For ages, women have been told to that there is only a certain kind of beauty epitomized by the lithe, high fashion models whose main accessory seems to be their clavicle. Your size options ranged from Kate Moss to a “curvy” Victoria’s Secret model and your only goal was sex appeal. Needless to say, that society’s rigid construct of beauty has riddled generations of women of all sizes with major body image issues.
In the past few years, things finally started to look up for average and plus size women the world over. First the Kardashians made it fashionable to have curves again. I’m not the biggest fan of their empire but I am grateful for their fan base that emulated their backsides as it paved the way for plus sizes. Call it a “gateway ass” if you will, to the world we now live in where curve models are taking to the runways and Ashley Graham is omnipresent.
Without a doubt, you have seen a picture of a plus size model posted on Facebook and comments like “She’s not even plus size!” or “Where are the bigger girls like me?”
I’m a firm believer that no woman should shame another no matter if you think she is too big or too small, but these comments bring to light a bigger point. Representation. Sure, we should be happy that we’ve made amazing strides towards plus size acceptance in the fashion industry, but that doesn’t mean it makes the average plus size woman feel any more included.
I’ve recently written a controversial thought piece on falling short of the extreme standards for displaying body positivity on social media. Through that project, I found yet another realm where plus women are being forced to be defined in black-and-white terms.
The spectrum of body types deemed “OK” by media now have expanded to the classic model and the curve model. I’m allowed to be plus size if I am tall, proportionately hourglass, have no visible fat rolls from the front, and a skinny enough face to pass as “regular sized” in close ups. I know I’m not alone when I say that striving to be Ashley Graham or Hunter McGrady is just as unattainable as looking like Gisele. Most women have come to terms with the fact that we will be too big to ever be Hollywood-standard beauty, but having to revisit this notion to note that most women are too big to be celebrated as “curvy” is particularly frustrating.
We now have 2 molds and I don’t fit in either of them. Great. The other day while getting street harassed (as you do just by existing in NYC), I ignored a guy who catcalled me about my curves. This immediately made him angrily yell out, “You know what? You ain’t curvy anyways. You’re fat! Ugly fat ass.” Ah, yes, thank you random man. Your opinion of me as I tried to run errands is duly noted. We may never be able to stop people from being disgustingly rude haters, but hopefully we can stop this notion of fat equaling ugly and curvy being different (and better) than fat. We are supposed to be one in the same movement and I fear there is a schism ahead.
Some friends commiserate with me on this and others decided that the antidote to this is to put your middle finger up to the world and your fat rolls on the internet. What is a woman to do if she one of the 67% of women considered plus size trying to embrace her big stomach or back fat without becoming a political statement? I could accept myself as is, but without fail someone will come up and force their own opinions on me as if I must be placed in a labeled bin before they can go on with their lives. I don’t want to be told I’m too fat or too thin to be whatever or how leaving my house in anything less than a tent is “brave.” As I asked in my other piece, “When are we “enough” and allowed to just exist without society pushing back?” I may never have an answer to that, but I do know what we can do to keep the plus size movement from becoming just a new frontier of the same old exclusivity.
We must take to social media, use our purchase power and badger the fashion industry until we see more diversity. With the pressure put on them to embrace curves, we got 20 plus models on the NYFW runways. If we keep up the momentum, these models will start to diversify even more – plus and short, different races, different hair, freckles, stretch marks and every body shape in the fruit bowl. Sure, it will take a while because the fashion industry makes its profit by convincing people they must pay to be in their exclusive club of very specific kinds of beautiful people. Yet, we cannot give up.
Reflection of who we are is key and these standards can change. Every society has had aspirational figures that were exalted in the medium of the time – from Ruebensque beauty in paintings to big haired beauties on your MTV. We must unify as women of all sizes to fight for inclusion of all and steer this ship away from becoming a world with just a few more boxes we must fit in.