Robyn Lawley, a plus-size model? No, and saying so is dangerous for women’s and girls’ mental health


By Olivia Estes

Robyn Lawley recently appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a fresh-faced, full-figured woman, redefining society’s idea of beauty.

Lawley, a native Australian, has graced the covers of Vogue Italia and Elle France, among other highly esteemed magazines.

She has been highly successful in her career as a plus-size model, but has only recently gained more public recognition as a result of her Sports Illustrated cover.

This public recognition, however, has sparked controversy about the definition of “plus-size,” and how Lawley’s label as such can be dangerous for young, adolescent girls as they mature into women.

Over the years, society’s definition of beauty has been constantly changing, from the image of Marilyn Monroe to Kate Moss to Kate Upton.

History, in this sense, has a tendency to repeat itself. Marilyn Monroe, the full-figured beauty icon, once represented the ideal vision that women desired to look like.

Kate Moss, the super-skinny model, created new stereotypes, as she embodied the tiny, shorter image that altered the view of what a model previously looked like, and revolutionized the fashion world, establishing the era of “skinny.”

Recently, however, it seems society has returned to the fuller-figured woman, with the growing popularity of Kate Upton.

This shifting trend in the definition of beauty makes it difficult for women to keep up.

However, what the public should be more concerned with is the label of plus size, and how women such as Kate Upton and Robyn Lawley fit this label.

While both are significantly larger than runway models, their size-12 bodies don’t even reach the average size of most American women — the average size of whom is a typical size 14.

For young girls, this can be detrimental to their body image and bring about anorexic or bulimic disorders.

The impressionable mind of the young female is fragile, and society should be aware of this growing problem.

Lawley, who was in her first trimester of pregnancy during her cover shoot, upped her exercise routine with yoga and kickboxing to prepare for her cover moment.

If a plus-size model is altering her exercise routine to appear on the cover of a magazine that hired her because she is plus size, then what is this saying about our notion of being plus size?

Lawley, in an interview with Kathleen Hou, shared her concern about the mindset of women today: “Why are we so focused on having the girl fit the clothes rather than the clothes fit the girls?”

A plus-size model should be proud of her curves and instill a healthier mindset for young women today, rather than make them feel even larger than they probably are.

If women like Kate Upton and Robyn Lawley are setting the standards for what society deems “plus size,” then steps need to be taken in order to mend the broken mindset of the media.

The media, in fact, plays a pivotal role in the establishment of social norms.

How are women supposed to feel good about themselves when they are comparing themselves to Victoria Secret models? These ideals are unrealistic.

Throughout history, the media has created a precedent that people are expected to emulate.

In this way, the media largely acts as a propaganda tool, maintaining and creating stereotypes.

The power that the media subsequently has can be dangerous in many ways.

In the 1960s, for example, the media, especially women’s magazines, promoted the ideal of the housewife.

These magazines featured advertisements for products that maintained this image; the consumer products were primarily in the areas of housekeeping, childcare, cleaning, beauty and tending to the husband.

Through these ads, women felt they needed to fulfill this image.

Similarly, women today feel they should look a certain way as a result of the media and the image of beauty it conveys.

Figures like Robyn Lawley create hope for young women who don’t naturally have the quintessential “model” appearance.

However, this hope is destroyed when our definition of plus size is someone that hardly meets the reality of it.

Figures like Lawley remind us of media’s powerful role in shaping the minds of its consumers.

In this case, the media is advancing an idealistic image rather than a tangible product.

The commodification of the woman’s body has created a huge industry that thrives on the notion that all women should and must look this way in order to feel fulfillment.

In large part, the media has succeeded in creating this desire, and has ultimate control over new trends and stereotypes.

In order to deconstruct this societal machine, readers, viewers and consumers must take what the media presents with a grain of salt.

Robyn Lawley is a beautiful, relatively larger-sized model that recently graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, but she is by no means “plus size,” and that is precisely the problem.


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