Huzzah! More sexualised images of women served up by the fashion and beauty industry
Here’s some photos from the latest issue of Vogue Italia featuring Australian model Robyn Lawley, with two other plus-sized models, Tara Lynn and Candice Huffine.
The colloqial expression “Huzzah” was deployed recently to describe the inclusion of the size 14 Lawley on the cover and inside, as though this is some world-shaking victory.
The ‘plus size beauties’ lean over plates of spaghetti in their lingerie. Lawley sits with legs spread. In other images two models loll around topless on a chair in a boudoir-like setting. Another lays back over a couch in corsetry. The expressions are of high-class glamourous seduction.
I am not contesting that they are beautiful women, and the images are visually rich. The question I ask is, why is stripping off and sexualising larger-sized women a great victory? How is depicting them as semi-naked sexual adornments like their skinnier sisters, a reason to celebrate?
And given that size 14 is an average size why is it being called a ‘plus size’ anyway?
I also wonder if these models didn’t have classic model facial features and large breasts, whether their ‘larger’ bodies would ever have made it on any magazine.
Simply using curvier bodies doesn’t change the primary aim of presenting women in magazines like Vogue, as sexually alluring. The baring of female flesh – even when the flesh comes packaged as something other than an eight or ten – is still what counts. But the flesh has to be of an ‘acceptable’ kind in the first place. Size 14 isn’t that radical.
Regarding Lawley’s positioning on the Vogue cover, according to her mother (as reported by Frockwriter) the photographer asked Lawley to sit how she would sit if she were a really powerful person.
I’m not sure it’s power that comes across in the image. Sure, if she were a man in a pinstriped suit perhaps. I just don’t see that many men sitting that way in corsets and suspenders. Or perhaps I don’t get invited to meetings of business men sitting around in their jocks with their legs apart.
Sitting spread legged in sexy lingerie directs our gaze and suggests sexual availability not ‘I’m planning a company takeover’.
Vogue Italia’s editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani recently told Women’s Wear Daily, “We help [plus-size women] dress fashionably.
Which is kind of funny given the three curvy models aren’t wearing all that much in some of the shots. Perhaps she should have said, “we tell ‘plus-size women how to take their clothes off to make them more acceptable”.
And while I appreciate that Sozzani has launched a petition against pro-anorexia websites, I share Patti Huntington’s view that this is also somewhat ironic.
Last year I ran a thoughtful guest post by Ethel Tungohan titled ‘Plus size models a tokenistic attempt at inclusion’. Ethel wrote:
A quick look at plus-size fashion shoots show that plus-size models are usually shown as naked. Though fashion editors can easily justify the nudity of plus-size models by asserting that women’s bodies should be shown in all their glory, it is bizarre that a large number of plus-size fashion spreads hardly seem to have any fashion content, preferring instead to depict plus-size models in one of two ways: either they are overly sexualized or they are revered for being ‘real’….
It’s too early for Huzzah.