When I read rumours that Lena Dunham was going to appear on the cover of Vogue magazine, I almost screamed with joy. (I didn't, because I knew I would get stares from my co-workers.)
Why the fuss? For one, we rarely, if ever, see a woman with Lena's body shape (read: not a size 2) on the cover of high fashion magazines. Don't believe me? All you have to do is look through the fashion glossy's cover archive to notice that something is amiss.
The second reason I was happy to hear that Dunham was getting a cover on the "Fashion Bible" was not just because she owns her quirky sense of style, but because she is a hard-working (she's writing a book and directing and acting!), talented, hilarious, creative and is truly comfortable in her skin. If anyone deserved to be on the cover of Vogue, it would be Lena Dunham (OK, and also Mindy Kaling, but we will get to her later).
So, you would think that with that incredible force of a woman, the Vogue editors would have something special planned for the cover of one of the most popular fashion magazines in the world, right? Wrong.
When the cover was released on Wednesday, I couldn't hide my disappointment. There was Lena, looking beautiful with her stylishly tousled pixie cut, her bright brown eyes highlighted by lots of mascara and eyeshadow and wearing a really cute white button-up blouse with red polka dots. But that's all we saw. We didn't get to see if she was wearing pants or a skirt or maybe even shorts -- or nothing at all! -- because the editors decided to use a close-up shot of the Girls actress.
On its own, it's a great photo and makes for a beautiful and interesting cover. Hell, I would buy it off newsstands. But here's what's pissing me off, and has been pissing me off for the past couple of months: Every actress who isn't model-thin on the cover of a fashion magazine has their body hidden by closely cropped photos or oversized clothes.
Lena isn't the first and definitely won't be the last actress to be shown sans curves. Adele, Gabourey Sidibe and Octavia Spencer are just a few other celebrity women to have their bodies cut out from underneath them as if they didn't exist.
More recently, Elle magazine was criticized last week for using a close-up photo of Mindy Kaling (a self-admitted size 8), who was one of four actresses (the others, all thin) covering the glossy's Women in TV issue and who was the only actress out of the four whose body was cropped off below the chest.
Mindy rejected the criticism and made a few good points: Why should a fashion magazine have to show a curvier woman's body on their cover just for the sake of her curves? And isn't it insulting to that woman to insist that she show off her body so that we, the reader, can feel better about ourselves?
My problem with Lena's Vogue cover, Mindy's Elle cover and all the others is this: Continually refusing to show an average woman's body on the cover of fashion magazines sets a dangerous precedent for future covers. It gives off a mixed message: Yes, we want cool, smart, funny gals on our covers but their bodies aren't good enough to show off.
Not only does it send the message that fashion editors (including one of the most influential women in the U.S., Anna Wintour) don't want to see these types of figures in their magazines, but it gives the impression that they think we, the female readers out there, doesn't want to see those bodies either.
And if we keep seeing these women's bodies deliberately hidden from us (and at this point, it seems like a deliberate choice, not just a coincidence), we will never have any other type of body to look up to other than that of the model and her celebrity doppelganger.
The message I get from these covers is one of fear; fear of Lena's and Mindy's and other non-models' bodies. I also feel their shame, that their bodies aren't beautiful enough to be celebrated in these impossibly beautiful magazines. And this makes me feel sad for the thousands, if not millions, of young women who think that they should cover up their beautiful bodies too.
I feel ashamed to be a part of an industry that continues to encourage these covers and refuses to call them out for what they are: discriminatory.
So, to my fellow fashion editors: Please consider using a full-length shot next time you use an actress who isn't "thin" on your cover. We really, really do want to see all of her body.