Of swimsuits, fat Vogue models,
and weird statistics

by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer Ph.D.

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Welcome to this issue of Dimensions , where Big is still Beautiful. Some really interesting things are happening in the fat acceptance world. For example who would have thought that our friends at Radiance magazine would do a special swimsuit issue? The swimsuit issue, after all, is what Sports Illustrated gets criticized for year after year, and when BUF magazine had a special non-nudity swimsuit issue it was likewise considered exploitive and sexist. BUF and Radiance, of course, are catering to entirely different audiences, BUF to men who like to see fat women presented in a sexual context, Radiance to liberated large size women. The former is considered sleazy, the latter validating, yet both have a special swimsuit issue. What is it about swimsuits that makes them so controversial? Obviously, swimsuits can reveal a woman's body in an enticing way. But for many fat women, the mere thought of wearing a swimsuit in public can be inconceivable. Putting on a swimsuit and going for a swim in a pool can require great courage. After being told all their lives that their bodies are unacceptable many fat women do what they can to hide themselves. Exposing their fat bodies for everyone to see is the last thing they want to do. Now it's quite true that we FAs like to see fat women in bathing suits, but there is really much more to putting on a swimsuit: going swimming and enjoying oneself is a basic right. Claiming, or re-claiming, that right is an act of liberation. It still irks me that whenever nudity is geared towards a male audience it's considered sexist while when it's done by females or geared towards a female audience, it's considered art. Nonetheless, I applaud Radiance for doing the swimsuit issue. When Radiance does a swimsuit issue it shows fat women that it is quite alright to wear a swimsuit. It claims back a basic right.

Another interesting thing: after all those years of waver-thin models in the major fashion magazines, one advertiser finally had enough. The Swatch company withdrew its advertisements from Vogue magazine in protest of the publication's use of unnaturally thin models. This apparently rattled Vogue and they announced they'd have an issue with ONLY fat models. We haven't seen it yet and most likely Vogue's interpretation of "fat" is very different from ours. There is also a downside: if Vogue's "fat" models turn out to be in the size 12-14 range, Vogue will have succeeded in terming all women in that range and above, i.e. the majority of the population, as fat.

Vogue, of course, isn't alone in determining who is considered fat. Ever since 1942, we have had the U.S. height/weight guidelines to tell us that. If you're an FA, chances are that according to those guidelines your mate or love interest is "severely overweight" (and most likely, she is completely off the chart). The odd thing about those charts is that the "healthy weight" range keeps changing. Since 1942, there have been seven different weight guidelines. Starting with 1942, the highest "healthy" weight for a 5'11" man went from 168 pounds down to 163 in 1959, up to 180 in 1980, down to 165 in 1983, up to 177 in 1985, up to 190 in 1990, and down again to 179 in 1995. The highest "healthy" weight for women followed a similar rollercoaster, albeit in a narrower range of only 139 to 155 pounds for a 5'6" woman. According to the current guidelines, a 6' man weighing weighing 185 pounds is considered "moderately overweight" while the same guy weighing a skeletal 136 pounds is considered "healthy." Similarly, someone of constant weight may go back and forth between being considered "healthy" and "overweight" depending on ever-changing guidelines.

Another interesting fact: the popular image of FAs is that of a skinny little guy with a very large woman. Well, this perception is wrong, at least according to our analysis of hundreds of personal ads from men in Dimensions. The median height of a male Dimensions advertiser is six foot and the median weight 185 pounds. Which means that not only are our dates fat, but, according to the latest Federal Guidelines, the average FA is, too. According to the latest guidelines, over 55% of all male advertisers are considered "moderately overweight." Go figure.

In this issue we're introducing two new Dimensions contributors who'll share the duty of Inside columnists. I thought it'd be nice for you to get to know both of them, so we're running two Inside columns this issue, one by Helen K. Kelley and one by Elizabeth Fisher. We're also lucky enough to have Hillel Schwartz back with another one of his incomparably bright intellectual treats. Dr. Moe talks about stuff you'd rather not hear about, but chances are you'll thank him sooner or later... Fashion editor Sandie Sabo presents John Sun Silk fashion and some pretty naughty stuff from those vixens at the Great Changes boutique. In Grace and Karen, we also feature two truly exceptional models. Grace's stunning beauty wasn't lost on our online readers who showered her with votes. Karen is a supersized beauty who is not afraid to show herself off and we're not afraid to show her off either. Whenever we show a bit more than usual we get a few nasty letters from folks who are shocked or disgusted. We'll accept that in our quest of showing that ALL fat bodies can be beautiful and exciting, and not only those up to a certain size or properly contained. Contributor Lisa Hopp tells us about her travels on page 50. As a fat woman she ran into a few hairy situations, but she says that won't stop her from roaming the world again. Finally, we have a portrait of Josh Max, a young FA artist whose music earned him an invitation to perform at the Atlanta Olympics. ß

Editor at Large