Yesterday’s news that major babe Ashley Graham will appear in this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is certainly a step in the right direction when it comes to mass media celebrating women of varying body types. So yes, kudos to you, Sports Illustrated. But adding just one woman with more prominent curves than the SI norm (not to mention a woman who just so happens to be the most famous untraditionally-sized model currently working in the industry) won’t have much impact on how society views women of a certain size. This is especially true given that Graham, along with all models that vary from the norm – including Robyn Lawly, who last year became the first curvier model included in the issue – continue to be referred to as “plus-sized.”
SI might have been clever enough not to include the qualifier when announcing Graham as a 2016 Rookie (their PR team is savvier than that), but the word is implied and reverberated through just about every news outlet that picked up the story (and there were many, thus proving the PR team’s savvyness). Huffington Post dropped the P-S bomb twice, as did People. CNN put it right in the headline. It’s ironic, given that Graham has spoken at length about her dislike for the qualifier, even starting the #beautybeyondsize movement. Just last month she said the following about the term “plus-sized” to Shape:
“It’s a slip of the tongue. But at the end of the day, it’s a label. You can say, ‘Yes it’s a negative thing’ or ‘maybe it’s not a negative thing’…but why would we want to be labeled something? Why do we want to be put in a different category than all the other types of models? No one says ‘skinny model’, so am I wrong for not wanting a label? I don’t think so. And you know what, this younger generation of girls that are bigger and curvier, do they want to be called plus-sized at age 13 when they go to school? No. You just want to be a girl. I think it’s about getting with the times.”
At the end of the day, so long as super successful, unquestionably beautiful model Ashley Graham being named as a Sports Illustrated Rookie is considered news, we will still be far from accepting varying body types as the ideal.