Ashley Graham's message to the body police: "Body shaming isn't just telling the big girl to cover up"

The Sports Illustrated cover model shut down shamers in a passionate Lenny Letter essay today

Published August 2, 2016 5:32PM (EDT)

Ashley Graham   (Reuters/Joshua Roberts)
Ashley Graham (Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

Ashley Graham, the first plus-size model to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated's annual swimsuit issue, wrote a scathing critique of the culture of online shaming for "Lenny," arguing that even the most well-intentioned critics participate in the creation of a vicious body-shaming cycle.

Graham noted that after she posted a photograph of herself on Instagram that she "absolutely loved" — not because she looked slimmer in it, but because of "how good I looked wearing a high-end designer [who] doesn't usually market to women my size" — she received feedback from fans "disappointed" in what they mistook as an attempt to transform her size 14 frame into a size 6 overnight.

"The reality is," she wrote, "I haven't lost a pound this year. In fact, I'm actually heavier than I was three years ago, but I accept my body as it is today. I work out not to lose weight but to maintain my good health." Graham argued that whether it is ersatz health advocates shaming her for "promoting obesity" or members of her own "BeautyBeyondSize" community shaming her for posting photographs of herself from what she considers "good angles," the end result is invariably the same -- "women keep tearing one another down over physical appearance."

"Body shaming isn't just telling the big girl to cover up," she wrote. "It's trying to shame me for working out. It's giving 'skinny' a negative connotation. It's wanting me to be plus size, or assuming I'm pregnant because of some belly bulge. What type of example are we setting for young girls and their self-esteem if grown adults are on Instagram calling other women 'cowards' for losing weight, or 'ugly' for being overweight?"

Women are, she contended, "more than [our] measurements," and need to "own our own bodies" before "spewing negativity" at other women for happily inhabiting theirs.

By Scott Eric Kaufman

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Ashley Graham Body Shaming Haes Lenny Letter Plus-size Models