I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of the current debate surrounding the health of “plus-size” and “curvy” models that was re-ignited by the recent Sports Illustrated swimsuit parade.
Is it not possible for a person to simply model clothes that are being sold, in the sizes that they are sold in, without us debating their shape and their health based on their appearance?
Those plus-size models, whose well-being people are so concerned about – they are buying and wearing clothes regardless of their cholesterol levels (which are quite frankly none of our business). They are going to work, they are wearing sexy lingerie, they are swimming, they are attending weddings – and they need something to wear for all of those activities.
It makes sense for the discussion to transcend body shape, so I’m not sure why women are constantly categorized. Men don’t have 20 different fruits (apple, pear) and every day household items (hourglass, newspaper, chopsticks) for the classification of their bodies by other people.
Is it ever OK to comment on someone’s weight. We discuss with the Mamamia team. (Post continues after audio.)
So here’s my suggestion; rather than concentrating on names and defining women with labels, let’s start a revolution. Let’s broaden the media coverage to include every shape that’s on the streets – not just the ones we’re meant to aspire to.
Because it seems that’s the real ‘problem’ with plus size models – not whether they are glorifying obesity or not – it’s that they’re actually not as diverse as they may seem. They generally have hour-glass figures. They’re usually in proportion. They still fit an ultimate ideal of ‘sexy’ – just look at the most successful “plus-size” model in the world, Ashley Graham.
If the media truly wants to represent diversity, it needs to include women with obvious tummies and back fat. Smaller breasts and big arms. Shorter statures. The plus-size we see is still only representative of a small portion of women who don’t fit into the supermodel dimensions. There are a lot of people in the middle of the spectrum who’d love to see some representation – like me.
A frenemie once said I’m built like an ‘apple’. Sadly, it took me a couple of years to think of the retort, “I’m more Golden Delicious than Granny Smith.” Man, that would have been so good. #regret. But in any case, I’m actually a combination of labels – and just look around us – most women are.
Scroll through to see more from Ashley Graham – the world’s most successful “plus-size” model. Images via Instagram. (Post continues after gallery.)
I’ve been everything from Sportsgirl-size-ten-Nama, to under-the-poncho-size-sixteen-Nama. And whatever state my body is in, there’s a universal truth: I will buy, and wear (in public), clothes.
That universal truth is also universally true of every person. And in the First World, clothing is not just to guard against the elements – it is Fashun. For most people in First World countries, clothes are a form of expression – almost art, darlings.
So why should the marketing of clothes be the sole domain of people the media says are aesthetically appealing? To get even deeper – why do we keep buying into this artificially constructed ideal?
Let’s push for representation, rather than an ideal.
I truly believe if a company is manufacturing clothes in every size, then it should reflect that in its parades and media. It’s imperative that it does.
I read an article last week, which I’m deliberately not linking to, where the writer claimed that the #bodypositivity movement – that encourages women of all shapes and sizes to not only accept themselves, but be proud of themselves – was just another way of defining women merely by their attractiveness.
What the writer failed to understand is how not liking yourself, not liking the way you look, is a harmful, lifelong prison in many women’s minds. The writer admitted that she had never been larger than a maximum of size ten. Which means of course that she’s spent her entire life seeing herself reflected on tv, in magazines, in movies – and can’t really fathom what not seeing yourself can do to your psyche.
That’s great for her, but the problem with that is you can’t then minimise what lack of representation means to a person if you’ve never experienced it yourself.
In the absence of broad, diverse representation, there is only one – or only a limited – type that’s seen as the ideal. And growing up, being repeatedly shown that you don’t belong, that no one would aspire to be like you because you’re not good enough – that can be very damaging.
Of course appearances aren’t everything. We are all more than our looks, and our opinions of ourselves are far more important than what others think. But this is about basic human needs: acceptance, and feeling like you matter.
We’re still not getting that, and quite frankly, in this era of inclusivity, it’s just not bloody good enough. We’ve come a long way, baby – but we also have a long way to go. So, we need to support the companies that support us – that reflect us. Put our money where our mouths are, take the fashion revolution to the next level, and demand for all of us to literally be seen.
Nama Winston is a writer and a recovering solicitor, who just wants us all to be nicer to each other. You can follow her on Facebook, here.