- Posted October 19, 2013 by
New York, New York
Team iReport featured this story
This iReport is part of an assignment:
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Creating a Backlash to the Backlash: Why Elle Got it Right
- Jareen, CNN iReport producer
So about that Elle cover with Melissa McCarthy. It's been making quite the stir hasn't it? But I wonder, and I'm sure I'm not the only one, if all the backlash is a little misguided.
Like many others that saw the preview of the cover, my first thought was that it was groundbreaking. A plus-sized woman on the cover and it's not just her face a'la Gabourey Sidibe or Adele. I was pleased at what was almost a head to toe shot of her. She looked chic, glamorous and I loved her hair. And that coat! I'm not plus-sized and the fact that a plus-sized woman wore something in a magazine that had me searching for the designer (it's Marina Rinaldi by the way) is nothing short of remarkable. My second thought was, hmm, they sure made it a point to cover every inch of her, but it was fleeting and was quickly overrided by that fabulous coat. Unfortunately, it's that second thought, which was in my head but a second, that the rest of the media ran away with like a runaway freight train.
From CNN to Fashionista, we can't get away from reading about the backlash against Elle for covering up Melissa's body. The accusations of fat-shaming abound and those critics buoyed by their self-righteous anger (some of which seems feigned) comment in such a way to elicit guilt if you feel an ounce of disagreement. Case in point, model Cynthia Bailey commented on Good Morning America "What a missed opportunity to represent all the curvy girls of the world". It is said in such a way that a person would seem heartless to disagree. Even I, who pride myself on being able to read between the lines of mainstream media and am fiercely independent in my way of thinking, felt myself being reeled into the general outrage, as well as feeling slightly ashamed for loving how she looked in that coat. It really is a great coat. That is, until I read this...
"McCarthy’s hair covers a quarter of her gorgeous face, and with her hands stuffed deep into her coat pockets, the only visible flesh is a tiny triangle between the coat’s lapels and the briefest glimpse of calf."
This quote from Slate culture editor June Thomas is the shot heard 'round the web and has been repeated by almost every news outlet that has covered this topic. It's meant to provide a written affirmation of the injustice. However, in my case, it tossed me out of the herd.
Is this what plus-sized acceptance is supposed to mean? The willingness of magazines to expose more skin on the cover? Are we saying that being covered up and classy isn't sexy? Because that's how it sounds to me. If you look at Melissa McCarthy's cover the way it was intended and then do a general google search of fashion magazines, the unnecessary flashes of skin and provocative poses become ever more apparent in comparison. In this era of sex tape fame and established actresses posing almost naked for mainstream publications just for exposure, shouldn't we be applauding Melissa for showing us what sexy really is?
Because sexy is not always exposing every ounce of your body. Sometimes, it's in a look. Like a single eye peeking out from expertly tousled hair. Sometimes it's the idea of what's hidden underneath an article of clothing, like a chic menswear-inspired coat. And sometimes it's just in a face. Adele's Vogue UK cover was one of the magazine's bestsellers that year.
So here's what I think. Instead of asking us to define what is sexy for a plus-sized woman. Maybe we should look to them for inspiration instead...as well as our dignity.