aka Why We Need to Stop Using the Word Normal

Everyone struggles with body image – even the people you think might not struggle.

Compounding this struggle with body image is the fact that the media tends to include one particular body type.

The recent inclusion of model Ashley Graham in an advertisement in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition has caused quite a stir.

The cover model, Hannah Davis, has also caused quite a stir.


Let’s examine this more closely.

Hannah Davis has the body type that we are used to seeing on magazine covers. We think she’s gorgeous. She is receiving quite a bit of criticism for pulling down her bikini bottoms – this was seen by some as unnecessarily sexual or demeaning, depending on the person. (We do wonder if Ashley Graham had posed in the same way, if she would have received the same criticism as Hannah did, but that’s another story.) The magazine Hannah was on the cover of routinely receives criticism for not featuring “normal” sized woman.

Enter Ashley Graham. Ashley does not have the body type that we are used to seeing on magazine covers. Like Hannah, we think Ashley is gorgeous. She received criticism for not representing a “real” plus-sized woman, despite being touted as such. “They call size 12 a plus size?! HA!” However, there were also plenty of people who applauded the magazine for including her (although we will point out that it was an ad by a company who sells plus sized bathing suits – it isn’t like they are doing anyone but themselves a favour by using Ashley as their model).


There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all, Ashely gets shamed for not being “plus sized” enough.

Should she be ashamed of her body because it isn’t “normal” enough? Because she doesn’t really represent the average North American woman?

Now replace Ashley’s name with Hannah’s in the above paragraph.

See? Same shame, different target.

We can’t win here. If we happen to have a body type similar to the current “ideal”, we are shamed for it, aren’t “healthy”, or are told we don’t have a “normal” body type. If we happen to have a body that is considered “plus size”, we either aren’t “normal” enough (ie we aren’t plus size enough), or we are fat and unhealthy.


Why is it okay to claim that men prefer curves, but not okay to say that men prefer small thighs? Why is it okay to refer to Ashley Graham as a normal and healthy woman, but assume Hannah Davis isn’t healthy or normal?

“Fat” shaming is not okay, but “skinny” shaming is? Why should Hannah Davis feel bad about her body because it doesn’t represent a “normal” woman? Why should Ashley Graham feel bad about her body because it doesn’t represent a “normal” woman?

When are we going to learn that NEITHER ONE is ok?

When can we stop talking about “normal”? What IS normal? If it isn’t Hannah Davis, but it also isn’t Ashley Graham, what is it?

Oh, that’s right.

We can’t define normal because it doesn’t exist. Not only that, it is counterproductive to even try and pinpoint “normal”. There is far too much diversity to try to focus on one type.

Both Ashley and Hannah are beautiful women. One isn’t necessarily more normal or healthy than the other (and we certainly can’t judge that based on a photograph). We need to stop using the word “normal”, or “plus size”, because then we reduce these beautiful women to their body shape alone. Ashley is just a model, not a plus size model. Hannah is just a model, not a skinny model.

Instead of shaming one body type, and pushing for another, let’s push for variety.

One body type isn’t better than another, it’s just different.

And different is awesome.


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