Weighting on Wednesday: The Sartorialist goes for the backhand – or does he?

April 6, 2011

In which we take a brief respite from shilling my work as a young adult author to consider body image issues and representations thereof in the popular culture.

So, one of Noah’s favorite bloggers, Scott Schuman (aka The Sartorialist), has come under fire  for his descriptions  of an atypically “full-figured” model. The Gloss has links to the full story, including a hilarious slideshow of ironic captions.

On his blog, Schuman responded to the criticism with a genuine query:

So help me understand; what is the modern way to speak about size? I’m not married to the word curvy. I’m just trying to describe her in the best way I know how. Let’s not hide from this issue; I don’t want to be afraid to talk about it on my blog. Help me describe this young lady without using the word “normal,” but in a way that addresses her body size and still references my point about the size of her legs relative to her shoes.

And The Gloss admits, “He raises a fair point that we seem to bury compliments of not- skinny women in what  comes off as a strangely back-handed supposition that their bodies typically aren’t beautiful. As if we can only find curvaceous women beautiful in spite of their curvaceousness,” concluding, “…It seems like a waste of outrage to direct it at someone who was genuine in his praise of a stylish, pretty young woman, if not mistaken in how to say so.”

I think I agree.

Yeah…I think I do. That women’s bodies are a source of public debate at all is an issue, but not one he created, and that deficiency of our vocabulary is something we should all give some thought to. Right?

But what say you?

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4 Responses to “Weighting on Wednesday: The Sartorialist goes for the backhand – or does he?”


  1. Another topic I wish I had an answer to. I, too, would like to know how to describe a character. Some suggest not mentioning body type AT ALL but I don’t like this either. I guess you could just go in the direction of the cliche with the “she had the body guys dreamed of” and each guy can imagine her in whatever way works for him. I feel, though, in purposely NOT describing a woman in any way at all can be problematic as well. What is a good way to describe so the body is embraced?

  2. micolostow Says:

    It’s easier within YA writing in a way because teens are so incredibly critical of themselves and their bodies that any implied negativity is generally v. realistic. But I guess the point is that I wish it weren’t! I work hard not to “body snark” in my public life and I wish someone had encouraged me to do the same back when I was younger…


  3. This is interesting. I’ve interviewed Scott and I think he’s really open and out there and not super-careful with words, which is a good quality. Glad he embraced the discussion this way. And yes, it’s complicated. But I think I agree too.

  4. micolostow Says:

    I’m with you, Melissa – as much as he could have realized that any conversation about body type was bound to be loaded, I appreciate that Scott’s intentions were good, and that he featured someone with a less “typical” body shape in the first place.

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