Supermodel Ashley Graham sparks backlash for calling herself a 'big girl' in Instagram post

Joanna Taylor
Monday 19 October 2020 10:30
Showbiz
( Frazer Harrison / Getty Images )

Supermodel Ashley Graham sparked a conversation about fatphobia and beauty standards by referring to herself as a "big girl".

Graham posted a photo with the caption "nakie big girl" to Instagram.

Some people praised Graham for her "commitment to body confidence". One user wrote:

You're so inspirational, I can't even begin to explain it. As a girl who struggles to embrace her body, seeing women like you stand up and embrace your own beauty makes me feel a bit better about myself and my own body.

Another added:

Thank you for showing us we don't have to be skinny to look beautiful!

But others questioned Graham's choice of language, with one person commenting:

All I see is a socially acceptable "thick girl". This isn't helping any real big girls.

Another added:

I hate that this is seen as a 'big girl'.

Of course, how Graham perceives herself is a personal matter, and not up to anybody but herself.

But as she has repeatedly explained in the past, the language we use when talking about weight is important and can have an enormous impact on other people's self-perception.

Indeed, some people in Graham's Instagram comments section began to use the photo as a yardstick to judge whether they were a "big girl" themselves. One person wrote:

If you’re a big girl, I must be a blue whale.

Graham, who has modelled for Vogue and Sports Illustrated, has previously rejected the terms "plus-sized" and "real women".

In a CBS interview, she said:

I think the word 'plus-sized' is so divisive to women. I think that when you use the word 'plus-size', you're putting all these women into a category: 'you don't eat well'. 'You don't work out.' 'You could care less about your body.' 'You're insecure.' 'You have no confidence.' And that is none of this.

Speaking to Elle, meanwhile, she said

You know, I don't like to use the words "real women," honestly. I like to use the word woman. And I say that because there are so many women out there who are naturally thin, or are naturally curvy, and I think when we start putting a label on the type of woman it gets misconstrued and starts to offend people. At the end of the day we just all want to be known as women or models or actresses or whatever.

Responding to an Instagram comment criticising her use of the word "big", Graham explained why she thinks it's different. She wrote:

I hear what you're saying. But if you look at 'big' as a positive ... then you can see it like I do.

Shedding the negative connotations of words like "big" is no doubt a positive thing.

But there would be no need to even use or discuss the word "big" – or "plus-sized" or "real woman", for that matter – if we weren't measuring women up against a narrow and limiting set of beauty standards in the first place.

MORE: How I reclaimed the word fat

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