When I first saw this headline – “What Do Plus-Sized Women Really Want to be Called?” – my first response was “anything but fat.”
Why don’t we refer to them as women? What a concept!
I’m all for precision in adjectives when required, but I’m so weary of the endless descriptions we use for the female of the species (especially), and the nuances of negativity that come along for the ride – whatever their size, shape, facial features, style, age, and so on.
In case you’re wondering, the article references public figures who cast more than a stick figure shadow in the spotlight, and survey data on preferred labels is provided with “curvy” among the front-runners.
Labeling Women With Largesse?
Referencing a survey by retailer Sonsi, which drew its data from 1,000 women:
Regarding terminologies, 28 percent of those surveyed said they most liked the term “curvy,” mainly because their curves help define who they are…
Still, 25 percent liked “plus size,” while another 25 percent went with “full figured,” with some great write-in choices including “normal,” “average” and “beautiful.”
While I understand the value of target marketing, not to mention products and services that specialize in particular segments and are branded as such, why must we give a name to those who wear size 14 and above, which was the criterion that has traditionally been used for the “plus-size” market?
What’s wrong with Size 14+ as a description, however unsexy that may sound? Or better yet, why not those write-ins like normal, average, and beautiful? Have we forgotten that Marilyn Monroe was the idealized body size and type – a mere two generations ago?
Fashion Influencers (Mainstream Magazines)
Naturally, our comfort (or discomfort) with how we look is influenced by fashion, and likewise, by our fashion influencers in media as well as the public eye. On that score, I also find this tidbit of interest, and would the mainstream magazines please listen up!
Mostly, the women surveyed said they find inspiration from women who look like them, and ranked the sources with curvy friends and family topping the list (30 percent). Next came curvy icons (21 percent), plus-size pages in national fashion magazines (19 percent), bloggers (13 percent) and Full Figured Fashion Week runway shows (13 percent).
All labels aside – big girl, big woman, big-boned, full-figured, plus-size, curvy… I’m for any language that celebrates the healthy woman, her qualities and competence, and media reflections of real world body types that do not leave us feeling diminished or marginalized.
Positive Self-Image and Self-Respect are Fashionable!
I am not suggesting we forget the dramatic individual and social costs of obesity. On the contrary, that’s a long, tough fight that touches on Big Food, education, child care, and more. I am suggesting we don’t make the size 14 woman feel like an outcast, much less her size 12 or size 18 sisters if they are healthy and fit.
Yes, I understand the aspirational aspects of willowy (airbrushed and Photoshopped) models. I also that aspiration sells product, and among other things, encouraging women to feel “not good enough” also offers opportunity for multi-billion dollar industries to do with beauty, fitness, and weight loss.
But what about the potential contributions of women who are not obsessing over their appearance and weight? What about the superior relationships they could have, as self-image is reinforced by media image in a positive way, and as self-respect is facilitated by an absence of demeaning labeling?
Confidence? Contributions? Comfort in your own skin? Those sound fashionable to me.
Image, Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, 1953, attribution here, Public Domain.
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