A recent article about how Amy Schumer tweeted against Glamour magazine’s “plus-sized” issue grabbed my attention this week. Amy isn’t “plus-sized”, she’s a size 6-8 which is probably larger than normal in Hollywood but her point was that what if young girls look at her photo and feel that she is plus-sized? Then there is all the photo-shopping which people are talking about. Or the April Fool’s joke that Aerie played using “normal” men in their ad which people thought was a serious ad campaign and so they (me included) were applauding the company until they found out it was only a joke. Assholes. Really, that was an asshole thing to do because it’s not just women who are struggling with their body image, men are under the gun as well thinking they need six-pack abs and look like Thor out of the Avenger movies. Eh…
My first rant is something that I’ve noticed women are speaking out against. Why have a plus-size designation or label at all? I hate when people say oh you’re plus-sized or even worse, the term BBW or big beautiful woman. Why not just BW? Beautiful woman. At what point do I become “big”? Yes I’m larger than a size 6 but I’m smaller than a size 24. I’m in the middle of the spectrum actually. Maybe I should be ABW or average-sized beautiful woman. I don’t mind the designation of “curvy” or “voluptuous” because this is more a shape than a size. But curvy could be a size 6 or 24 again… And who decides what is “plus-sized?” If the average clothing size is a size 14 then the average woman is considered “plus-sized” and by whom? I don’t get who makes any of these determinations.
One of my favorite places to shop is Old Navy for multiple reasons, the clothes are reasonable, they are usually more classically and simply styled (I’m not particularly trendy) and all the sizes are put together. At one time Old Navy did like many of the other stores (though a good majority of specialty clothing stores do not have sizes over 16) and had a plus-sized section hidden away in the back of the store as if you had to be ashamed to go in that area to shop. But eventually their plus-size section disappeared and my sizes (because it depends on what I’m buying) are mixed in with, gasp, the 0-2’s. God help this fat girl if she rubs elbows with the elusive tiny woman (yes, I am rolling my eyes as I write this).
My other beef with plus-sized sections of department stores and especially the stores who are considered more upscale is that they assume that “plus-sized” women want to wear nothing but the color black and having elastic waistbands along with gold lame that my even my grandmother wouldn’t wear. In other words, I do not have the fashion sense of an elderly woman (and thank god most ‘elderly’ women are rejecting this stereotype as well). I do not want a pair of lavender polyester pants with an elastic waist with a matching blazer that looks like it was manufactured in the 1970’s. Are you kidding me? I ride the escalator down to the “normal” sizes and sigh as I pass the cute and fashionable clothing I am deemed too big to wear. Then I feel pressure to lose weight so I can wear pretty clothes and not shop only at Lane Bryant (who also seems to fall into the black is the only color for fat category) where much of the clothing to me is overpriced and not very well-made.
So has the fashion and clothing industry not realized that they have missed a gold mine of manufacturing clothing in more sizes and just putting them all on the same racks? I would buy more clothes if I was offered better selections and not sequestered to a dark, dank, humid and overheated corner of the upscale department store. Certainly I would enjoy not being hidden away from the other shoppers because I am considered “plus-sized” and having the same choices that skinny women do. It always feels like I am being punished because I’m bigger but I can bet considering my bone structure and muscle mass from all my athletic pursuits that my body fat percentage is less than some of those who are size 10-14. Oh and BMI, you can stick that measurement too. It doesn’t work for someone like me who has the thigh muscles the size of a male body builder after years of cycling. I have turkey drumsticks for legs and I’m proud of them. I can leg press 300 lbs on a good day. I’d rather be strong than skinny and weak any day. And by the way, my blood pressure is 110/74 and outside of a bit high on my bad cholesterol (due to hypothyroidism and genetics), all those blood tests come out smashingly.
Okay, since I’m on a roll, let’s talk Photoshopping. I’m happy to see people speaking out about these images that are clearly retouched until the person doesn’t look like who they are in person. That magazines and ad campaigns are now featuring “real” people. I can remember being a teenager and looking at magazines like “Seventeen” and feeling like a complete and utter failure because my skin wasn’t porcelain, my thighs weren’t thin and my shoulders were broad. My hair was never that perfect. I walked around feeling like I had to be embarrassed for my very existence. You have enough pressure at that age without adding perfection on every screen, page and billboard. Why can’t we just be real? What is wrong with that? I don’t get it.
I remember being in my early 20’s, with a baby, watching Oprah Winfrey one day as I rocked my daughter to sleep for a nap. Jenny McCarthy was on the talk show and she held up a poster-sized picture of herself that had been dramatically retouched. I remember sitting there on the couch with my mouth hanging open because I didn’t realize how much they could change a person in a photo. She took a big black Sharpie marker and started circling everything in the full-body photo that had been re-touched. I loved that she was so frank and honest about it because I never looked at magazines and advertisements the same again. I no longer felt so inferior because I wasn’t perfect and according to McCarthy, neither was she.
We are slaves to these companies that want to sell us products and such to achieve perfection whether its cosmetics, diet products, clothing, cars, etc. The diet industry alone is in the billions of dollars per year. Billions. Think of what we could do if we took the money we spent on diet this and diet that and put it toward helping the homeless or people who are starving…
As I wrote in my last post about slipping back into the diet mentality, we make ourselves miserable trying to achieve something that we think we should be and not really focusing on what we want, what we really need and what really makes us happy. After over a week of eating exactly what I want, when I am hungry, I’ve lost 3 lbs. Not that I’m keeping track or even care about weight anymore, I just felt different and was curious. It’s amazing how much power diets and expectations are driven into us by media outlets and how they can make us unhappy and actually in my case, bigger because diets don’t work for me. When I quit obsessing over what I eat, I really enjoy my food and I don’t eat as if I’m never going to see a meal again.
So, in conclusion, I’m glad to see the status quo being challenged when it comes to size and labels. I realize that this isn’t a major deal such as world hunger, but I don’t know why we have to be labeled at all. I would love to go into a mall and walk into any clothing store and find my size and clothes I really want to wear without having to compromise. I shouldn’t have to feel grateful because a few stores cater to “plus-sized”.
I just want to be Laura, not plus-sized or BBW Laura. I don’t want to be defined by my body size or my weight. I want to be defined by who I am. I want to wear the red dress!