Sorry to be repetitive, but I’ve been reading more on the #DropThePlus campaign and it got me thinking. Lovely as Ajay is, I’m sorry to say the more I think about it the less keen I am on it. Though I agree totally with their desire to make a better world for girls, and applaud them for their attempts, if not their methods.
I suspect this will be a long post.
Edit: Just wanted to link to this which shows up a few more concerns with this campaign.
Edit again: And then this.
Since my last post Ajay has done a follow up blog post, and there are a few things I take issue with within it.
Tess Holliday/Laura Wells
For starters she talks about a post by Tess Holliday/Munster about #DropThePlus.
First of all, Tess said on her facebook page the day before the interview that she wants to keep the plus size label because not only is she proud of it but that it pays her bills.
The quote she’s referencing is this, I feel she misses a lot of the point being made by focusing on the “pays the bills” part. Tess has brought up the paying of bills as a contrast to the straight size fashion world who would never give her work.
I wouldn’t like to put words into Tess Holliday’s mouth, as she is an incredible intelligent and articulate woman, but what I read in to those few short sentences is that the very fact self styled plus size brands exist has opened up possibilities for larger ladies that just would not exist if there was no distinction between straight sized and plus sized.
Now Ajay goes on to reference Laura Wells making a similar comment, and I figured that as Tess Munster’s comment had been misconstrued that it was possible the same had happened here. So here’s a comparison of what Ajay says was said;
Laura has gone on record and said as long as plus size labels pay her bills she could care less about the impact of the word on the real world.
And what Laura actually said;
If I wasn’t called a ‘plus sized model’ I wouldn’t have a job. There wouldn’t be a spot for me in the industry.
That title has empowered me, it has put me in magazines where people can see me, and that wouldn’t have happened if the industry had not created that category for people like me, people who are the average size 14. The industry is forging the way for new body shapes and ages and sizes. I get a lot of positive attention from women and men, saying how encouraged they are and how good it is to see me in campaigns or magazines. Without ‘plus size’ I wouldn’t be able to empower anyone because I wouldn’t be there in the first place.
I’ve never had a problem with the terminology, because it’s an industry term. That’s what people have to understand. For me, plus size has just been a job title. I’ve never thought of it as derogatory. What the fashion world deems as plus size is not what plus size is in reality. We know that, and it’s important others know that too.
If I stand next to a straight size model, you can see the difference. It’s obvious I’m larger than straight size models. Why say otherwise? The fact that we’re called plus size may be a point of concern to the outside world, but within the fashion world it is fine, and it’s actually empowering. We’re on the first stepping stone to having plenty of shoots with models of all different sizes.
Which isn’t exactly, “I’m getting my money so fuck all of you”.
While I think that labeling models who are, in terms of the general population, average sized as plus sized is ridiculous from the point of view of making a lot of young girls think that a UK size 12 is somehow above average. I can also see that having this plus sized category means that at least we are seeing women like Laura Wells in magazines. I mean, just look at the difference between her and the straight sized model in the image below.
If we get rid of the term plus size how is that any guarantee of women like Laura Wells being seen in more magazines? Or women like Tess Holliday? Or any of the models in the inbetween sizes?
Ajay has done a debate with Tess Holliday, and in her blog post she says this about it
During our debate [Tess] went on to say that “plus” size is just a word and words can’t hurt unless we allow them to. Hey I’m totally behind all Tess’s success because she really is paving the way for more women of different sizes to be included in top tier modeling. But it is vital that we acknowledge that words do hurt. They are hurting our children every single day in the playground and online. We are losing lives every single day because of hurtful words and sadly, fat and variations of that word ARE hurtful.
I agree with Tess wholeheartedly here. Yes, right now the word “fat” is used as an insult more than anything, and that makes it hurtful. No debate there. But what Tess was saying is that the words is still, underneath all the stigma, a descriptive term. Like “petite”, or “red haired”, or “blue eyed”. It’s the stigma that is problematic, not the word.
Ok, I’m going to bring something into this debate that I am aware is a problematic topic for a white woman to be covering, but it’s relevant to something Ajay covers.
Fat is a word that IS used to hurt and if we tell children that words can’t hurt, we tell them that their message is not being heard, that their pain is not real and we give permission for the bullies to continue. It is easier to change a word than it is to teach a child to get used to it. We’ve done it before and I don’t need to tell you those words to make this point but take a moment and think back. Let me give you a letter to help you. Try N-
I have real issues with the word “fat” being equated with the N word. If we look at the history of the two terms, one has primarily been used as a descriptive term, and one primarily as a derogatory term. Strip “fat” of it’s associated stigma and it just means “larger”, strip the N word of it’s stigma.. well it was a term designed to be derogatory. I feel like a more accurate word to equate with “fat” isn’t the N word, it’s “black”.
