You’ve most likely heard at least some of the hubbub surrounding Lane Bryant’s new I’m No Angel ad. If nothing else, it’s one of those Cultural Moments that has spurred a lot of talk and a reflection of our values. A great deal of concern trolling from people who think the gorgeous models in that advertisement are “morbidly obese” (are you freakin’ kidding me?) and think that quality of health can be discerned by physical appearance alone.
Then the moral concern trolling, due to the models having figures that are more obviously, classically feminine than the much, much skinnier models that Victoria’s Secret now uses. Remember when VS used curvier models like Tyra Banks and Laetitia Casta and Frédérique van der Wal? Yeah. Anyway, where a very skinny female model might be easier to “desexualize” and be considered non-feminine and/or non-female (tape down their breasts, cut off their hair, and a lot of them will look like adolescent boys. Not a criticism, but I know a lot of skinny, androgynous women who do that), the Lane Bryant models have obvious breasts, hips, and thighs that undeniably call to mind female sexuality in all its voluptuous glory. Remember the Lane Bryant commercial that was banned from airing during the Super Bowl?
While there is nothing wrong with a female model’s body, regardless of her size so long as she is not jeopardizing her health to be that size, fuller-figured models and women in general touch a particular nerve in our society. I think I know why. Bear with me and keep in mind I am talking about healthy bodies independent of size!
Our Anglo-American society was strongly influenced by Puritanical religious viewpoints. These beliefs continue to this day, regardless of whether one is a Christian or not. It is so ingrained in our culture and it takes conscious effort to fight against it. Abstaining, denial of worldly pleasures, general asceticism, all work and no play makes Johnny a good boy…all these are considered good traits. No, beyond good; the only traits worth developing. These are objections to all matters of the flesh. The more flesh there is the more hated it is. It is too much of a reminder of Earthly reality versus spiritual fantasy. Where the Christian mindset sees the female body from birth to death as “problematic” and the male body as “ideal” or standard, obviously a female body that is undeniably and, worse, unapologetically female is not to be allowed. Increase that tenfold for the Puritanical Christian (or, to be honest, ANY religion- most have a Puritanical wing) mindset.
So here are these women, unapologetic in their showing of absolutely feminine figures. They’re not ashamed nor will they allow themselves to be shamed for neither their body nor their body of work. And some folks can’t stand it. These women are supposed to bow their heads, beg for forgiveness, wear a hairshirt and detox any thought of celebrating the skin they’re in.
I’ve been a fan of three of these models (Marquita Pring, Ashley Graham, and Elly Mayday) for a few years now and I’ve followed their careers. I love that they’re showing that beautiful and sexy women above a size 12 can be just as beautiful and sexy as their slimmer counterparts. Variety is the spice of life, after all, and loving one end of a spectrum does not necessitate hating the other end.