Nearly 500 readers e-mailed and Facebooked me asking for a post about this, so here you go! For the first time ever, a “plus size model” (or, as I like to call them, models) is on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition.
Now there are any number of issues that one might have with the concept and execution of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, I certainly have many, but for now I’m going to set those aside to talk about this. Ashley Graham, a size 16 model, is on the cover of a magazine that is known for highlighting the most “beautiful” women in the world as dictated by the current stereotype of beauty. And this year, it’s a woman who, while she meets that stereotype in many ways, is definitely larger than the stereotype dictates.
One of the things that can happen when people challenge the stereotype of beauty – even a little bit- is that those who have been benefiting from the former stereotype can get really bent out of shape. We all live in a culture that tells us that we’ll never be enough, and that suggests that we should try to feel better about ourselves by trying to put others down.
So let’s say that someone derives their self-esteem from – just as a random hypothetical- the fact that they are thin enough to be a Sports Illustrated Cover Model and their belief that it makes them better than other people. Then let’s say, again hypothetically, that a plus sized woman becomes a Sports Illustrated Cover Model. That can cause a massive issue for someone who thinks that they are valuable because they are thin. It presents a direct challenge their sense of self-esteem and value. (This is one of the ways that a culture of fat hate and weight bias hurts everyone of every size, by the way.)
Enter Cheryl Tiegs. Perhaps she is being driven by jealousy, or by what she perceives as an attack on what makes her valuable, or something else. I know that these can certainly be reactions, but of course I have no idea what is going on in her mind. What I do know is that what is coming out of her mouth is fat shaming, healthism, and pure wrong. When asked about Ashley’s cover, Cheryl spewed the following:
I don’t like it that we’re talking about full-figured women, because it’s glamorizing them — and your waist should be smaller than 35 [inches]. That’s what Dr. Oz said, and I’m sticking to it. I don’t think it’s healthy.”
To quote Nora Crotty who did a great piece about this for Yahoo! Style “It should be noted that a 2014 study published by the British Medical Journal found that at least half of television Dr. Mehmet Oz’s medical advice is either without base or entirely wrong.” Waist size is not health, body size and health are two different things. As far as I’m concerned, there is no reason to believe that Cheryl Tiegs is a psychic doctor. Also, Dr. Oz is a sell-out quack, and anyone who quotes him has some serious credibility issues. But that’s not really the point here.
The point is, if you think that only people who meet your definition of “health” should be allowed to be photographed for magazines, then you are a healthist, and an asshole. Period. Ashley Graham’s health has fuck all to do with this situation. And Cheryl does not get any bonus points for rehashing all that “promoting fatness” bullshit. I also think it’s pretty telling that Cheryl thinks that it’s people talking about women that “glamorizes” them. Ashley Graham is glamorous whether people are talking about her or not.
And the icing on the bigoted bullshit cake? Cheryl saying that Ashley’s “face is beautiful.” Newsflash Cheryl, telling fat women they “have a pretty face” is the most back of backhanded compliments, so why don’t you skip it and at least have the guts to stand there and be the healthist, weight bigot you are.
It’s unfortunate, but as fat people demand and exercise our right to exist and participate fully in the world, this is the kind of fatphobic, handwringing, healthist bullshit that we’ll have to face. But we’re going to keep moving forward and things are going to change, and the Cheryl Tiegs of the world will either have to deal with their issues and change with it, or be left to whine about it with the rest of the people desperately clinging to their healthist, sizeist views.
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24 thoughts on “Cheryl Tiegs – Former Model, Current Fat Shamer”
I don’t follow Sports Ill., but what percentage of their male cover athletes are football players, with their incredibly high risk for concussion and brain injury? It’s only women’s bodies that fire up the health police.
So true. It’s not about health at all, is it?
As for Cheryl Tiegs, her 15 minutes of fame were up a long time ago. She’s making a pathetic bid for more attention.
I caught Tiegs’s interview on the news last night and I was incensed. First of all, she sounded drunk. Her slurry condemnation of a woman who is far more attractive than she ever was sounded like the jealous rantings of a dried up shrew. I was disgusted – mostly because everything she said was so stereotypical and showed not an ounce of original thought. She was parroting what the media hacks churn out and making an utter fool of herself.
I would prefer to follow Ashley Graham as a role model anyway. She’s my body type. Everybody, find a role model who is more of your body type.
NOTE ON THE WAIST SIZE: That was originally trotted out as an indicator of body type, being either “Apple,” or larger waisted, and “Pear,” being smaller waisted, 35 inches being the marker for which body type in women. It is not an indicator of “proper weight.”
(In case you’re wondering, Graham’s waist is 30 inches, placing her firmly in the “Pear” category.)
BWAHAHAHAAAA! So, even with the bunk-crock claim that she’s “not healthy” because Dr. Oz said her waist is too big, she’s actually five inches under that cut-off, and just as “healthy” as can be!
No only is Cheryl Tiegs a bigot, but she’s even wrong about being wrong!
Oh, thanks for that. I’d much rather laugh at the fool than be angry, right now. I don’t have the spoons today.
