In Salon last week, Kate Harding gave us some perspective on the so-called "healthy body image" trend the lady mags are "endorsing." Especially Glamour, who thinks they've done such a great thing by using a few "plus size" models in a few issues of their magazine (plus size in fashion speak starts a size 6, by the way).
Let's pause for a little reality check. Prominently featured on Glamour's website at this writing is the headline "Sign Up for Body By Glamour and You Could Lose 5 Pounds This Week!" Further down the page, "How to Dress 10 Pounds Thinner," "When I See a Woman This Skinny, It Just Makes Me Mad," and "10 Ways to Reverse Holiday Weight Gain -- Fast!" This is the ostensible leader in the ostensible trend among women's magazines to promote healthy body image -- apparently, crash dieting and criticizing very thin women will make you like yourself even more? A rash of TV shows featuring larger people last summer was also heralded as evidence that more realistic beauty standards and less body shame are on their way in, but upon closer inspection, as I wrote then, they did "little to dispel the myth that fat people's lives are built around dessert and desperation." While people fretted that new plus-size clothing lines could promote obesity -- because giving young women who can't fit into mainstream sizes the opportunity to dress like their peers might make them forget just how much their bodies are reviled -- several retailers started reducing their offerings above a size 14. Despite a handful of baby steps and dozens of trend pieces inflating their significance, I'm pretty confident that 2009 will not be remembered as The Year of the Happy Fat Chick.
We've got a long, long way to go before the media actually tries to make women feel good about their looks.