With Jennifer Hawkins currently being one of Australia's most successful models, I always knew the unretouched cover of her on Marie Claire was going to generate a great deal of publicity. As Jennifer fits into the media and societal driven 'ideal' body type, I also knew it was likely some people would criticise the use of her. The media surrounding the cover has very quickly dumped the core reason it was created in the first place, which was to present more realistic images of women in magazines and inspire other publications to do the same. What they have grasped on to is that supposedly Jennifer is now being upheld as the body type that all women should aspire to.
This is utterly ridiculous. Unfortunately however, many people have fallen for this simplistic notion that is entirely media created. On a variety of blogs and online news sites people have posted comments that have attacked Jennifer for promoting eating disorders, stating that the image makes them want to "vomit" and posted statements saying that they look at her, compare themselves, and feel terrible. There has also been widespread negativity aimed at not just Jennifer, but thin women in general, with the sentiment being put forward that if you are thin, you are not a 'real woman.' To read any of these thoughts you just need to google Jennifer Hawkins Marie Claire cover. There are now hundreds of them.
Some people may disagree with what I am about to say, but I feel these comments reflect more on the people who are making them, than they do on Jennifer Hawkins, Marie Claire or even other magazines. Do I think magazines need to do better in showing greater body diversity and less retouched images? Damn straight I do and anyone who reads Beautiful You regularly will know I advocate for this consistently. But - I want to talk about personal responsibility for a moment - as many of the comments I have been reading from people about this issue appear to have forgotten one fundamental thing and that is...
Body Image Is A Feeling State That You Alone Create in Your Thoughts and Feelings About Yourself. No-One Can Make You Feel Less Than You Are Without You Letting Them.
One of the fastest ways we can slam our body image into the gutter is to compare ourselves to what other people look like. No-one that has had a hand in creating this cover has asked any person to compare themselves to Jennifer in any way. This is something some people have chosen to do themselves with predictably negative consequences. I beg of anyone that does this on a regular basis either via comparison to models, celebrities or other women, to stop. It does not serve you in any way.
Another less talked about issue is my belief that when we say negative things about the way someone else looks, whether they are a model, a family member, or someone we see walking down the street - we denigrate ourselves - and push the cause of positive body image back dramatically. Many responses to this cover have claimed that Jennifer and any other woman who looks like her are an abomination and not 'real'. How can that possibly be? Every single, living, breathing person is real. What they look like is completely irrelevant. Because I am a size 16 does that make me more real than my best friend who is a size 10? Of course not. How ridiculous. Because a woman is thin does that mean she automatically is disqualified from having potential body image issues? Believe me when I tell you it most certainly does not.
Far too many people live in consistent judgment of others and in this instance, so many women are choosing to degrade other women based purely on their appearance. How terribly ironic this is, when they do so while simultaneously stating they promote positive body image. Well - here's my final take.
Any Person That Degrades Someone Else Based Soley On Their Appearance Or Claims They Are Not Real Because Of The Size They Are, Cannot Truly Claim To Be A Positive Body Image Advocate.
Only when we truly learn to embrace our own bodies as they are and permit others to do the same, with no comparisons, no judgements and no negativity, will women the world over begin to develop a level of self esteem and positive body image that will see them thrive. The feeling and creation of this begins with us. Once we can grasp that, then, and only then, can we be strong body image warriors and advocate for greater media and societal responsibility in this issue. Operating from this beautiful, thriving and strong state I believe, would permit us to see that this magazine cover is a positive step towards showing more natural, realistic images in the media, which so many women have been crying out to see for so long.