Saturday 22 October 2016

Sarah Caden: No Glamour for Amy in plus-size plaudits

Why was Amy Schumer piqued by praise for her weight, asks Sarah Caden

Sarah Caden

Published 10/04/2016 | 02:30

Amy Schumer. Photo: Theo Wargo/NBC/Getty Images
Amy Schumer. Photo: Theo Wargo/NBC/Getty Images

If US Glamour magazine had included comedian and actress Amy Schumer in a special edition of the nation's most gorgeous women, would she have complained? Would she have complained that the magazine hadn't asked her permission? Would she have pointed out that she's not gorgeous at all? Probably not. But when Glamour included her in a plus-size special edition last week, listing her as one of the "women who inspire us", alongside the likes of Adele and Melissa McCarthy, Schumer took exception.

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"I think there's nothing wrong with being plus size," Schumer wrote on Instagram. "Beautiful healthy women. Plus size is considered size 16 in America. I go between a size 6 and an 8. @glamourmag put me in their plus size only issue without asking or letting me know and it doesn't feel right to me. Young girls seeing my body type thinking that is plus size? What are your thoughts? Mine are not cool glamour not glamorous."

Later, Schumer posted a video of herself running down a beach in her bikini, thanking those who had supported her reaction to Glamour. "Bottom line seems to be that these labels are unnecessary and reserved for women #muchlove," she wrote beneath the clip.

Now, we get that the very fact that Glamour puts aside a special issue of its magazine for 'Chic at Any Size' women is irritating. The average dress size of an American woman is a 12-14, an Irish size 14-16. Aside from its special editions, Glamour features clothes worn by models who would aspire to fit an American size 0-2, that would be an Irish size 2-4.

We get that it's daft that the true shape of the average Glamour reader is not reflected in every single issue. We get that labelling women isn't helpful. But Schumer is being a bit disingenuous.

The main point of her argument against Glamour seems like an effort to point out that she's not plus size and doesn't appreciate being confused as such. She is at pains to tell us her actual size and to dissociate herself from plus size. Which, she says, is fine and there's nothing wrong with it, obviously, but she's not one of them.

They shouldn't have confused her with plus size, they shouldn't have done it without telling her, they shouldn't have taken her image out of her control.

But in a world where women put themselves on display endlessly, on Instagram, on Facebook, on Snapchat, on Tinder, just everywhere, we have lost the ability to control or dictate the labelling and the criticism. If we put ourselves out there demanding to be 'liked', then there's the chance that we won't be liked, too. And in a world where young women are constantly posing and posting themselves in a 'hot or not hot?' context, then the habit becomes to simply consign everyone into 'good' or 'bad' slots. But we can't blame anyone but ourselves. We can't shout about body-shaming and the bad sense of labelling women if we keep this up.

Amy Schumer, as a comedian, is as much about a carefully controlled image as anyone else. She's ballsy and sassy and flouts the idea that women have to be nice and good and skinny, but on her own terms. She posed in just sheer knickers for the Pirelli 2016 calendar - typically the preserve of the super-thin - in a pose that pronounced how her skin folded and puckered around her middle and didn't strive to take inches off her thighs.

Her facial expression was undeniably feisty, too, almost facing down what she knew the viewer was thinking - which was that she had more fat on her than you'd normally see on a woman in such a pose. Good for her.

In the movie, Trainwreck, which she wrote and starred in, she was a pissed-up promiscuous party girl, more boorish than most blokes, a determinedly anti-people-pleaser Pollyanna.

Onstage, Schumer has skewered the Kardashians as role models who "take the faces they were born with as a light suggestion". She later apologised when Khloe replied: "No need 2 tear down others just 2 make urself feel bigger." Schumer said, in fact, that she had "nothing but love for that family".

The shame at being called a hater got to her, and that's become an easy accusation, designed to exert some control over the reaction to the endless online output.

But our relationship with our own images and the image of others is completely out of control. Even if you're only into the from-the-neck-up selfies, and not the stark-naked Kardashian variety, you are inviting comment. That's the risk that comes with putting yourself on show. People comment. And they're not always nice.

So it's a case of "look at me; but only say good stuff. Or else I'll cry body-shame. Or else I'll accuse you of labelling and limiting me and my body and my gender as a whole." Body-shaming is the worst thing you can be accused of these days. It's the equivalent of being called a racist, but so much easier.

To be a body-shamer is to be anti-women, even if what you're saying is that we'd be doing ourselves a favour if we stopped the endless selfies, which amount to a constant pleading to be liked. We should be encouraging young women to drop the duck-mouth pouts, pull back in their stuck-out selfie bums and stop trying to strike sexy, even in family photographs.

But to do that would be to risk being accused of shaming those women. You're telling them to stop taking pride in themselves, you see, as Bette Midler was accused of when she responded to Kim Kardashian's recent naked Instagram throwback pictures. "If Kim wants us to see a part of her we've never seen, she's gonna have to swallow the camera," Bette said online and immediately she was the enemy of emancipation. Kim's proud of her body, was the response, and she has the power to control how she reveals it. But she can't control how we respond to it, and that's the mistake of the modern age.

Glamour magazine, when they sort-of apologised to Amy Schumer last week, pointed out that they hadn't actually said that she was plus size. In fact, the cover of Glamour doesn't say plus-size on it anywhere. In the top right-hand corner, it flags that it's a "Chic at any Size" issue, and then, in the bottom right-hand corner, it lists Schumer as "Women Who Inspire Us".

Schumer has never made any bones about not being a skinny stereotype. At an awards ceremony, she pointed to her stomach as inspiration for her writing. Because, "If you're an actress and you have 'this' area right here, you have to write your own stuff," she said. She's not Hollywood skinny, but she can say that - she can draw attention to that, on her terms.

And lumping her in with Adele and Melissa McCarthy, that's not Schumer's terms. They're not Schumer's type. You could say that she's body-shaming Adele and Melissa by declining to be on a list with them. But enough of the rush to cry "body-shame". It's doing none of us any favours.

Sunday Independent

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