By Megan Black
Women’s Running Magazine’s August issue is making headlines for featuring 18-year-old plus-size New York City runner Erica Schenk. A plus-size model on the cover of a fitness magazine – or any magazine for that matter – is incredibly rare. The magazine’s title, “Three Reasons Your Weight Doesn’t Matter” is challenging body-image stereotypes that all runners fit into a specific mold. While the magazine typically features a slim, sculpted woman, this month’s issue has been committed to celebrating all shapes, running abilities and achievements.
As expected, this month’s issue has sparked great conversation on social media. The cover has left many readers in tears, thankful that a magazine has finally featured a cover model that not only represents, but also embraces their shape. There has been an outpour of overwhelming support for the running magazine as they are shifting attitudes toward physical diversity. The top comment on the Facebook photo currently reads, “I don’t have a subscription. I plan to go out and pay cover price for this copy to show my support for this move. And hopefully get back into running.”
Unfortunately, while most people have praised the magazine for spotlighting a plus-size body type on its cover, the magazine has been equally met with negativity, claiming that a curvy woman is ill-suited to cover a fitness publication. Naturally, social media lends itself to harsh words, with one man claiming, “This is not a good idea. This sort of fat is not just an alternative body shape; it is pathological.” While other negative comments rolled in, it wasn’t long before many came to Schenk’s defence, with another man replying,
“How bold of you to condemn this woman’s physical activity, when you have absolutely no idea about her current level of fitness. She may have a high BMI, but her heart, lungs, hips and knees may be just fine. If she can run, and it doesn’t hurt joints, who are you to slow her down!”
Let’s keep things simple. Runners come in all shapes and sizes. Women’s Running Magazine is breaking stereotypes and proving that our commonality is running. Not our shape. In today’s day in age it is incredibly rare for a magazine, let alone a fitness magazine, to stray from the featuring a stereotypical size- zero model. The magazine has not only opened up a dialogue about the representation of women in the media but simply encourages and inspires women to lead healthier, more active lifestyles. While this spotlight may be short-lived, Women’s Running Magazine and Erica Schenk ought to be applauded for challenging our one-size-fits-all mentality of the ‘active woman.’
We’d love to hear what you think! Should Women’s Running Magazine be applauded or criticized for featuring a plus-size woman on their cover?