Tess Holliday, a Plus Size model and founder of 'EffYourBeautyStandards' is an avid advocate for reclaiming the word 'fat'. All this sounds positive, right? Body positivity and protesting about mainstream beauty standards is an important and worthy cause. However, at size 26, is this a damaging message to promote?
Size 0 and the connotations of promoting that as a body ideal has been widely regarded as harmful and not an accurate reflection of the average woman for many years, but is promoting obesity any better? Obviously there are less models of this size in the industry, so their inclusion is a step in the right direction towards more diversity, however it still isn't addressing the biggest problem- that the models we see are not an accurate reflection of the majority of the population.
The average woman in America is a size 12-14, whereas most models in the US are a 0 or 00. Models, like Tess Holliday, are giving plus sized women someone to relate to which is great, yet this feeds into the industry's problem of promoting extremities. You can be healthy and be a size 0 or a size 26, for example, but the reality is that these sizes are often not healthy and come with a plethora of health issues.
So what's the solution? Arguably models like Ashley Graham, Barbie Ferreria, Iskra Lawrence and Nadia Aboulhoson answer this dilemma. Their rise is a step in the right direction, because on average they are a size 14, making them more relatable to the majority of women. The biggest change that needs to happen in the industry is ditching the label of 'plus sized' when referring to women who, are in fact, average size. Plus size is a good term to use for models like Tess Holliday, and maybe a new term needs to develop for the models who are a size 0, so that these models like Graham can become the new 'norm' in the industry.
Lena Dunham has weighed in on the debate, referring to Amy Schumer's criticism of US Glamour Magazine including her on the cover 'Chic at Any Size' without telling her first. Dunham stated "I think what Amy was really saying was just like let's remove labels and she was just saying like why do you have to categorise our bodies. Women-people should be able to recognise themselves in the media that they watch".
Amy had a point, she argued that "I think there's nothing wrong with being plus size. Beautiful healthy women. Plus size is considered size 16 in America. I go between a size 6 and an 8. @glamourmag put me in their plus size only issue without asking or letting me know and it doesn't feel right to me. Young girls seeing my body type thinking that is plus size? What are your thoughts? Mine are not cool glamour not glamorous".
Amy may not have expressed this sentiment in the most coherent manner, but the point sticks. Models of all sizes are great because they reflect the women who are that size, but calling someone who is an average size 'plus' is harmful, particularly for young girls. It promotes the idea that being a healthy, normal weight is not the norm, and that it's by default abnormal. Looking at the runway - although there is slightly more diversity now-a-days - tall, slim women are still the majority. Just because a model doesn't fit 'runway norms' doesn't mean they should be automatically categorised as 'plus size'. The dictionary definition of 'plus size' is "of larger size than normal", yet a look at models who are deemed 'plus' or 'curve' in the industry shows that they are rarely larger than the average woman.
One size doesn't fit all, size 0 doesn't fit all, plus size doesn't fit all- but having more models between the sizes 8-14 in mainstream media would be fitting a lot more women than the current extremities promoted.
Lane Bryant's campaign #I'mNoAngel is the kind of imagery we need to be seeing in the media more frequently. What are your thoughts? Let us know...
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