Here’s something to think about: When was the last time you saw an average-sized woman in a (scripted) TV show or movie? Not plus-size, but average – not particularly thin or fat. Take a minute to consider it. You might be surprised that there really aren’t a whole lot of examples. The last woman I can think of off the top of my head is Raven-Symoné back when she was on That’s So Raven. That show went off the air 10 years ago! Thinking about this question reminds me that we still need more diversity on our screens in more ways than just ethnic diversity. We need a wider representation of body types, especially when it comes to women.
Now, I’m not saying there isn’t some representation of different kinds of bodies. More and more plus-size women are given the attention they deserve on shows and movies that entertain, console and challenge us. But some isn’t enough. We need tons. We need to celebrate the true variety of bodies that exist beyond the screen.
Average-sized women are so few and far between that if an actress falls into the category (considered to be around sizes 8-14), they’re endlessly questioned about their size: “how does it feel to be curvy in show business?” Mandy Moore is a great example. I used to love watching her movies. A Walk to Remember might be one of my all-time favorites. But any time she was interviewed, she was questioned about her size. She wore a size eight and was basically considered a unicorn for it.
We have Victoria’s Secret Angels and we have #ImNoAngel, but we’re not really highlighting the women who fall somewhere in between. As much as I love media, I find myself frustrated that I often turn on shows and movies where no one looks like me: Women who are short and thick, have round faces and chubby chins, but don’t have perfect bodies. We are stunning and proud to be imperfect.
We are gaining increased representation through body-positive movements that are taking social media by storm. But we still have a ways to go. We need to have characters we can relate to, and part of that means having a variety of bodies featured on our screens and emphasizing that all bodies are beautiful.
Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing thin women and plus-sized women. Both of those kinds of bodies are extraordinary, irrespective of their size. But I struggle with the dichotomy. We’re often left looking at a group of very thin actresses, with one actress that’s been cast as the token fat girl (think Pitch Perfect). There should be space for a range of body types.
Luckily, there are more and more people who feel this way, and they’re willing to represent a variety of beautiful bodies. Orange Is The New Black has been doing a phenomenal job showcasing complicated, fascinating female characters who have a diverse range of bodies. Shows like Telenovela, Superstore, Being Mary Jane, Broad City, Jane the Virgin and Ugly Betty cast lead actresses who are diverse in both ethnicity and body type. So we know that greater representation is possible – I guess we just have to keep fighting for it.