Can we please talk about why we only see hourglass shaped bodies in our plus sized media? Because it's definitely something worth talking about.

I'm not sure if you noticed, but ever since we've started to include plus models into our fashion spreads, they've only come in one shape: the sort of shape that has a waistline considerably smaller than their bust and hips. It's everywhere and the only representation of a larger body that is deemed acceptable in our mainstream advertising.

This shift is progress, don't get me wrong. There was a time when including such a shape was unheard of, but I think it's time to be realistic about how unrealistic this is.

I love what Charing Ball has to say in her Madame Noir article:
"What I do know is that the term “plus size” (in fashion) doesn’t seek to counteract the idealized waif image by showing beauty in all shapes and sizes, but rather, reinforces the notion that beauty has its limits. And more often than not, it tends to create new ways in which women and girls can learn to feel bad about themselves. And I’m not just talking about the girls and women who are built like bean poles. I’m also talking about women with less boob than behind or more stomach than ass. While seeing bigger women is an improvement and empowering in itself, if all we are really seeing is bigger versions of the same image we’ve been force-fed since we were kids, all we are really doing is trading in one oppression for another."

A perfect example of how we insist that "controversial" plus bodies are 
similarly proportioned to straight sized bodies. From V Magazine / January 2010.

This definitely reminds me of All About that Bass where the not-size-two sings that she has "All the right junk in all the right places." We're seeing the start unconventional bodies and their value, but still defining that there is a "right" way to have that body. Our junk must bookend our midsections, or else it's wrong. This is a problem, y'all.

I participated in a consumer study for a fashion company a year or so ago, and I remember sitting down at a table with a group of other plus women. We were handed "flash cards" that had individual images of large bodied women and we were asked to sort them in order of social acceptability. The way they were sorted had nothing to do with their style, hair color, tattoos, or confidence, but rather how much they fit into the model ideal of the perfect hourglass woman. The most acceptable were larger versions of traditional models. The least acceptable leaned towards the square and apple shaped silhouettes. The conversation quickly turned into a discussion about why this was and it became very apparent that there is still discrimination even within the nontraditional body acceptance realm.

It's a comfort level thing.
So lets get out of our comfort zone.

It's unfortunate that this happens, not only because of the general perpetuation of unfair standards, but also because it creates a form of privilege among those who do have this body type. While I personally deal with an extraordinary amount of backlash due to my fat body, I am fully aware that I also receive more positive attention than those who may not have an hourglass figure. I watch other advocates who don't fit into this "preferred version of fat" and cant help but notice that their disparaging following is much larger. It's a shame, this perpetuation of subcultured persecution. The one step forward becomes two steps backwards. I feel it's critical that we acknowledge it's existence and the harm that it can cause others.

Sad face.

While we are seeing body positive coverage in our media nowadays, the concept of embracing all body types is still in it's infant stages. We're slow to adjust to change, and the rampant fat hate is proof that we have a LONG way to go.

These plus size bodies in high fashion and advertising are most certainly a step in the right direction, but nowhere near where we want to be. It's one of those situations where we must acknowledge both the progressiveness and the ultimate lack of progress.

The hourglass body is important. It's a shape that many women have, and it deserves celebration. However it shouldn't be the standard of "plus" beauty and it's my hope that our narrow minded society quickly acclimates to seeing larger bodies so that we are able to successfully integrate ALL shapes and sizes. 

How do we assist in this forward thinking cultural change? We support companies that are doing this already; companies like Curvy Girl who's using unconventional bodies to model their lingerie. Re/Dress, who's lookbook for the fall  is radical because while it's fashion focused, it deviates from both the "preferred" silhouette and the reinforcement that we must dress ultra feminine to be sexy. We can support Louise from Body Exchange who is creating an exercise video for ALL plus athletes. We can promote projects that showcase all bodies (I know it was Liora and I's project, but I loved the diversity of Expose) AND we can flood the internet with images of ourselves in all of our diverse glory. I can only take selfies of me guys, and I'm counting on you to do the same!

All shapes. All sizes. All relevant.

How do you fit into all of this? What have your experiences been?

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