It’s finally happening. You guys, it’s finally happening! The body-positive revolution is happening, and it will be televised... and tweeted, Periscoped, and Instagrammed. I’m usually not this chipper about the state of body acceptance and weight stigma in the world, but too many first steps have been made this year for this whole body-diversity trend we’re seeing to be a fad.
None of the things I’m gonna celebrate here adds up to much individually. But together? Together they’re a sign that, as model Ashley Graham said in her TEDx talk called Plus Size? More Like My Size, "This is the generation of body diversity. The current is changing." Take a look at the evidence:
1. Ashley Graham and Ronda Rousey on the COVER of the SI Swimsuit Issue
It was a big deal when curvy model Ashley Graham made it into the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue in 2015 in a mere advertisement. One year later? Homegirl is on the damn cover—and she’s owning it. There are three different covers this year, the other two featuring kick-ass UFC bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey and straight-size Brigitte-Bardot-esque model Hailey Clauson.
The ads don’t disappoint this year, either: Online swimwear shop Swimsuits For All is running three full pages featuring not one, not two, but three diverse visions of beauty all wearing the same gold swimsuit: the gray-haired 56-year-old Nicola Griffin, the aforementioned Ashley Graham, and British model/activist Philomena Kwao. That’s Don Draper-level ad work.
2. Bye-Bye “Bikini Body”
When I first heard that Women’s Health banned the phrases “bikini body” and “drop two sizes” from the cover of the magazine, I was a bit cynical about the change. I worked at women’s magazines for years, and WH is hardly the first to do a reader survey to find out what’s working (or not), or take steps toward being more inclusive and body positive.
But despite the fact that readers were still buying the old, more-aggro version of the magazine in droves, new(ish) editor in chief Amy Keller Laird is doing more than nixing a couple of old-fashioned, outdated cover lines. She’s introducing some DNA-level changes to the magazine’s attitude and tone, as evidenced by the #GuiltFreeFitness campaign and support of working moms with #PaidLeavePays. Magazine editors often have their own individual pet peeves when it comes to words used on the cover and in copy, and I’ve got a hunch long-time Women’s Health-er Keller Laird has been itching to make these changes for a while. Good on her for making it happen.
‘Cause all girls deserve pretty, comfy underwear. Now if only Target U.S. would advertise their undies this way! (Actually, a little bird told me they may be about to. So, keep your eyes peeled.)
As tempting as it may be to sit back after these strides and rest on our confident, feminist laurels, we can’t. The real hero behind each and every one of these positive steps isn’t a manufacturer, or a magazine editor, or an ad agency, it’s you. So my bottom line is: GO, YOU. Because these brands are all responding to the demands you have made, via your spending dollars and vocal feedback. Let's keep going! When you see something you don't like, quit buying/watching/reading and, this is key, tweet the editors or write on the brand's Facebook wall to tell them why. You can, and will make even more change happen.
Sunny Sea Gold is Greatist’s body image columnist and the author of Food: The Good Girl’s Drug—How to Stop Using Food to Control Your Feelings (Berkley Books, 2011). A health journalist by trade and a mom of two little girls, she’s also an advocate and educator focused on reducing the rates of childhood obesity and eating disorders by building Body-Positive Families. Reach out to her at @SunnySeaGold.