Body shamers typically emerge from their turtlenecks around this time of year. They shed their down parkas and fur-lined boots just in time to judge those who feel comfortable in their own skin. Dana Duggan, swimsuit designer for South Shore Swimwear, started the season off with a splash when she decided to attack Amy Schumer’s recent swim-inspired InStyle magazine spread. Duggan took to the publication’s Instagram account to publicly voice her ugly opinion regarding May’s “beauty issue” cover model.
“Come on now! You could not find anyone better for this cover? Not everyone should be in a swimsuit,” Duggan wrote under the guise of her swimwear brand, no less.
Schumer appears on the cover wearing a white, one-piece Ralph Lauren swimsuit, and it’s not hard to see that she’s looking her best and loving her life from that image alone. Duggan’s comment, however, contradicts the issue’s overall message by fixating on the fact that Schumer—like most American women—isn’t your average model. Many followers responded by reminding Duggan that Schumer’s a real woman with a real body, and that bodies of all shapes and sizes are beautiful in their own way. Unlike traditional models, Schumer represents the everywoman, and that’s refreshing to see in today’s sea of size 2s. Her confidence demonstrates that women don’t have to be stick-thin to be gorgeous. She’s beautiful without feeling the need to conform to society’s preconceived notions of perfection.
While Duggan went on to defend her claims that Schumer looks “like a pig” by citing the first amendment, she also told The Huffington Post that she’s “tired of the media and publications trying to push the FAT agenda. It’s not healthy and it’s not pretty. What is wrong with featuring healthy and fit cover models?”
But it’s in that statement alone that she proves her opinions are motivated by nothing more than pure ignorance. She cannot assess Schumer’s health from this or any image, and she cannot claim this cover supports the so-called “fat” agenda when Schumer’s size 6-8 frame doesn’t even come close to the average American woman’s dress size. (Hint: It’s 16.) We’ve cultivated an acidic attitude toward female body image that’s permeated our society to its core.
Many believe women should maintain an unattainable visual aesthetic in order to satisfy the public’s gaze. Even though much has changed in recent years, such societal pressures still remain.
Luckily, thanks to magazine covers and other such public displays of defiance, we now see images that reinforce the idea that beauty isn’t only skin deep. We now praise women for their actions, not their appearance. And those who still face judgment over their looks no longer back down in the face of criticism. Instead, they stand up for themselves and for others in an effort to command the respect they deserve.
True beauty lies with our diversity, but we are still too stuck on conformity to recognize the best of what’s before us. Perhaps, if we’re constantly confronted with cover models that look more like Schumer, we will finally come to see and accept the beauty already in our midst.
(This post originally appeared on Storia.)