It’s annoying that I don’t have the rights to the Jantzen Diving Girl, so I can’t include the visual evidence for her changing body; instead I will just have to link it here. It’s annoying that this will probably affect my readership, because I really think that this topic is important, and not just because I am writing this myself. What’s most annoying is that after being exposed to “The Evolution of the Jantzen Diving Girl,” I now have another reason to feel insecure about my body, both within and without a swimsuit.
This link will take you to the Jantzen Apparel website. They have been selling swimwear for over 100 years, and their logo/icon of the Diving Girl in a red swimsuit has become an international symbol over the past century. As well as Jantzen’s own swimsuits, cars, pens, toys and a number of other nouns have also borne the Girl (and served, additionally, as free marketing for the company). She’s pretty famous, and she’s always diving in what I assume to be good form. I don’t really know anything about diving, so it’s entirely possible that her form is not good, which would make my reading even more interesting, but it looks pretty legit to me. At any rate, she was designed to be and to stay aesthetically pleasing and to sell.
What I’m not sure that the Girl was designed to do (initially, at least) was shrink. And shrink she has. This is where rights to the image would come in handy, but alas, I don’t own them. If you look at the “evolution” of the icon, though, which Jantzen has conveniently provided for us, it is pretty easy to see that the Diving Girl has a noticeably slimmer waist, tighter thighs, and a smaller bum now than she had in the 1920s. If she were alive (and the Diving Girl a real person), my grandmother would have tried to feed her some food.
When I see her, I think: “she looks good, though, that Diving Girl does.” She has the body I wish I had but will never get, no matter how many hundreds of squats I do a day. Still, though, I am bothered by her weight loss, and not just because it makes me feel bad about myself. There has been a bevy of scholarly work done on the shrinking waistlines of Disney Princesses and other pop culture heroines (Barbie); we can now add the Diving Girl to the list of those fake, cartoonish figures who, despite their fantasy existences, have real-life (though often subtle) implications on women and men throughout the world.
You see, the Diving Girl was never overweight, so she didn’t need to slim down for her health. She slimmed down because she was imitating a culture that has become obsessed with youth and smallness. Or maybe it was the other way around: maybe it’s because of images like this that our culture has become obsessed with shrinking. Maybe Wilde was right; maybe life does imitate art. I would have to be much better read and studied in this area than I am currently to wager a guess at what the main reason for her thinness is, but for me, the why is not so important in this case. It’s the what that is. It’s the fact that the millions of people who have seen the new and improved, skinny Diving Girl have subconsciously registered her as a defining symbol of beauty and status. And I think that this is sad, because skinny doesn’t mean beautiful any more than a lot of money does, despite what Victoria’s Secret and Calvin Klein and Glamour like to tell us.
 And I get it — no one can make me feel inferior without my consent. It’s not the Diving Girl’s fault. I’m working on it.
 And for goodness’ sake can we please stop calling women with normal BMIs “plus-sized models” like they are some kind of different and marginalized species? Because this is not plus-sized. This is what every woman I know wishes she looked like. Nice try Glamour, but Lizzie Miller is not and never will be plus-sized.
Previously from Laura Creel:
♦ Letter to My Ex
♦ In Memoriam: The Death of Many Cover Letters, Resumes and Job Applications
♦ Songs of My Mother: Part 1
♦ Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” Gives Us a Run for Our Money