Talking Point: Why the ‘Plus-size’ Label is Bullshit
If there’s one thing that really winds me up, it’s body shaming. I will never advocate for unhealthy eating habits, or a body type that puts a person at serious risk of ill-health. However, I genuinely believe that we’re all beautiful in our own way. So, why is it that people seem to be in such a rush to stick a hurtful label on everything? For now, I’m going to focus on the arrangement of the words ‘plus-sized model’. Do we really need to be so pedantic as to point out that a person might be ever so slightly curvier than the typical?
The fashion industry has come a long way in recent years. I can’t tell you how much it warms my heart to see huge brands such as Tommy Hilfiger adapting their products to allow everybody from amputees to wheelchair users feel fabulous in their clothing – and be able to wear them with independence. Even high-street brands such as River Island have started introducing people with Down Syndrome as the face of their campaigns. It’s incredible, and long overdue. To be honest, it’s terrible that we even have to praise it – it should have always been a given. But we still have such a long way to go, as far as labels are concerned. I truly believe that by labelling curvy women plus-sized, or by acknowledging a model with special needs is ‘different’, we’re sending out dangerous messages to younger generations that your worth is based solely on how ‘able’ you are, how much you weigh, or how you look in a bikini. And let me tell you, I have been personally victimised by the notion that you have to have a particular body type to be ‘bikini body ready’. In truth, it’s a load of shit.
As I child, I loved dressing up. I loved throwing on my favourite Disney princess dress (usually Aurora or Ariel) and a pair of my mum’s heels. And you better believe I coated my eyelashes in the most fabulous purple, glittery mascara. I finished off my look with rainbow, clip-in hair extensions and a coating of my favourite sickly sweet lipgloss, probably from Claire’s. I looked in the mirror, gave myself a twirl and I smiled from ear to ear. I felt fabulous and I owned it. My beloved glittery mascara stayed with me until I was 15 and met my first and last boyfriend – and finally developed a more socially acceptable sense of style*. But even as I applied my sophisticated, grown-up makeup, I missed my fun, glitzy products and often thought how sad it was that I could no longer express myself and feel as confident as I had as a child.
Nowadays, girls as young as seven are using makeup – even for school. And although I’m a firm believer that we should live and let live, it makes me really sad. Kids aren’t allowed to be kids anymore – and what’s worse is that they don’t know how to be. Gone are the days of sparkly mascara and electric blue eyeliner. And I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw a plaited hairband with extensions hanging from the sides. Sure, they were ugly as hell. But didn’t we have so much fun wearing them? There is far too much pressure on children, particularly young girls, to look more grown up more quickly, and I blame it on the labels the fashion and beauty industry throw around thoughtlessly every day, with no regard for the damage they could be doing to our children. Social media doesn’t help, either, but that’s another post for another day.
Beauty should not be defined simply by a toned stomach and a thigh gap (whilst this too is beautiful). Nor should it be defined by prominent cheekbones, collarbones and long legs that go all the way up. Cliche though it may sound, beauty really is only skin deep, and you learn this as you age. Beauty is about far more than how you look on the outside; it’s about having the courage to be kind to other people, and accept yourself cellulite, three chins and all. Because, let’s face it; we are only human. Some women are born with a slender, lean frame. For other women, achieving such a physique is simply unrealistic. We are all born unique, individual and beautiful in our own way. But we are beautiful. Imagine for a second how boring the world would be if everybody looked the same.
We all have body goals. At some point or another, we have all made idle promises to actually hit the gym, but instead picked up a box of Krispy Kremes on the way home from a shitty day at work and eaten the lot. Sorry, not sorry. (Yes, I have actually done this, and it was totally worth it). For me, the most desirable kind of body is a healthy body. A body that radiates the happiness of the person inside it. Size 4 or 24, ‘plus size’ or ‘petite’, you’re beautiful. Stop labelling yourself ‘skinny’ or ‘chunky’. Start labelling yourself loyal, smart, funny, caring…these are characteristics that matter way more than your dress size. Your dress size is literally the least interesting thing about you.
On the topic of so-called ‘plus-size’ models, I am completely bewildered by Robyn Lawley. She has the most gorgeous curves, enviable toned tum, peachy bum and a set of boobs to die for. She is absolutely beautiful. Why do we feel the need to call her plus-sized? Can we not just call her a beautiful woman who models for a living, and be done with it?