If, like me, you’re a fan of the Harry Potter books and movies you’ll remember how Voldemort was initially referred to as “He Who Must Not Be Named”. However, Professor Dumbledore encouraged Harry to “always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”
That quote has come to mind a lot with recent discussions about the term “plus-size”. One would think it’s as bad as the Dark Lord himself.
Last year Stefania Ferrario, a size 8 model, started the #DropThePlus campaign, claiming it would promote body confidence for women. She also went on to say, “Unfortunately, in the modeling industry if you’re above a U.S. size 4 you are considered plus-size, and so I’m often labeled a ‘plus-size’ model. I do NOT find this empowering.” How is it possible to promote body confidence for actual plus-size women when you’re unhappy being considered one of them?
Actress, Melissa McCarthy, who launched clothing line Melissa McCarthy Seven7 is also in favor of doing away with the term. In an interview with Refinery 29, Melissa said that a plus-size section is “taking your biggest category of people and telling them, ‘You’re not really worthy.’ If you’re going to make women’s clothing, make women’s clothing. Designers that put everyone in categories are over-complicating something that should be easy.” She didn’t say that of other clothing sections like junior, petite, missy or maternity. Why should only plus-size be eliminated? Also, WHAT is she saying to the women who fall outside her line’s size range of 4 – 28? Are we not “really worthy”?
There’s also Ashley Graham who gained fame (no pun intended) as a plus-size model. She was featured in several Lane Bryant ad campaigns, including #PlusIsEqual, and made history on the cover of this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Afterwards she appeared on Ellen to say “the problem (is)… we’re telling women that they’re plus size. For me, I just like to call it curva-sexalicious.” I need some clarification. Why wasn’t it a problem to be referred to as plus-size for Lane Bryant or Sports Illustrated? And where do I find the curva-sexalicious section at Walmart?
The latest celebrity to chime in is comedienne Amy Schumer. Glamour Magazine named her in their special edition, “Chic At Any Size!”, as one of the “Women Who Inspire Us”, along with Melissa McCarthy, Adele and Ashley Graham. Apparently offended over being grouped with those women, Amy took the magazine to task via social media: “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?” Although Glamour’s editor-in-chief, Cindi Leive, stressed that the “special edition never called her plus-size” and her inclusion was due to her “longtime message of body positivity” Amy later said, on The Tonight Show, “(W)hat I learned is that people really don’t really like being classified as plus-size. We don’t need these labels.” Who are the “we” Amy is referring to?
Indeed, why such fuss over “plus-size”? I believe it’s because the term is usually interchangeable with the word “fat”. THAT, my dear readers, is the thing they fear. We fat people are perceived as lazy, gluttonous, slovenly and, most of all, unattractive. 10 year olds are more afraid of being fat than they are of getting cancer or losing their parents. Some doctors refuse to provide proper medical treatment unless we lose weight or subject ourselves to surgery that mutilates our stomach and/or intestines. Fat is bad, fat is wrong, fat is undesirable. By wanting to #DropThePlus, Stefania, Melissa, Ashley and Amy are letting their fear of the word increase fear of the fat.
The problem is that they presume everyone else is also in fear and denial which is incorrect. There are a lot of people, like me, who are perfectly OK with those words. Plus-size simply means there are places where clothes can be found in sizes that actually fit. We know that fat describes our bodies like the words tall and slender describe other types of bodies. Fat is good, fat is right, fat is beautiful.
By embracing the words which are often used against us with malice, we take away their power to shame or hurt us. So when a man stood in front of me and screamed “Holy fuck, you’re FAT!”, instead of being embarrassed or bursting into tears as he probably expected, I was able to reply with a smile “Why, thank you! How nice of you to notice!”
Instead of increasing fear, what we need is to #KeepThePlus and continue promoting true positivity and acceptance for ALL bodies.
So this goes out to Stefania, Melissa, Ashley, Amy and anyone else who wants to speak on everyone’s behalf and #DropThePlus…