H&M: Baby Steps, or Just Another Publicity Stunt?

by diamondstoglass

Hey there cyberspace explorers, diamondstoglass here! Today I am approaching some vocabulary that may seem harmless, but has proven to pack some punch.  In today’s media climate, words like “plus-sized” and “average” hold a lot more meaning than they have in the past.    Instead of arguing over the finite details of connotation, I simply would like to offer up some facts to put everything in perspective, while examining H&M’s 2013 plus-size swimwear campaign.

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I recently received a link to an article from TIME discussing clothing retailer H&M, and the use of Jennie Runk in their plus-sized swimwear campaign for the 2013 season.  H&M received a lot of media attention and praise for the campaign, displaying the size 12 model in a variety of suits, including a two-piece bikini that shamelessly shows “a tiny bit of roll over her bathing suit bottom” and touching thighs.  I love the way these photos allow for diverse beauty that transcends the double zero standards rampant in the current fashion world.

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However, if you scroll down to read the comments on these photos, there is still plenty of criticism coming from two opposing sides.  On one hand, some people are upset that Runk is only being used for a “plus-sized” campaign, despite the fact she is still smaller than the average American woman, size 14.  These people argue that it is wrong to call a size 12 “plus-sized” if it is below the national average.  The other group argues that a size 12 IS considered plus sized for other countries and notes that H&M is technically a Swedish company.  Some people also brought up the point that the American average is unhealthy, and promoting a larger size as plus-sized would only encourage U.S. obesity.

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After reading all this, I did a little bit of research.  According to the CDC, the average adult woman’s BMI in America is currently a 26.5, while the healthy BMI range is between about 19-25.  This brings to question whether our concept of “average” should be viewed from a national standpoint or a health position.  I see the value of both sides, and I will leave you to develop your own opinion about how the American media interprets “average.”

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Science, terminology, and numbers aside, I do believe these photos should be celebrated as a small win. In a world full of many sizes, shapes, and cultures, diversity in representation is a positive thing for women and the media.  The article also brings up controversy in H&M’s past, using model’s faces on a CGI body to advertise their clothing.  The vast sea of concerns related to that goes without saying.  In relation to the Point Five Project, my opinion is that beauty is something that should be celebrated in all its shapes and sizes.  One of the most positive things about these photos is that H&M does not seem to be trying to hide Runk’s body or perfect her.  Photoshop is a great tool, but when media images begin to transcend reality, real human beings simply can not compare.  I don’t think “real beauty” needs to be so much about size as it should be about portraying beauty and women as they actually are, diverse and unique.

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Until next time, stay terribly beautiful!

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