Thank you, ma’am. And, I for one, am glad that SI has finally crossed the barrier. I realized they did so out of public pressuse due to the commentary made last year when Ashley Graham appearred in a advertisement on a page in the 2015 swimsuit issue. So, yes, overdue and prompted by a wish to avoid backlash for not doing so, they bent to public feedback and *went there*. However, I think they will find that they are better for it.
Now, HOORAY! and who is going into the 2017 issue??!!!
OOOOhhhh! I know! I know! It’s SPORTS Illustrated, so how about that fantastic Olympian – Holly Mangold (sp?)
I’d love to see her in a swimsuit.
She’s one of two women, both Olympic weightlifters, who I want to see play superheroes. Specifically, Big Barda.
Tiegs is on the wrong side of medicine and science as well as the wrong side of history. How sad.
Thank you so much for this post! I was gobsmacked when I saw what Tiegs said – so utterly sick of this crap!
Glamourizing high waist sizes?? Queen Victoria had a waist of 50 inches, and her fashion sense is still around (eg. white wedding dresses), and Victorian sensibilities have never gone away.
My brother posted this bullshit on my wall because he wanted me to rip it apart. He has never liked Sports Illustrated and never bought it, but he did so because of Ashley Graham. The instant I saw what Cheryl was spouted I laughed out loud, because it’s the same, old, horseshit. One, you’re referencing a known quack in Dr. Oz. Two, you pull the oldest back-handed compliment fat people have ever received. My father used to say that to me, all the damn time (he also used to say I better marry somebody rich…there are many reasons I’ve learned to ignore the things he says). It wasn’t a compliment then, and it’s so trite that it would almost be a joke now if it wasn’t still reinforcing the judgment and bigotry that fat people face. “Oh you have a pretty face so you’re one of the good fatties…but you’d be even better if you weren’t fat.” *headdesk*
It’s almost always JUST women that get this hand wringing, oh won’t someone think of the children and the puppies, healthism, and “promoting obesity” bullshit. You don’t see nearly this kind of reaction and controversy when it comes to fat males. Also the definition of “fat” is VASTLY different in our society when it comes to males, with women being considered fat at MUCH lower BMI than men.
It’s almost never about health, despite what the Cheryl Tiegs of the world want us to buy, and it’s more about women being viewed in our fucked up society as first and foremost just objects for eye consumption.
About that “glorifying obesity” thing. How come a man with one leg who runs marathons on a prosthesis isn’t “glorifying amputee-ism”? A paraplegic swimmer isn’t “glorifying paralysis”? A woman who gets a tattoo to cover a mastectomy scar isn’t “glorying cancer”?
I’m not intending to compare being fat to having a disability or a disease; I’m just seeing how ridiculous it sounds. The commonality in the examples is that they are all people rocking the hand that they have been dealt, not selling it to anyone.
That’s a really good point. I’m going to use that from now on!
Yep. And Jackie Robinson being a fantastic major league baseball player wasn’t “glorifying blackness” either (and it’s only a thing that would “need” glorifying for bigots, anyway).
People who hate see someone they hate doing something awesome, and they just HAVE to find something to complain about it, or else, they manufacture it.
The thing with fatness is that unlike skin color, it’s not something that is absolutely, 100%, cannot be denied – something you’re born with that will never, ever change.
People don’t generally go around lopping off legs, or breaking their spines, no matter who they idolize.
But the haters think that people “let themselves go” on purpose, and therefore, it’s a thing that we fat-activists are actively encouraging other people to do. Because we’re that evil.
OK, yes, there are a very, very small number of fetishists out there, both feeders and gainers, who do gain weight, on purpose, but it’s not because they idolize some fat person, living their life. It’s a sexual thing, and it’s very deeply personal.
Yet, the fat haters think (no, they *claim*) that size is completely under our control at ALL times, and that if someone fat succeeds, then anyone who admires them will want to be fat, too, because that makes ALL kinds of sense (snark!), and that thin people who admire fat people will purposely make themselves fat, too, and then EVERYONE WILL DIIIIIIEEEEEE!!!!!
Hatred. It poisons the mind, and throws logic right out the window.
Am I glorifying shortness ( I’m just barely 5’1″) when I don’t wear high heels, which is about 99.9% of the time? I wonder. 😀
One of the reporters on NPR summed it up nicely. He said something to the effect of “Cheryl…go back to wherever you’ve been for the last 20 years. Nobody missed you.” HA!
I love how everyone becomes a medical professional when presented with a body type they find as an affront.
This is how i usually respond: watch the Olympics.
There you will find men and woman in PEAK physical health and conditioning ( hopefully). You will also find that the women shot put champion and the all round gymnastics champion couldn’t look more different in terms of size/body type. Who tells you the gymnast is healthier than the shot putter or wrestler?
Gymnasts are very strong. But they use different muscle groups, and their bodies just aren’t designed for shot-putting.
No one can be tops at EVERY sport, because every sport requires different musculature, agility, and the like. A few people can excel at multiple sports, if they’re reasonably well connected or the people are willing to change and multi-train.
But really, we can accept variety in our sports figures, can’t we?
Aw, Cheryl Tiegs is just jealous.
YEP. And she thought us Fatty McFattersons would be jellus of her, y’all!