Size 6. Plus size. Not the same thing, right?
Today I read an interview with Whitney Thompson, a past winner of America’s Next Top Model. Whitney is a plus-size model, and while I don’t know her dress size (the internet reports it as anywhere from 8 to 14), I do know that this shit is ridiculous.
I’ve been aware for a long time that there are serious, layered problems with the fashion industry’s portrayal of women. Hello. And, to play way nicer than is called for, I’ll leave out the horrifying gender politics and stick to the question of weight. We have models resorting to IV drips for food-free nutrition. We have truly grotesque levels of airbrushing – both to makes models appear unnaturally thin and to flesh them back out when their ribs look unappealing. And now, I’ve had an epiphany about a whole new level of wrongness.
I wear a size 6. (I refuse to say, “I am a size 6;” it seems like enough other people are already reducing women to numbers.) But yes, I wear a size 6, and I’m furious.
This isn’t because I suddenly feel insulted, where before I thought I was “safe” and could play by fashion’s rules if I wanted to. No. I’ve known this whole situation was messed up for years. Obviously it’s a problem that the fashion industry’s perception of “plus size” completely ignores whether a woman is actually healthy. (“Screw your perfectly in-the-green BMI; you’re still hideous!”) Obviously it’s fucked up that it’s hard for most women in this country to find flattering clothes in their size. (I’ll repeat once again the statistic that 14 is the average size for women in America.) But honestly, I wasn’t more vocal about this before because I never felt a direct link to the problem. I knew the portrayal of women in advertising had messed with my understanding of beauty when I was younger, but I felt pretty confident I’d moved past that. I was deeply sad that one of my most objectively gorgeous friends (who wears a size 14) makes negative comments about her own body every time we talk. But, somehow, I just didn’t think this was one of MY social issues.
Yeah, dumb, I know. Of course it’s my issue too, for about a million reasons. And while it did take this latest revelation to slap me awake, it seems amazing now that I didn’t catch on sooner. There have been signs. Like me wondering recently, while purchasing the size Large underwear it takes to cover my booty, “If at size 6 I wear a Large, what does that mean for ladies in the double digits?
So, here. Here are some photos. I hope they make you as mad as they make me, especially if you’ve previously been as blasé as I have about the problem. And please understand that I use these examples because, while they make me want to ask the rhetorical question, “What could POSSIBLY be improved about these women?” I now realize the fashion industry would find plenty of “trouble areas” to circle, even here. (These women all self-reported wearing a size 6 on the awesome body-empowerment website My Body Gallery: What Real Women Look Like. Again, I don’t think size 6 is some magical standard of attractiveness; I just think these women fall so squarely within Western norms of beauty that it makes the point that NO ONE, no matter how close-minded, would judge them as overweight. And yet. They are considered plus size, and would have trouble finding work in the fashion industry because they are too large.)
So. Where does that leave me/us? I don’t have any answers. Right now I’m just angry. (Finally!) But I do recommend posting a photo of yourself to My Body Gallery and browsing through the images of other women who are reclaiming their awesome. Besides that? I guess my best advice would be to have a private dance party to this uplifting song, right now. Maybe while we dance, we can work in some moves where we flash our middle fingers to fashion’s failures and then give ourselves giant hugs.
Read more of my (productive) rants on body image here: