It's all happening on The Sartorialist. 1415 comments and counting on Scott Schuman's use of the word 'curvy' to describe this young woman in his recent 'On the street: Angelika, Milan' post, which went up on Monday March 28.
In a post on her own blog, Angelika writes of her delight at being photographed by someone she so admires and addresses the gathering maelstrom by writing:
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... i don't think that curvy and big are sinonimous of overweight or fat,i believe indeed that being called curvy has a positive meaning[...] curvy= femininity and not= fat, overweight. (sic)
Today I noticed an update on Schuman's original post in which he responds to the outcry surrounding his use of the word 'curvy' to describe a woman, and the difficulty of using the word 'normal' as an adjective. As he (correctly) argues, 'normal is relative.' He argues that curvy is a body shape not a weight* though perhaps this qualification is undercut by his original description of Angelika as a "bigger, curvier girl" which conflates her size ("bigger") into her shape.
This debate indicates to me the power of words to incite and infuriate. Although Schuman derides this power in contrast to the message of his post (he reduces the debate over meaning to 'wordplay' which reads as highly dismissive) the impact of those words overtook the photographs themselves. Even the ambiguity of his commenters' suggested replacements ('normal'; 'real') underlines the subjective, interpretive quality of language. The difficulty of those adjectives, of course, is that they are as exclusionary as 'curvy' or 'big.' Such language puts anyone whose body implicitly doesn't fit on the periphery, if anywhere at all.
Schuman wanted his readers to see what he saw- the way the shape of her legs complemented the strength of her shoes- yet most got distracted by the (perceived) inconsistency of Angelika's legs and their alleged curviness. He presented a visual yet what burst forth was a debate about what constitutes 'curvy' and the subtext, intended or otherwise, operating beneath the use of such a loaded adjective.
It may all swell down to just a footnote in the history of Schuman's storied blog but I doubt that he will ever publicly use the word 'curvy' in relation to a woman's body again. What language will replace it is yet to be seen- has anyone come up with a viable way of acknowledging the uncomfortable fact that everyone's body is different but not all shapes are regarded as equally desirable?- but it's one hell of an interesting conversation to watch.
*this ties in to SNP's Twittered critique that "(The) Sartorialist is (not) the prob. It's that we've fucked over "curvy," making it snide euphemism for "fat""