CW: Body Shaming, Eating Disorders, includes hate tweets on the same
This is Healthy
'This is healthy.' was the tagline of Cosmopolitan Magazine UK's February2021 edition as the cover featured three women of with varying body types, namely track and field athlete Morgan Lake, fitness influencer and disability rights advocate Sophie Butler and plus-size blogger Callie Thorpe. Along with this, the magazine shared nine covers for the same issue on their Instagram @cosmopolitanuk and wrote ''These 11 incredible women with 11 very different bodies are proving wellness isn’t one-size-fits all."
While Cosmopolitan's plan was to promote inclusivity, diversity and the different dimensions of health, everyone certainly didn't take it that way.
Criticism and 'Concerns'
Cosmopolitan UK was subjected to increasing backlash as people accused them of glorifying obesity and desensitising the public towards bingeing. The magazine was called 'shamefully irresponsible' for promoting unhealthy lifestyles in the middle of a global pandemic.
Piers Morgan, a broadcaster and journalist, was open about his criticism on Good Morning Britain as he said that ''There’s nothing to celebrate about being obese in the middle of a pandemic, where you have a 70 per cent bigger chance of being ill with coronavirus if you are obese.''
He made similar comments on his Instagram in 2018 when Cosmopolitan featured Tess Holliday, another plus size model on their cover. He went as far as to say that the cover is 'dangerous &misguided.'
Many readers took to twitter to express their opinion
Body Types vs Body Standards
The public also showed their distaste over the cover by comparing 'large bodies' to binge eating and claiming that it normalised it the same way slender models lead to a rise in EDs such as anorexia. Now, this is a common misconception. An individual's physical body type has nothing to do with a disorder they may have. However, societal pressure and expectations to have the perfect body has definitely played a part in this.
Despite the backlash, the magazine has attracted a lot of and a large number of people have reiterated the positive impact of inclusivity, specially since, there is a visible lack of diversity, both in the modelling industry and otherwise.
Many have defended the cover and one of the models Callie Thorpe said, “It’s not lost on me that we have all survived the perhaps one of the most challenging years of our lives. And now more than ever it’s clear that mental health is so important and health isn’t linear”.
Another plus size model, Tess Holliday, who was featured on a Cosmopolitan cover in 2018, herself started a viral hashtag called #EffYourBeautyStandards. The plus-size model movement took flight in an era where online campaigns to highlight the need for diversity in various industries was at an all time peak.
Cosmopolitan had a lot to say for the matter and they fully stand by their actions. They went on to say that “Healthy” can be a loaded word and they want each person to reclaim it as their own. Their aim is to make sure that no-one feels excluded from the wellness space and to continue to inspire and uplift people, irrespective of their position in their own healthcare journey, whether physical or mental.
With so many people appreciating the efforts of Cosmopolitan Magazine UK in taking this step to feature more body types than the 'default', we start to question the validity of these criticisms.
Are these valid health concerns or simply an excuse for fat phobia?
'Fat phobia' literally means 'dislike of fat people'. This comes from the fact that the idea of wellness and health are one dimensional. Even if the criticism is based off of health concerns, it usually takes the form of disrespect and targeted harassment, which is precisely what the body positivity movement aims to battle as per Stephanie Yeboah, a body image and self love advocate.
The frontrunners of the body positivity movement say that larger bodies have more than often been viewed as unhealthy and constantly mistreated in the name of physical health, while consciously ignoring their mental health.
The debate here is not about which body type is healthier, it is simply about the misconceptions surrounding the body positivity movement and a one-sided view of the situation. A movement which reportedly aims to emphasize on the fact that each person deserves respect and opportunities, is often times apparently “misinterpreted” as glorification of unhealthy lifestyles.
Stephanie goes on to say that “The body positivity movement still has a long way to go. Until we get to a place where plus-size people of all sizes and ethnicities can once again see the movement as a safe space for us to celebrate our bodies and live peacefully without the disrespect we will still see instances of fatphobia displayed rampantly.”
Sources: Cosmopolitan UK, Independent, Feminism in India, CBS News
~ Tia Garg