Memo to the world: objectifying fat women is objectifying women

Just saw this from Buzzfeed on Miss Representation’s Facebook page:

Plus-size swimwear company Swimsuits for All set out to prove that “sexy curves go beyond a size four” by shooting its own swimwear calendar, including a picture reenacting this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.


Are you kidding me? Do you think I’d be any happier if my 3 daughters saw that picture in the Safeway checkout line instead of this one?


All right, maybe I’d be a smidgen happier that my kids wouldn’t have to see more starving women defined as beautiful, but my goals and expectations are so much higher than what this image from Swimsuits for All represents. I want to see images of women where they are not defined by their sexuality, by whether whomever is looking at them finds them sexy or not, where what they look like in bathing suits is not the be-all end-all, where who thinks they are attractive only matters in a very particular context, like when they are with someone who they love or want to have sex with.

Swimsuits for All is in the business of selling swimsuits. The company has got to sell its product, so posing women in the merchandise that it’s marketing makes sense. I’m not indicting the company, but pretending as if seeing this image all over the internet is liberating is ridiculous. Also, it might be nice to see the women swimming in their suits. What about playing volleyball on the beach? Building awesome sandcastles? Doing something? There could be a shot of a woman or two sunbathing, as long as the “aren’t I sexy” poses were not the dominant, ubiquitous ones.

I’ve written this for a long time, but “fat” women beauty contests don’t represent progress. Women no longer paraded as meat is progress.


Still confused or want to see more images to make this point? Please take a look at Reel Girl’s recent post: Why do men in America feel entitled to women? A gallery of reasons. You’ll see this famous painting by Manet along with contemporary images of dressed men paired with naked women.



8 thoughts on “Memo to the world: objectifying fat women is objectifying women

  1. Okay, I see your point about objectification. But the sports illustrated women aren’t starving. You cannot see their ribs poking out, nor any of their other bones. They look just as healthy as the Swimsuits for All women. I think we should stop accusing women of being unhealthy based on purely on appearance. Sure its pretty clear when a famous actress has started starving and her ribs poke out and she has a drug crazed look in her eyes–or an actress gains 50 lbs in a year. But otherwise lets keep some perspective. All those models could be fit and healthy based off of their beachy glowing faces and muscular smooth limbs and full chests.

    • Hi Sara,

      Unfortunately, in our culture, starving women are defined as beautiful, and this is the point I am making.


    • I can not speak to whether they are starving or not, but what we see here is a grossly altered version of femininity. The models are the base for the image, but Photoshop rules the day. If ribs are sticking out, they are airbrushed out – along with any other imperfections. Who knows what they really look like.

  2. There’s something kind of weird about that picture in comparison to the Sports Illustrated one. If it weren’t for the lack of bikini tops, it would look like a picture of three friends at the beach. Their poses are much less overtly sexual than the Sports Illustrated picture. And I don’t really get that. I mean, the company seems to be trying to say “You have a right to look and feel good, regardless of size”, but on the other hand the implication is still “But you won’t be as sexy as the skinny girls”.

  3. Yes and no. I agree with you absolutely. We should not have a world where your-worth-as-a-woman = your physical beauty. Full stop. The end goal is definitely to change the definition of beauty to mean character rather than appearance.

    Meanwhile…I’m a woman. I’ve managed to escape valuing myself (or not) according to my looks. But more than 99% of the world *does* judge me by my looks. I am fat. Currently according to society fat = ugly = worthless. This is not great for my everyday life, as you can imagine.

    Personally, I’ll take “expanding the beauty standard to include more people” as one of the steps along the road towards not using beauty to evaluate people at all. In Egypt, I’ve had some success convincing parents not to have their daughters’ genitals mutilated by pointing out that sexual desire is “in the blood” not the clitoris. I would get exactly nowhere with the argument “female sexuality is a beautiful thing and should be repressed”. Unfortunately, we can’t leap from extremely wrong to perfectly right in one second…there have to be interim steps along the way.

  4. Succinctly well put. I agree and I’m a Manet lover! I get so tired of HBO & other channels/networks/whatever showing full frontal female nudity and nary a naked male. Actually, when I see naked males on TV, I cringe. The entertainment industry, including TV, movies, video games, etc is here to “persuade” people to do things. Children are impressionable and the entertainment industry feeds them a diet of mostly crap.

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