Reshaping the Norm


By Micki Fahner

The world loves Adele. She's sassy, she's smart, and she's British—an undeniably badass combo. And if all that weren't enough, the soulful crooner proves that you can weigh more than 90 pounds and maintain beauty. In a world of stick-thin models and low-cal diets, it's refreshing that a curvy lady owns the limelight. And Adele isn't only one in an increasingly long line of plus-sized stars. The hilarious Melissa McCarthy and Lady Antebellum's Hillary Scott prove that more curvaceous looks are finally entering the mainstream.

And this is good—sort of.Yes, it's swell that Hollywood is warming up to different body types, but the fact that a woman's body is so scrutinized—whether big or small—reflects a larger problem in our current culture. We're taking cues for what's "normal" and "beautiful" from airbrushed models and Photoshopped images. The media needs to take some sort of responsibility. Fashion designers, beauty editors, and television producers dictate beauty's standards. They must accept that their efforts are shaping our culture, and not for the better.

This isn't a new phenomenon. Take the Sun-Maid Raisin's girl.The original mascot that appeared on the tiny raisin boxes in 1916 was pale and plump, reflecting that time period's standard of beauty, according to SU professor and art historian Judith Meighan. Since then, she has shrunk by an estimated 20 pounds, according to the feminist website In 2009, the raisin company came out with a new, computer-generated image of its Sun- Maid girl. She's skinny. She's tan. Jezebel. com even thinks she got a boob job.

From magazines to television to tiny raisin boxes, images of how we should look bombard us. Author and recognized body image expert Sarah Maria says that the media's strict interpretation of beauty is more detrimental than people realize. "You have women of every different body type and size, thinking that they need to look like a supermodel in order to be attractive. It's a very narrow vision of beauty that becomes a belief, a mindset, and an experience for women," she says.

Let's be real—the "shoulds" are unrealistic. Not all of us have million-dollar trainers to sculpt our asses, personal chefs to whip up zero-calorie delicacies, or makeup teams on-call to make us look flawless before hitting the grocery store.

It's fantastic that more body types are accepted in the mainstream, but we still have a long way to go. We've progressed from the days of anorexic models and fad diets, but that doesn't mean that it's okay to glorify the other extreme.

Approximately one third of adults are obese and overweight, yet it's estimated that 10 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder, according to the National Eating Disorder Association. With both ends of the spectrum gaining prevalence, the media has to be held accountable for perpetuating these images as the norm.

So while Adele may be a proudly curvaceous girl—and rightfully so—we know she's much more than that. Appreciate the sassy-Brit for her diva vocals and bangin' personality. And at the risk of sounding like Oprah or your ninth grade health teacher, let you define you.

The EditorsComment