Do We Really Need The Term “Plus Size”?
We're not sure we do...
Once upon a time, “plus size” was a term used by clothing lines to market that their clothes were designed to fit people – mainly women - who were after sizes larger that standard high street shops stocked. Generally it was a term used to describe women who wore a size 16 (UK) or up. But now it’s morphed into something very different.
“Plus size” has become a term used in the media to describe any women perceived to be a certain body type - and the boundaries are much more ambiguous. This week we’ve seen a perfect example of this in Amy Schumer’s argument with Glamour Magazine who featured her in their “plus size” bonus issue without her consent, despite the fact that she isn’t “plus sized”.
“I think there's nothing wrong with being plus size. Beautiful healthy women,” Amy said in an Instagram post calling out the mag, “Plus size is considered size 16 in America. I go between a size 6 and an 8. @glamourmag put me in their plus size only issue without asking or letting me know and it doesn't feel right to me. Young girls seeing my body type thinking that is plus size? What are your thoughts? Mine are not cool glamour not glamourous.”
Amy’s hit the nail on the head (as always) on the “plus size” debate. She’s not trying to distance herself from those who identify as “plus-sized”, instead she’s questioning the implications of the unwanted labelling of her body and the message that sends to young women. She reckons it’s really not cool to look at a person and decide if you think they need a “plus” added to their size, regardless of if they are healthy, happy and not actually “plus sized” at all. Because if it can happen to Amy, then how is that meant to make the rest of us mere mortals feel?
Amy isn’t the only one who’s fed up with throwing the term about. Many people who’ve made great strides for better representation of women of all shapes and sizes under the term “plus sized” are now calling for it to be taken out of use. Ashley Graham, the first “plus sized” model to feature on the cover of Sport’s Illustrated, Maxim and a whole bunch of other stuff, has called the term “outdated” saying, “It shouldn't be about labels. I don't want to be called a label, I want to be called a model”. Melissa McCarthy, whose Seven7 collection is often described as “plus sized”, despite the fact she doesn’t use the term, told E!, “I hate the word 'real woman' and I hate the word 'plus size’,” continuing that, “I've got plenty of friends [of all sizes] and different shapes and everything, and I don't want any of them to feel like they aren't 'real women’.” She says instead that she makes clothes for women, not “plus sized” women.
American “plus sized” model Tess Holiday, however argues for the term, saying it helps women of a certain size feel less alone. She told Paper Magazine, “When they look online, or look in magazines, they see that label, or see that term, they feel like they're not alone. They have something to identify with”. Rebel Wilson also agrees with the term telling E!, “To me, getting an A+ in school is better than getting an A and I'm being called 'plus.'” Saying she’s happy with the way she is and as long as others are healthy that they should be too.
Many in the anti-“plus sized” camp push towards the use of other words such as “curvy”, “full beauty” and in the case of America’s Next Top Model, “fiercely real”. But we kinda think, why do we need a word at all? Amy Schumer is a comedian, she kills it and she’s an inspiring role model for women everywhere, why not just call her any one of those things? Or anything else positive, or her name, or whatever the hell you feel like as long as it’s not a descriptive term for the way she looks.
The use of any term to categorise women is outdated, it pigeon holes and leaves women who look up to those in media to feel the need to follow those moulds. Of course it’s good if a young girl can see herself in a “plus sized” model and pursue that but why shouldn’t she be able to see herself in just a model, and pursue that?
With models like Ashley Graham on the cover of magazines and women like Amy Schumer slaying in the public eye, we are moving forward. But if we continue to categorise women for their size we’ll never be able to get to a point where other women feel like they can do anything they want, no matter what they look like. We shouldn’t need a special “plus sized” issue of a magazine featuring awesome “plus sized” women; we should just have magazines that always feature awesome women of all shapes and sizes. Because when it comes to measuring women’s achievements – measurements don’t matter.