“Plus-sized” being thrown around too much
Article: Sonia Stanger – Contributor
Two weeks ago, Cosmopolitan magazine posted a link on their Facebook page to a photo shoot of Australian supermodel Robyn Lawley, whom they referred to as “sexy,” but also as “plus-size.” What followed was an outpouring of indignation by Facebook users, who took umbrage with the term, leaving hundreds of comments chiding the magazine for labeling Lawley, a healthy size ten, as “plus-size.”
Clearly realizing their misstep, the magazine has consequently removed both the post and article, and a more recent piece describes the model as “the obviously not ‘plus-size’ Lawely in all her curvy gorgeousness.”
I wish I could say that I believed that this shift was for morally upstanding reasons rather than financial ones, but the fact that it took thousands of indignant commenters to make Cosmo realise the problem with the designation of “plus-size” indicates that there is still a way to go in discourse around body acceptance and the female body.
To my mind, the designation of “plus-size” is a troubling one. The official definition refers to any model who is anything above a size 8. The disparity between this and the real-life bodies of human women doesn’t need to be remarked upon; it’s clearly delusional. Even just the chosen word, “plus,” suggests that there is more to a such a woman than she ought to, that she is taking up more space than she has right to. It sends a message to the women of the world. It reinforces the parameters of a very limited, even tyrannical, beauty ideal and marginalizes anyone who falls outside of them. It doesn’t matter that bodies are diverse; if you’re pear-shaped, or busty, or have meaty thighs, you’re “plus-size.” You’re other.
Furthermore, many Facebook users were quick to point out that Lawley was beautiful, and not fat, because naturally she could not be the former if she were the latter. The deeply engrained correlation between size and beauty, and therefore value, shows itself in the subtleties of the language we use in discussing these issues. The haste for Cosmo to point out that Lawley isn’t fat shows us how fat continues to be a dirty word. What thing worse, we’re reminded, is there for a woman to be?
Much of the responsibility falls with the media. A magazine, like Cosmo, that publishes articles such as “Why the Thigh Gap Obsession Needs to Stop Immediately,” but also devotes entire sections reminding readers about ways in which their bodies are wrong and ways to alter, shape and fix them, ties a woman’s value to her size every day. But the responsibility also lies with the individual, and the way we perceive and interact with one another’s bodies. Perhaps it’s time that that the term “plus-size” is eradicated altogether, for everyone’s sake.