Oh my fellow gorgeous plus-sized land mermaids and glitter goddesses, will there ever come a day when celebrating our bodies isn't met with the same old stale cries of "but you can't possibly be healthy!"? That's what's happening now, as former supermodel Cheryl Tiegs criticized Ashley Graham and her history-making cover of Sports Illustrated. Tiegs said, in an interview with E! News, “I don’t like that we’re talking about full-figured women because it’s glamorizing them because your waist should be smaller than 35 [inches]." Yawn.
In case you were wondering where Tiegs got her medical degree, it's from the school of TV Doctors With Shaky Track Records, specifically Dr. Oz. “That’s what Dr. Oz said, and I’m sticking to it,” Tiegs said in the same interview. To my knowledge, Dr. Oz hasn't examined or treated Ashley Graham, but that's OK, because, clearly, if he says it on TV, it has to apply to all bodies. But there is a silver lining; Tiegs does think Graham has a pretty face. "Her face is beautiful. Beautiful. But I don’t think it’s healthy in the long run," Tiegs said. Triple sigh. Thank you for the most hated back-handed compliment in all of the bodysphere.
And the backlash hasn't really changed her opinion much. In a tweet responding to the deluge of comments she has received from the body positive and medical communities, Tiegs clarified that she thinks being full figured is just as unhealthy as being anorexic or bulimic. She just wants everyone to be healthy. Well, isn't that sweet.
If I seem like I'm being harsh on Tiegs, I am. Science has found again and again that while being above a certain weight could potentially complicate some medical conditions (in the same way being under a certain weight could complicate others), it doesn't necessarily cause them. And that you can be healthy at any size. The whole "fat = unhealthy" is simply not true. Not that someone should have to prove their clinical health status to, you know, be deemed worthy of visibility.
But what has me the most frustrated about Tiegs and her take on the celebration of "full figured women" is that it seems Tiegs has forgotten that she comes from, what some refer to as, a pool of genetic lottery winners. Meaning there are far, far more women in the world who look like Ashley Graham than Cheryl Tiegs. Graham is far closer to the size of the average American woman. Yet women like Tiegs get to be the standard for beauty, even though they are literally a single-digit percentage of our population. Looking like Tiegs is not possible for most women, yet we're told we're supposed to. So how many women has she shamed in a few well-meaning, but misinformed statements? Millions.
And that brings me to my next point. The effects of low self-esteem are incredibly damaging to a person's mental, emotional, and physical health. I'm not saying that Tiegs is solely responsible for causing low self-esteem and body shame, but I am saying that each time something like this happens, it adds another brick of shame to the already heavy backpack of low-self esteem many women carry around. Even women who report having high self-esteem often struggle with body positivity from time to time, according to DoSomething.org.
If Tiegs is truly worried about the health and safety of all women, then maybe she should stop judging, shaming, and insulting them. Telling the women of the world that we should not glamorize (read: celebrate) their bodies is not contributing anything positive or healthy to the conversation.
I feel really angry and sad that I have to say this, but remember, you have the right to love and celebrate your body no matter what size it is. Being "full-figured" doesn't mean you have to live in a cave of shame where no one "glamorizes" your body. Health and happiness are not just for the thin. We've heard it all before, Tiegs. It's time for some new material. Oh, and congrats, Ashley Graham. The world so clearly needs you.