This month, Melissa McCarthy is featured on the cover of Elle in celebration of women in Hollywood. However, many expressed outrage at the covering of her face and body by her hair and large coat. They believed that Elle placed McCarthy in a context in which she could not be considered sexy like other cover models. Melissa McCarthy laughs, “I kind of wanted to look like the walk of shame. To guys that’s just got out of bed look, which is very sexy.” For me, the public’s response brought up questions of “To what must you react?” There is no doubt that the advertising industry constructs this idea of what beautiful is, and it typically has excluded full sized women. However, McCarthy specifically chose this look because it was sexy to her, and the public quickly cried “anti-fat” (Wann xii). In this case, it inadvertently reinforced norms by telling McCarthy that her ensemble was not attractive. While we must always react to exclusion and marginalization, we must also acknowledge the power of images of “very chic, urban, unmarried, 18-34-year olds with huge disposable incomes” (Kilbourne 35). This predisposition never completely disappears, and in our reactions to injustice, we must constantly remind ourselves to shed preconceived notions of beauty.
Marilyn Wann, “Fat Studies: An Invitation to Revolution” (2009)
Jean Kilborne, “Buy this 24-year old and get all his friends absolutely free” (1999)