Fat Discrimination in the Plus Size Community: Fact or Fiction?
At the urging of some of my followers, I'm going to attempt to explain why there is fat discrimination within the plus size community. This is a recurring theme in many of the articles and blogs I read, and it's an important issue to explore. At a size 18, and with an hourglass figure, my body type is represented far more in plus fashion than those of my larger counterparts. And, well, that's not ok. If we are going to change the fashion landscape to be inclusive of different body types, then we can't leave out our bigger sisters.
My theory on this is that hourglass shapes (big boobs, big butt, smaller waist) are the kinds of body types that our society can handle because they are reminiscent of sex and beauty icons from the 50's, like Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren. They are often over-sexualized so that the idea of being "curvy" can be sold as something visually appealing for men, and aspirational for women. Most aspiring plus size models must fit into this curvy equation to be even be considered for placement in an agency. And while I'm glad larger bodies are making their way into mainstream media, it still leaves out a good part of the population.
About two years ago I attended and event with a panel of experts talking about the plus fashion industry. I recall that the panelist all agreed that they thought the plus industry should be just as "good" as the straight size industry. I wanted to know why we weren't celebrating our real bodies (cellulite, curves, bumps, and rolls), and instead wearing girdles and spanx to tame our figures. The response I got was that it didn't look professional. Yup, I was stunned too. And very disappointed. Here were my people saying that larger bodies are ok, but only if they fit a very specific description.
That was when I understood that their was an inherent flaw in the plus fashion movement. There was yet another level of exclusion here. There was now an ideal body type to aspire to for big girls -- as if we hadn't been left out enough. And there was now another barrier to creating accessible, trendy fashion for fat women. And forget about having their bodies represented in advertising.
If you are a fat woman, I'm sure you've also noticed it's difficult to find anything larger than a size 24 in an actual store. You usually have to shop online, which is not only an inconvenience, but also plain disrespectful . My followers have shared their feelings of frustration and isolation with me about not being able to go to a mall and find things to wear off the rack. Because I'm an 18, I can almost always find something in the store, even at stores like the GAP and Old Navy. I had completely forgotten about my sisters wearing sizes 24+ who are still in the struggle. And with Target's recent announcement that they will only sell their Lilly Pulitzer plus size clothing online, it's a disheartening situation. “It’s saying, ‘I want your money, but I don’t necessarily want your image,’” said Debbie Dean of Co-Op City. “That’s what it’s saying.”
What I remain confused about is that the plus size market has a lot of spending power. We love to shop! So why are retailers and fashion designers limiting their options to the smaller end of the spectrum? I have no fucking clue. Perhaps they think oppression is the new black.
My hope is that we do our part to let retailers know with our pocketbooks that we're not happy. I appreciate that there are some retailers that do carry larger sizes, but they are almost exclusively online:
I think it's great that these options exist, but some of them are clearly geared toward an older audience, and don't carry a lot of trendy looks. So, now I'm just waiting for an amazing new designer to help us solve this problem. And we will support the hell out of you!