The Sartorialist's Scott Schuman posted two photos of Milanese fashion blogger Angelica Ardasheva on his site yesterday (thanks to Jezebel for identifying her and her blog). Schuman doesn't usually post commentary with his images--they speak for themselves. But on this entry he offered these thoughts:
I saw this young lady in Milan several times this past season. She is one of the crop of new bloggers. I loved that she's a bigger, curvier girl than most of the other bloggers who you see in the press and tend to represent the genre.
The subtle thing she achieves so successfully in these two looks is to complement the sturdy but beautiful shape of her legs with an equally strong shoe. A daintier shoe would be overpowered but these shoes create a beautiful harmony for the lower half of her body.
Commenters seized on Schuman's descriptors, and 1148 of them have weighed in, most of them expressing outrage or disappointment, like this one:
I'm a little horrified by the fact that you are referring to her as if she is plus size. I live in a major American city with many beautiful people, excellent shopping, and a distinct sense of style. She would be considered thin if she walked down my street. Please do not insult your readers by pretending that in taking this photo, you are branching out in some way.
The outrage is understandable, though it should be noted that Schuman isn't calling Ardasheva "big" or "curvy" but "bigger" and "curvier" than other well known fashion bloggers. That's probably true. Many of the folks who work in fashion who are visible during the shows are really really skinny--skinnier than most. But calling Ardasheva's legs "sturdy" seems extraneously derisive. No woman I know would ever want to be called "sturdy."
Ardasheva, however, says she doesn't mind at all. She was over the moon to be photographed by the Sartorialist and regarding the "controversy" wrote:
about the controversy on his blog because of words like "curvy"or"big" udes by him to definy my body,i just can say that i never felt hurt.i think i have a normal body neither fat nor thin,curvy is ok,of course my body was pretty different fro the other girls where around there,wheter they are models,editors,bloggers of whatever,I was taller and more...curvy! but I did not mind at all.
Schuman has responded, too:
I love a post like this. It creates a real and important conversation.
A number of the commenters are upset by the word "curvy." They feel I should have used the word "normal." However, normal is relative. There is a young lady on my team who is 5'0", and another who is 5'9". Which would be "normal"? ... Remember, curvy is a body shape, not a weight. To be honest, you can't really see in these photographs most of the curves - chest, stomach, hip - this woman has. ... So help me understand; what is the modern way to speak about size? I'm not married to the word curvy. I'm just trying to describe her in the best way I know how. Let's not hide from this issue; I don't want to be afraid to talk about it on my blog. Help me describe this young lady without using the word "normal," but in a way that addresses her body size and still references my point about the size of her legs relative to her shoes.
Schuman is defending his choice of language ("curvier," "bigger," "sturdy but beautiful") rather than his choice to comment on Ardasheva's body at all. The problem isn't the words he or anyone else might use to describe a woman's body, the problem is that women's bodies are (thanks in large part to the fashion world and its incredibly restrictive norms) widely considered appropriate subjects for public critique and commentary at all.
Where do you stand? I'm inclined to think folks are blowing this a bit out of proportion, though it is off-putting that Schuman commented on Ardasheva's weight at all, even if he says he loves her shape. But in New York's feature on Schuman and his counterpart in love and street style photography, the beautiful (and slim!) Garance Doré, Doré did call Schuman her "weight loss coach" noting that he makes her eat muesli with fresh raspberries. What gives?