opinion

Critics say they're 'concerned' that overweight women walked the runway. They're lying.

Late last month, a glorious thing happened on a catwalk in Miami.

Women of various shapes and ethnicities modelled swimsuits that ranged in size from a two to a 20, for the Sports Illustrated 2018 runway show. Sports Illustrated famously publish an annual swimsuit issue where the most slim and famous supermodels in the world pose in glamorous locations. Elle Macpherson, Tyra Banks, Kate Upton and Lily Aldridge have all appeared on the cover.

At the show in Miami, nobody was expecting anyone larger than an American size zero to walk the runway.

So when the “curvy girls” came out, the editor of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit said, “the crowd lost their minds”.

LISTEN: What exactly is Victoria’s ‘Secret’? Monique Bowley, Mia Freedman and I discuss. Post continues below. 

“I think they were shocked because you don’t typically see that at fashion week … especially at swim fashion week,” MJ Day (who is herself plus-size) told the New York Post. “Some people [in the audience] were moved to tears because they saw themselves represented on the runway, which they never thought they would.”

When you watch footage of the 12 minute show, the sense of gratitude from the audience is palpable. Their applause says, “Thank you for seeing us”. In front of them are a variety of women, just like you or I.

These women radiate confidence, regardless of whether or not their size is perpetually prefaced by the word ‘plus’.

But it wasn’t long before moral panic swiftly descended upon their parade. Because of course it did.

You see, according to a number of social commentators, what Sports Illustrated did was awfully irresponsible.

Apparently, looking at these beautiful, healthy, confident women in swimwear will make us all fat. And fat obviously means obese and obese means unhealthy and unhealthy means dead soon, so these women – and photos of them –  should be removed from the public eye immediately.

Image via Getty.
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"Glorifying size 20-somethings on any runway promotes an underlying and irresponsible message that doing nothing about your weight is OK," wrote Soraiya Fuda a columnist for The Daily Telegraph.

[Pause - who said anything about them 'doing nothing' about their weight? How does anyone know about the diet, exercise or health routines of a woman by looking at her?]

According to Fuda though, putting "fat people on the runway feels like giving up," and it's important we recognise that obesity, "increases your chance of heart disease and stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure." People classified as obese have a significantly shorter life expectancy, Fuda tells us.

Dr Frankum, the Australia Medical Association NSW president, added that he's all for "being confident", but not at the expense of promoting unhealthy messages. "Just like we don’t use cigarettes to promote products I don’t think we should have unhealthy weights promoting products," Frankum said.

But, hang on.

Cigarette smoking is a behaviour. Having a body is... not.

There is nothing to tell us that these women are unhealthy. They did not walk the runway with a blood pressure machine attached to their right arm, or their blood test results tattooed on their back. They did not use their platform to yell, "WOOHOO, DON'T EXERCISE AND INJECT SUGAR INTO YOUR VEINS IT WILL MAKE YOU SEXY."

Image via Getty.
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The women in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit runway show, promoted one thing, and one thing only.

Swimsuits.

And they did that very well.

Not every woman has her fat or muscle mass distributed in the same way. Every body is different.  Having a big bottom or thick thighs or a round tummy does not necessarily equal obesity let alone poor health. Is there only one type of woman's body which can be celebrated or even appear in public wearing a swimsuit?

Well, yes.

Because, you see, according to some people there were women in the show who were obese. Again we don't know that to be true, but we also can't definitively disprove it. And, obesity can cause health issues. Has nobody told them?

Is this woman really obese? Image via Getty.

Goodness me. You really do learn something new everyday.

As hard as we've worked as a society to ensure that every 'fat' person passionately hates themselves, and as much as we've yelled about how being overweight can lead to poor health outcomes (if that strategy actually worked, we wouldn't have an ounce of fat between us) somehow, a bunch of women who didn't look like Heidi Klum managed to like themselves for 12 minutes last month. They accepted themselves for who they were at that very second, rather than desperately working to fix it.

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People aren't 'concerned'. They're angry.

Someone's body is not a perfect representation of their health. You cannot read someone's lifestyle simply by looking at them. The fashion industry, ironically, have been trying to convince us of that for decades. Just because a model is 'underweight', they tell us, doesn't mean she's starving herself.

But according to the critics, there is only one healthy size. At no point do they specify what that size actually is, but apparently it exists.

This model's health avoided discussion. Image via Getty.

To some, it seems a woman's right to be represented in public space comes down to the size written on the tag tucked inside her jeans. Or swimsuit.

If she is above a size 12, not only should her body never step foot on a runway, but she should not be allowed to see what clothes will look like on her frame before buying them. In fact, she should own no nice clothes. She certainly should never try and be sexy. Even by walking down the street, daring to have a body, she is likely encouraging others to gorge on junk food and cancel their gym subscriptions. Rather, she should lock all her doors, sit in her bedroom, and reflect on the awful, inexcusable sin she has committed.

But here's a little secret I'll let you in on.

Some women above a size 12 have money. And some women above a size 12, can even swim. The purpose of this runway show was to sell swimming costumes to that, quite substantial, demographic.

And in the process, they also happened to make a damn lot of women feel good about themselves.

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