When and why did plus-size and fat become bad words? They seem more polarizing than bread: one either wants to embrace the term or keep away from it entirely. The stigma around these words once created a public invisibility cloak by many media outlets and corporations; however, we are now in what I call, the rise of the plus-size woman. And baby, get ready to ride this wave because nothing is stopping its arrival.
The Internet and social media have moved six-degrees of separation to literally, none, and the plus-size industry has blossomed through this space. Nevertheless, in the age of seeing plus-size and fat women more frequently (yet still not nearly enough) in editorials, videos and on runways, a weirdly interesting sub-culture within the movement is appearing: some people want to completely separate from the term plus-size and/or fat.
I get it: the term plus-size can be confusing.
In the fashion industry, for models, it can begin at a size 6-8 and go up to a 24+, with the sweet spot for booking jobs are either a 12-14 or an 18.
For many stores, plus-size begins at a 12+, with some brands starting as small as an 8. Also, remember, that plus-size also includes “W” and a 12W, 14W are not the same cut as a 12 or a 14.
While the community of body positivity and plus-sized acceptance are clearly influencing brands and media, within the same community, there are women who want to do away with the word entirely.
What’s wrong with descriptions? What’s wrong with being in a category (12-14) that is the average size of the American woman?
Plus-size or fat isn’t negative or positive. It’s just a description to what is. Same as skinny. However, what society has done, is attached these feelings of positivity and negativity to plus-size, fat, and skinny (working in both positive and negative ways for each), that have taken an unnecessary toll on women and our bodies.
Ashley Graham is currently the most notable plus-size model in the industry. Interestingly, she has spent the past 10 years within the industry, embracing plus-size; however, now she wants to disassociate with the word.
In an interview with Cosmopolitan Magazine, the model stated, “Just because I’m not calling myself plus size doesn’t mean I’m not representing a woman who is.”
As Ashley continues to show off a slimmer physique, it’s hard not to question whether we’re walking down the Sophie Dahl narrative. Sophie is one of the most recognizable plus-size models that really paved the way for plus-size models in the high fashion arena. She posed for Vogue covers and high fashion editorials, like below, with all of her rolls and folds and cellulite. It was glorious (it was virtually unheard of in the late 90’s and early 2000’s).
The fat babe that made so many strides for plus-size women in high fashion, now looks like this:
If she lost weight for health reasons or for herself, fine. Not shaming. However, why does every plus-size woman that the movement upholds, particularly the ones who get larger than Internet famous, seem to shrink (physically) once they truly hold the platform and podium to discuss the power of plus-size? Is everyone in the movement secretly on a diet?
Healthy is a different and important adjective. Healthy doesn’t know a certain weight or size. Yes, obesity and extreme skinniness can cause health problems, but there is a vast spectrum between these two and literally, every body is different.
I encourage larger women (however you define yourself) to embrace the words plus-size and fat. I encourage all women to get off the 10 pound diet that is preventing you from living your life. You know that diet: “When I lose 10 pounds, I’m going to >>insert whatever it is here.<<” (i.e. Buy a bikini, start online dating, etc.) Whether you lose or gain another 10 pounds, your life is still full.
The minute we start looking and associating the word with what it really describes: strong women, brave women, active women, intelligent women…just to name a few, is the minute we will truly make strides in body positivity and have a body movement where all bodies (and not just certain ones in certain shapes) are included.