This week the Internet exploded when Joe Jonas released the video for his band’s new video, which featured Ashley Graham as the super sexy love interest. Music videos are usually the realm of super thin women or women who are “curvy” in a very specific way, so to see Ashley Graham slay is a huge deal.
Plus size women rarely play the love interest in music videos, movies, or television. They are the “funny best friend” or the “sassy fat chick” or the “funny oaf”. For a long time women with larger bodies have been confined to these roles in all visual media, but it seems that this is beginning to change.
Another indication of this change happened earlier this year when Rebel Wilson and her costar Adam Devine won the award for Best Kiss at this year’s MTV Movie Awards for their kiss in Pitch Perfect 2. I will be honest that I haven’t seen the movie, but I’ve seen enough clips to know that Rebel Wilson’s character refers to herself as “Fat Amy”, so her size is not downplayed in the movies. The fact that she has a romantic storyline in the second movie shows that her role has moved beyond “token fat girl”.
I’ve long taken issue with the underrepresentation of plus sized women as sexual beings. The assumption is that if you’re above a certain size you’re not sexy enough to be a love interest, unless their bodies are being fetishized. We all know this is inaccurate. Women of all sizes enjoy full sex lives. Their partners don’t love them for their size, they just love them. Plus sized women don’t just date plus sized people or people who are “in to fat chicks”. They date people of all shapes, sizes, and preferences. Yet these facts are woefully underrepresented in the media.
The media also presents an alarming double standard when it comes to romantic relationships and body size: plus sized men are frequently paired with thin, gorgeous women. The message is clear: larger men can get beautiful partners, but larger women can’t get any partners. Men are more valuable than women regardless of their body size. Men are allowed to be large, but women aren’t.
Hopefully the media will continue to increase the number of plus sized women playing love interests. Hopefully we will get more accurate representations of what romantic partnerships look like. Hopefully there will be a day in the near future where the Internet won’t break when a plus sized woman is a love interest because it will just be normal.