These two words have haunted me A LOT. Yes, I used to be “Plus sized”, whatever that means. But do you know how much damage that label does? Unless you’ve experienced it, you probably don’t.
Let me paint you a picture, you go into a clothing store and can’t find your size. Or, more frequently, they have your size, but you have to go over to a separate section of the store to find your size and hanging above you is a giant sign that reads “PLUS SIZED”. It’s an announcement to you, and everyone in the store that you are big, too big for “normal” sized clothes.
What even is that?! Why can’t all the clothes just be together? Why can’t brands make the same clothes for every size?
Were you aware that a lot of brands have a line for “normal” sized women, and a different line of clothing for “plus sized” women? Normal sized women get all the cute stuff and plus sized women are often forced to hide behind hideous patterns and “loose” fitting items. Your options are BEYOND limited.
Being a “plus sized” teen was especially hard. At the time, I didn’t see myself as being THAT big. I knew I was bigger than my friends, but day-to-day I didn’t really think about it. When we would go to the mall on the weekend, it would hit me like a hot poker. I was bigger than them. When we went into stores I either couldn’t find anything that would fit, or would buy the biggest size I could find and force my body into it just so I could be part of the fun. This would often make me feel much worse about myself because it didn’t fit me that way it fit my friends, or it didn’t fit me at all. The only time I could truly be part of the group was when we shopped for shoes, or when we ate. Now THAT is a vicious cycle – feel bad about yourself because you can’t find clothes that fit, the only time you do fit in is when there is food involved, and that leads you to feel worse about the clothes you can’t buy because they don’t fit.
By now some of you are probably wondering why I’m whining about this since companies are being rather public with their attempts to be more size inclusive. Here is where I call bullshit.
Can you name a brand, or commercial or ad campaign that included “average or plus sized” women that WASN’T a plus sized brand or line? I can’t. I see plus sized women on TV, but they are advertising plus sized lines of clothing. That’s not being all inclusive. That is continuing to point out that you are different, so different that you need different clothes, or different stores, or different departments.
Here were my options when I was younger and bigger – go to the “plus sized” department and buy clothes I didn’t like while essentially announcing to the entire store that I was big since I was standing in a department with its own sign, or buy clothes from the normal section of the store that didn’t fit and ended up making me feel worse. Those options are still the same for plus sized women today.
Looking back on this it’s no wonder I have so many body image issues, even now. Yes, I’ve lost a ton of weight and I can easily shop in the general section of the store, but when I look in the mirror I still feel like a monster, and when I’m browsing for clothes I feel like people are still watching me the way they used to, and I still feel like I don’t belong on that side of the store.
I am aware that my rant will change nothing, but maybe it will bring some awareness and open a conversation. If you’re plus sized, maybe you won’t feel so alone, and if you’re not, maybe you’ll have more empathy for people struggling with their weight.
Let’s lose the labels, women are women and sizes are sizes!