When I saw a pic of August’s Women’s Running magazine on Facebook, I couldn’t believe it. Did someone Photoshop a body-positive feminist’s daydream?! Was it the weird “plus-size running” niche market issue? Or was this actually the cover of a magazine devoted to women’s fitness?
I checked it out in CVS the next morning. It was real. And it’s about time.
Having a size eighteen woman on the cover of Women’s Running matters. This might come as a shock to some, but women of all sizes run. But based on other mag covers, you would have no idea that was true. Case in point:
The dominant assumption is that if you see a fat woman running, it’s because she doesn’t want to be fat. That is a toxic assumption, completely invalidating however a person is in the present tense. This cover completely challenges that and causes everyone that sees it to challenge their own internalized fatphobia, too.
There are a million reasons people run. Often, it’s to become more physically fit, but that does not mean “less fat” anywhere near 100 percent of the time. Others might take up running as a part of the weight-loss process, and realize, that hey, they just enjoy doing it. It can also be a great stress reliever. (Personally, the amount of people I haven’t punched because I went running is at least in the dozens.)
In fact, there’s even an article in the mag that explains how when people start running to lose weight, they also go on a restricted diet that causes them to lose a disproportionate amount of muscle, which can be way worse for you if your goal is to become a stronger, faster runner. This issue of the magazine also includes a collection of athletic garb for ladies of all sizes, including affordable options like Old Navy.
And who is the lovely woman on the cover? Her name is Erica Schenk, and she’s only 18 years old. She’s a professional plus-size model and an avid runner herself. She’s thrilled that her image made it on the cover, and even happier about its reception.
“I’ve had so much positive feedback,” Erica told E! Online. “I can feel the masses begging for more. They want to be able to relate to the struggles, success, and celebration of people just like them.”
Maybe the magazine understood that, too. Most of their other covers have featured women with very similar bodies, with headlines and sub-heads about diets, weight loss, and developing a 6-pack as quickly as humanly possible. Looking at those other covers probably didn’t make too many people feel better about themselves—but this image just might.
Women deserve to see these images every day in the mainstream media. No, this isn’t revolutionary, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Images via Women’s Running