Two Australian women are currently campaigning against the term (and attendant concept of) “plus-size”. Model Stefania Ferrario writes:
“I do NOT find this empowering. I’m NOT proud to be called ‘plus,’ but I AM proud to be called a ‘model,’ that is my profession!”
Ferrario & compatriot Ajay Rochester claim that “the label is both counterproductive and harmful to young girls’ self esteem”. Meanwhile, I’m sitting here smashing my face against the keyboard: am I the only one who thinks they’re going about this completely wrong?
First of all, I wish more people understood that plus-size isn’t a judgment or a statement on one’s personhood. It’s a garment category. It’s not about the people wearing those garments; it’s a way of classifying cut and fit to easily signal its intended audience. Just as “tall” means “longer inseams”, “petite” means “shrunken proportions”, and “maternity” means “forgiving stomach”, “plus size” indicates that a garment isn’t merely a bigger version of its size-zero equivalent. It means the whole garment has been restructured for a different scale. 64% of women polled believe that “[plus size] should be banned as a defining term, as bodies are bodies, no matter what the size”, which is all well and good politically but ultimately meaningless. Should we also stop measuring ourselves because “bodies are bodies”? More power to you (even if it is a tautology), but good luck finding a bra that way.
The categories you fit into aren’t a measure of your worth as a person. I’d much rather challenge the idea that they do than abolish categories altogether.
And on that note…I don’t think it’s harmful to young girls’ self-esteem to assess themselves honestly. Abandoning a certain term won’t make me any smaller. I’d rather come to terms with my proportions than rationalize them away. I want to own myself, and I don’t want to keep promoting the idea that being “plus-size”, or “curvy”, or whatever you want to call it is something to be ashamed of. Doing away with the label would broadcast shame loud and clear, and that’s what I find harmful to young girls.
Now I absolutely agree that “plus-size” models and garments are often marginalized, and I’m not in any way supporting that. I just don’t think that bigger models will magically become more accepted if we stop describing them a certain way. This kind of change runs deeper than that.