Recently there have been two images popping up all over my twitter feed. The first is plus-sized model Erica Schenk who was on the cover of August’s Women’s Running and the second is Ymre Stiekema in Vogue Netherlands. Both images have attracted their fair share of criticism because as always a woman’s body must be commented on by the general public especially when the general public sees a confident women.
For Erica it’s the assumption that you can’t be fit, healthy, and overweight and that the image of her running (and looking like she is having a great time) normalises obesity. Ymre’s image on the other hand sets unrealistic expectations on new mums (it should be added that she looks as if she is having a great time running too).
There are so many issues I have with the comments and yet almost no issues with the images themselves. As that’s much easier to address I will talk about my issues with the images themselves:
- Does holding onto a buggy and running make it harder to run balanced? Are her knees going to suffer because of that buggy?
And that’s it.
Women can look however they like, wear whatever they like and work out. The fact that so many people have spent so much time criticising them shows how much ownership other people think they have over a women’s body. I’m sorry but some people really think that a large woman running normalises obesity or that a thin woman running puts pressure on all new mums? No. These women are allowed to look how they want to look and as long as no one forces me to be one or the other, I genuinely don’t care.
Both Erica and Ymre aren’t playing a part. They work out regularly and even though these images are highly stylised (where is the sweat?) you can tell that they are enjoying it. They both look healthy and strong and it annoys me so much when criticism puts women off from moving about and getting fitter. Running, spinning, HIIT training, swimming – none of them come with weight specifications and you can be fat or thin to do any of them.
These images represent diversity in sport, though very narrowed white diversity where only white people run or want to buy magazines / buggies (seriously do only white people run?). I am sure both Erica and Ymre feel proud of what their bodies can do and how far they can run, just as I do, and all the criticism being thrown at them seems to be against that pride, that self-respect. And that’s wrong.
Image credit: Women’s Running (US edition) and Vogue Netherlands