Ever noticed how a thin model is just called a model and a well-endowed model is called a plus-size model? That’s because fashion has long been seen as the sole domain of “ideal-figured” women. In other words, women whose bodies fit the “36-24-36” measurements. How often have we seen women outside of this body type walking down the ramp at fashion shows? Or at photography shoots? Have you ever entered a boutique or garment shop and encountered mannequins of large women with big waists and thick thighs? Nike did that in London, but that’s it. I haven’t seen any in India. And I suspect I haven’t been witness to this wonder because of an inherently biased link society reinforces between petite bodies and pretty dresses.
Recently, model and make-up artist Tess Holliday called this hypocrisy out via a post on Instagram. With a picture of herself donning a pink strawberry-studded floor-length gown that she said had made her “feel like a princess,” Holliday wrote, “I like how this dress had me on worst dressed lists when I wore it in January to the Grammys, but now bc a bunch of skinny ppl wore it on TikTok everyone cares. To sum it up: our society hates fat people, especially when we are winning.”
The Term ‘Plus-Size’ Is Patronising And Divisive
The issue of body-shaming Holliday has brought forth sheds light on many problematic things that our society still grapples with, and is not ready to let go off. The first being the critical differentiation between thin people and fat people. Women still have to bear the brunt of not conforming to the “ideal” body size of a big chest, thin waist, and curvy hips, body positivity be damned.
Girls, haven’t we all been told by a random chachi or mami to “reduce” a little? Well, the only thing I want to reduce is their judgment of me.
And those women who fall outside the scale of these measurements are given labels like “plus-size” or “healthy” – as if that will soften the blow of the judgment or placate them. Frankly, the term “plus-size” sounds rather patronising, and has rightly amassed a lot of criticism from women across the board. Supermodel Ashley Graham in an interview had said, “I think the word “plus-size” is so divisive to women… when you use the word “plus-size,” you’re putting all these women into a category: “You don’t eat well.” “You don’t work out.” “You could care less about your body.” “You’re insecure.” “You have no confidence.”
“Lose A Little Weight To Look Pretty”
Holliday also raises an issue that is much too pertinent and hits close to home for all women. As girls, we’re often told to “lose a little weight” to make certain dresses look good on us. Such is the cynicism of this “well-intentioned” advice that it applies on everything women wear, from regular daily wear all the way to bridal lehengas. And god forbid if we choose to wear our fitted swimsuits to the beach with a bit of underarm or inner thigh spillage. Why is skin spillage deemed ugly?
This also highlights the prevalence of false beauty standards linked to body sizes. The notion that only a small-waisted woman can rock a bodycon dress or a big-sized woman should fall back on loose, oversized hoodies to feel “comfortable” in her body is highly problematic. Why can’t she have a heavy bust and thick arms and fit into a strappy crop top at the same time? Why are these fashion standards seen to be exclusive of each other? What if a fat woman feels most glamorous or comfortable in tiny shorts and a tight top?
Our toxic obsession with these traditions of beauty and body sizes have now become outdated. They’re not boding well in this day and age where body positivity and the resultant positive mental health is the need of the hour. As it is, we as women are taking patriarchy on our chins and combatting it every single day. The least society can do is to let us fight the battle in our own big, small, beautiful, different bodies without shame.
Image Credit: Tess Holliday Instagram
Views expressed are the author’s own.