Archive for March, 2012
The Skinny on Swift’s “Curves”
Monday, March 19th, 2012

Doesn’t Taylor Swift have enough?

By any standard, the country goddess has an enviable life. She’s a powerfully influential—some would say inescapable—presence whose talent, good looks and smart career management have awarded her magazine covers, commercial endorsements, untold millions and goo-gobs of fans. I appreciate how at 22, she demonstrates enough class and humility to remain likable despite the unavoidability of her music and image.

So I have no bone to pick with the pop princess or with her power to influence. The “bone” that irks me is the oft-subtle skin-and-bones obsession infecting the media, as illustrated by a recent photo of Swift whose caption suggests she has even more than a generous fate granted her. The pic was brought to my attention by a male friend who admires the singer but was puzzled by the teaser that promoted the shot of Swift strolling  on an Australian beach as she “shows off [her] curves.” The photo’s caption, too, suggests that the lean body in the striped swimsuit is curvy.

There are lots of accurate, positive descriptions for Taylor’s bikini bod, including “willowy,” “slender,” “fit” and “cute.” But curves? Griped my friend: “She has hardly any butt or boobs… Shouldn’t the word ‘curves’ be reserved for bigger, shapelier women, who don’t get enough love in our skinny-obsessed world?”

Few would deny Swift’s slimness; even fewer would suggest there’s anything wrong with it. Indeed, leanness is generally healthier, and in an increasingly overweight nation that worships thinness, millions of women would envy the singer the metabolism and/or workout that fuels her size-0 proportions. To be honest, my first thought upon hearing my friend’s dismay about the pic was that he’d been hoping that Swift was revealing the more voluptuous, Sports Illustrated-type proportions—think Kim Kardasian—he prefers.

But the longer I stared at the photo, the more I saw his point. Just as open-hearted people appreciate human beings of every shade, age and culture, it matters in a diverse world that different body types be embraced. The media have tremendous power to influence people—especially the young. In Brothers (and me), I describe the difficulty I had as a girl accepting my own curves in an era in which black women’s ample lower-body upholstery was invisible in the white-dominated media. Lauding a woman as teensy as Swift for her nonexistent curviness isn’t just inaccurate; it’s insidious. It whispers that truly curvy women—the Beyonces, Sophia Vergaras, Adeles and Jennifer Hudsons of the world—are  humongous. That’s a powerful, if subtle, message, and the last one normal-sized and fuller-figured women and girls—some of whom experiment with crazy diets, harsh fitness regimens and eating disorders in their quest for Swift-ian slimness—need to hear.

So though I’m cool with Swift’s leanness, I say more power to the not-so-little people. Whatever healthy size they are.




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