Last week, the Internet was aflutter that Sports Illustrated had put a “plus size” model in its swimsuit issue. This week, I keep hearing buzz about Cindy Crawford’s bravery for allowing this unretouched photo of her forty-something-year-old body to be printed in Marie Claire.
This all is supposed to make me happy, I know. It’s supposed to make me feel empowered. It’s supposed to make me feel that gender and beauty norms are changing, that acceptance is on the rise, and that it is finally okay to love myself the way I am. But I find it a little disquieting that the very industry that planted all the seeds of this negative body imagery is now trying to dictate “the new thing,” like feeling good about the reality of who you are is the hottest new trend.
I also can’t help but wonder if it’s healthy to try to look at the old issue of “body as object” in a new light. Instead of telling women, “You are not a thing to be looked at. You are a being of infinite wonder and potential,” these new messages say, “It’s okay to be a chipped vase. Chips are beautiful.” It still makes us parade ourselves out there in our underwear. I don’t want to told that my “imperfections” are okay, that the lines etched on my body from making humans are a thing to be tolerated. I want to focus on the infinite things I can hold and say and do, out there in the field where I am more than a thing to be looked at. I want that for all of us.
I want courage to be more about the stands we take and the lives we touch and not about the ways in which we’ll let ourselves be displayed.
I love Cindy Crawford. She is an icon of my youth. I don’t want to criticize her. I just want to love her for the amazing life she’s lived and not sacrifice her on the altar of aging. I appreciate what she’s trying to do, perhaps to reverse some of the damage she’s inadvertently done by playing into a machine that airbrushed her into an impossible-to-achieve image of perfection that made so many women feel small. But I wish we all could let it go and be something better than this.