Apologies for those who don’t follow me on instagram, it looks like I have dropped off the side of the earth. I’m having one of those mental busy exciting social kind of summers, working and playing in equal measure.
After recently reading about Tess Holiday’s signing to MiLK Model Management, and her career exploding in rambunctious style, I have started to notice the rise of the (UK) size 14+ model. This has filled my mind with all sorts of conflicting thoughts. Firstly, let’s call a spade a spade, one of my fortes in life… by “plus size” I am referring to the obvious – fat.
My initial thought when realising the industry has finally started to accept people who are not just really really thin…. Was – FUUUCK. I don’t have to go to the gym 4 times a week, and constantly restrain myself around food?! Holy shit… I don’t even know how to deal with that. I would feel too guilty being so relaxed. It’s quite sad really but like many women, I look back on my teenhood and wonder why the hell I was so worried about my body. Maybe I’ll look back on my twenties and feel the same way about such misplaced worry. I’m fit and healthy, that should be enough.
You know when you stare at a word for so long it starts to not look like a word anymore, like something is wrong with it? I think this is the same thing girls do with their bodies.*
You don’t have to be “plus-size” to realise the positive benefits of varied body shapes being more represented in advertising, it is a form of body-acceptance at least.
My Instagram feed, like many, is made up of the following: cute dogs, aerial shots of makeup, celebrities pretending to be normal, food and fitspo – Fitspo meaning images of women with small breasts, cheese grater abs and well-defined shoulders. This is not me, nor will it ever be me, but I find it really interesting how people can transform their bodies so dramatically. That said, I recently had to unfollow Kayla Itsines, it felt like a bit like an obsessive cult; I preferred the way some of the girls looked in their “before” shots, softer and less try-hard. I don’t embrace try-hard, anyone who knows me will testify to the speed in which I can get ready and lack of fuss I take over my fluffy head of hair. The same goes for my body, I look after it well and exercise etc but I don’t obsess… too much.
Beauty is of course subjective, and what we find attractive can be culturally endemic, and it can also be wildly varied from person to person. I find the older I get, the wider variety of people I enjoy looking at. Some women are truly beautiful at any size, usually with symmetrical features, glowing skin, a gorgeous smile, and they DO COMPLETELY prove that beauty comes in ALL sizes. I would never disagree with this sentiment for one second.
BUT (you knew there was a but coming) the thing that I find unsettling in all of this, is the idea that really quite fat, is now apparently ok? My conscience shouts “what about the size 0 models!?” – with jutting collar bones, sharp hip bones, and so little body fat they stop ovulating, not to mention a horribly strained relationship with eating… this was the standard in fashion advertising, I know it well. Nevertheless, over the past couple of years this emaciated look has been taken over by the “fit girl”, tall, slim and lean, but healthy looking. Healthy-hot is indeed a thing. Hurrah for health. Alongside this feat, all of a sudden big plus-size, is also a thing. Is it ok? I don’t know. I wonder why celebrating an unfortunate, unhealthy physical state is so on trend right now. Is it a backlash against the burpee, or the Nutribullet?
Could it be that plus size models are to plus-size women… what Paralympians are to the wheelchair-bound? Is that offensive? I hope not.**
My thoughts are really mixed here, but something funny, is how you will never see fat men portrayed in this way… maybe because men do not have as much value placed on their perceived physical attractiveness… funny and smart tend to be sufficient qualities. This always tickles me. Interesting how “plus-size” touches on gender. Men don’t have “plus-size” models, because men can be whatever size they want to be, without slotting into the identified groups of “normal” and “not normal”. All men are normal right? Especially the ones who like to eat.
I don’t have any resolute conclusions with this post…
* Soundbite from my brain
** Another soundbite