Thursday, January 19, 2017

What is a normal curve anyway?

Statistics was almost my downfall in graduate school, however there was once concept that I was able to integrate into my general knowledge in a meaningful way: the normal curve. This normal curve represents the distribution of values, frequencies, or probabilities of a set of data. It slopes downward on either side of a highest point in the middle, which corresponds to the mean value, or the maximum probability (average). In real-speak it is a good way for us to understand the diversity of life, with much falling around the average range and fewer occurrences of extremes.

A very rudimentary image of the normal curve- you get the idea

Most things fit into a normal curve, including body type, size and shape. Women that are very thin and women that are very large, together with women somewhere in between, make up a normal distribution of body size and shape. Women who are naturally very thin would find it impossible to gain enough weight to put themselves in the above average weight range. And you guessed it- women that are naturally very large would never, no matter what disordered eating lengths they would go to, make it into the bottom part of the normal curve. The pressure to be thin is something that all women face, even those who fall within the average range. Its commonly known that the average American woman is a size 14, however most retail clothing stores only go up to size 12, most fashion models are a size 2 or less, plus size modeling now begins at a size 8, and you would be hard pressed to find models plus or otherwise who wear larger than a size 14 (excluding representing at least half the body types of all women). To make matters worse there is a constant barrage of lies from clothing manufactures that they are making products for “every-BODY” and “all shapes and sizes.” The affect of this messaging is not benign, in fact when a message is received that says “this is for everybody” and you don’t fit… there is a natural conclusion of “I must be NO-body.” This is where poor self esteem, depression, negative body image and eating disorders start. We have to challenge these messages, and challenge ourselves to fight back against them. When in doubt, rest assured there is nothing normal about Levi’s Curve ID campaign. In fact the women in the published advertisements likely represent the body types achievable by the bottom 5% of the normal curve. In fact the Curve ID jeans that are said to come in “all shapes and sizes” actually only go up to a size 14 which means that “all shapes and sizes” actually means “half of all shapes and sizes” (not quite the same ring to it). No matter what your body shape or size is, and no matter where you fall on the normal curve, it is important to demand that all women, not only women who are in the average or less than average range for body size and shape are recognized. No-BODY is a nobody!

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