I’m Too Sexy for the Catwalk

Crystal Card '16Contributing Writer

Attending a women’s college has cemented my belief that there is no such thing as an ugly woman. Whether I am rushing through Seelye, studying in Neilson or shopping downtown, I am sure to pass dozens of beautiful women. I see economics majors dusted with freckles, volleyball players jumping on strong thighs and Quad girls proudly displaying their rounded belly buttons in crop tops and skirts — and I always find myself envying some bit of their beauty. Not once have I looked at a student here and found their body to be anything less than fascinating. I admit, though, that we live in a bubble of supposed body positivity, female empowerment and seclusion from the world of high fashion. In fact, I’m pretty sure flannel and overalls are about as high fashion as Western Massachusetts can get. And yet I cannot find this sort of body acceptance for myself. Today, as a senior at Smith College with three years of a feminist education under my belt, I cannot help but feel that that belt is maybe just a few sizes too big. A trip to the mall has been known to bring me to tears, I have hyperventilated in more dining hall bathrooms than I’d care to admit and there are very few days where I can look in my mirror and think, “Damn, I look good.” But, who is to blame for this? On Sept. 10, 70 years’ worth of big skirts, high heels and incredibly impractical designs hit New York City’s runways. Designers from Givenchy, Calvin Klein, Idan Cohen, Thomas Wyld and Naeem Khan were present, and in their diverse fashions, audience members could see their own likenesses reflected. I joke that our corner of New England is devoid of fashion, but anyone who has ever walked through the Campus Center knows that Smithies know how to dress and showcase their unique and independent personalities through the medium of clothing. Many of the styles we are seeing in our classrooms — choker collars, A-line minis, minimalist designs, ’70s throwbacks — were showcased on the runways of big cities. Unfortunately, instead of appearing on the bodies of well-adjusted, healthy young women, they often were worn on the back of what appear to be dangerously thin models. I am not going to waste time by telling you the fashion world is in a crisis with their models and the harmful impact these images have on young women. We go to Smith College — we know the dangers of unachievably high expectations (in more ways than one). This is what I want to know: Why is this body in vogue now? How are we, as a society (can we call ourselves, the collective feminine, a community?) fighting against this representation of a supposedly ideal body type? According to Lane Bryant’s #PlusIsEqual campaign, 67 percent of U.S. women are a size 14-34. Unfortunately, we are not seeing that kind of diversity on the runway. Instead, size 16 model Ashley Graham is considered the token “big girl” amid a sea of thin models. She is the fashion industry’s way of patting itself on the back: “Look,” they say, “we’ve changed. We’re letting big girls in now too.” In an effort to show support for Graham — and the 67 percent of women in the United States who cannot watch fashion week and feel like their bodies or their existence have any right to venture into the world of luxury and fashion — Lane Bryant launched a social media campaign to bring validity to the plus-size experience. Through Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, women are sharing empowering messages of body positivity, serving as a reminder that not all bodies have to look like those seen on the runway — and that plus-size bodies are every bit as beautiful, strong and worth being seen. Because isn’t that what we all want — to be seen? Personally, as I pored over photographs from Fashion Week and soaked up the images of the season’s looks, I wondered what the reasoning was behind the model selection by celebrities like Victoria Beckham and Kanye West. Kanye is known for his infamous wife Kim K, whose curves are so voluptuous they once broke the internet, and yet his models all looked more like her sister Kendall — thin and angular. Victoria Beckham once sang about girl power and encouraged women to love fashion and themselves, but now she is most often in the headlines for her own body dysmorphia and the apparent unhealthiness of the models she uses on the runway. Our own pride in our bodies (you rock those crop tops!) and movements like #PlusIsEqual will hopefully one day help to add a little more diversity to the runways. For now, I hope we can all try to find something beautiful in ourselves the same way we find beauty in those around us. Too

often we are crueler to our own bodies than any enemy ever would be. It is time that the war on our bodies ends, and we must start with our own negative thoughts. Whether you are fascinatingly androgynous with a slim chest, flat stomach and narrow hips, stunningly curvaceous with swinging hips and a plump middle, or if you are fiercely strong with arms and legs that can pull you up a mountain or swirl you around a dance floor — or if, like many of us, you are somewhere in between — remember that all our bodies are equal. The moment you start to believe that, I promise your world will become a much happier place.