Try going through the reasoning behind #droptheplus but replace “fat” or “plus sized” with “black” or “dark skinned”.
Black is a word that IS used to hurt and if we tell children that words can’t hurt, we tell them that their message is not being heard, that their pain is not real and we give permission for the bullies to continue. It is easier to change a word than it is to teach a child to get used to it.
Just changing the word there made me feel vile. You would never dream of telling a child that the word black is so bad we need to stop using it altogether. Because then you are telling them that being black is bad.
Saying that the terms plus size and fat need to be got rid of entirely gives the message that it is a bad thing to be fat or plus size.
Better to keep the words but keep pushing for the associated stigma to be eradicated. Now while there is still a hell of a lot of racism in the world, it is not seen as so acceptable as it once was.
Why can’t we try doing the same with “fat” and “plus size”. In fact isn’t the rise in the number of plus size models part of that process?
I absolutely have to call Ajay out on this nasty line now, ironically it’s about bullying.
I will give her the benefit of the doubt as she is young and childless and therefore is unable to truly understand the heart breaking pain of playground bullying.
Now as a fellow mother I’d like to say to Ajay that I understood that pain long before I had children as I was bullied badly for my appearance, I also saw all of my female friends go through the same no matter their size. I would be very surprised if Laura hadn’t had the same experience. Because, as women, we’ve always been judged on our appearances. It’s been part of our lives since we came into this world. It’s going to be the same for my baby girl. The way to stop this though isn’t to remove words.
It’s to teach our daughters that they are more than their looks, and teach our sons the same. Only when our appearances aren’t seen as up for public scrutiny can we save our children from appearance based bullying.
When women in the public eye aren’t ridiculed for not attaining un-achievable beauty standards, when a talented women is judged on those talents not on her looks. Then we’ll be somewhere.
But saying “plus size” is offensive, let’s be rid of the word, that gives it more power, not less. When we’ve said one of the worst things you can call someone is “plus size”, we are saying that being plus size is one of the worst things you can be.
One of the things that comes up over and over again is that girls find buying clothes labelled “plus size” triggering. And I do get that, as someone who has suffered with disordered eating and self harm related to how I looked, yes I found buying a bigger size triggering.
Problem is, that goalpost moved. When I was a size 16 then size 16 was triggering. When I went down to a 14 then 14 was triggering. When I was 12 then, guess what, 12 was triggering. Because I always wanted to be smaller, and smaller faster.
I found other things triggering too. Slim models, slim celebrities, airbrushed celebrities.. diet books and programmes..
Actually, my worst trigger was binge watching dieting programmes, especially any that showed fat people being told they had to lose weight.
Phrases that were likely to have me throwing my small amount of food in the bin, or have me adding 20 mins to my workout were things like;
all it takes to lose weight is dedication and focus
This week I talk about how it’s never too late to make a change for the better (although the sooner, the thinner!)
You’re obese, you’re alone and you’re running out of options to create the extraordinary life you want to be able to give your son, complete with all the love, security and opportunity you never had.
What do you do? […] You pick yourself up, dust yourself off and shed half your body weight.
The diet industry was a massive factor for me, and for many of the women and girls I’ve known. In a lot of ways dieting is a gateway to eating disorders.
Dieting teaches you that thinner is better, fatter means failure, and that you are only fat because you aren’t trying hard enough. Just look at all these others who’ve lost loads! Why can’t you do it too?
It’s addictive too, there’s a real thrill from stepping on the scales and seeing the numbers go down. And you crave a bigger thrill, and for the thrills not to stop, so you reach your target weight and think, “maybe I could lose a bit more”. And on it goes.
Some horrendous number of women have been on diets, and it’s everywhere you look. Slimfast on the supermarket shelves, celebrities talking about their weight loss in magazines..
This is part of why girls are being taught fat is a bad thing to be called, because they are taught over and over that weight loss makes you a better person. A happier person. One who can have an “extraordinary life”.
She’s not really fat though
Final thoughts (for now) on slim women like Laura Wells being labeled plus size.
She isn’t what I’d consider plus size personally, but she is bigger than other models, and that should be encouraged.
But more than that, when she says she is proud to be plus size I feel like she is saying, “I stand with you” to those of us who are much larger. That she isn’t ashamed to be lumped with us fatties. That she is equal to us even if her measurements aren’t.
And for that I love her.