinny.

    Saying “curves/big is beautiful” excludes people too. It just twists the norm that it is necessary to be beautiful to be happy. Why don’t we start focusing on other ways to be happy than just beauty?

  4. YES to point 1. (And the rest, but this is the only place I’ve seen the first point discussed.) I get that Glamour doesn’t have a great way to illustrate a piece about “What Everyone But You Sees About Your Body” (if they picture a standard model, they appear 100% oblivious to women’s concerns and further dilute the message of the piece; if they picture a larger model it seems somehow pandering).

    Naomi Wolf makes the point in “The Beauty Myth” that women who resemble the supposed ideal may actually have a greater struggle of acceptance because of overidentification. I wouldn’t say that the plight of the natural ravishing beauty is oh-so-awful compared to the masses, but it does highlight that the beauty myth has naught to do with what the women who actually suffer from it look like. And this picture has turned a blind eye to that point.

  5. Love this post, I really couldn’t have put it better myself. There’s always special features on plus size models, or ethnic minority models and then the next month it’s all forgotten about, as though the editors have said “right, that’s our good deed done”. I agree with your comment about being equal with other models totally.

  6. I think we should do away with the term “plus-size” altogether. That further alienates women. Also, I find it hard to believe that the model pictured qualifies as plus sizeed. Also, she’s hunched over.

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