The Problem with Plus-Size
The Problem with Plus-Size
In April this year, Australian author and TV host Ajay Rochester started the hashtag #DropThePlus in reaction to seeing a UK advert featuring a size 14 model (US size 10) being referred to as ‘plus-size’. This is a reaction to the fact that a UK size 14 is not actually that large and therefore calling these women plus-size is derogatory to them and those women who are of larger sizes.
Rochester’s aim was to highlight that women who do not fit the required mould are made to feel inferior and separate from media acceptance, even though they represent the majority of women and are not overweight in any way. Rochester argues that ‘plus’ is a synonym for ‘irregular’ as it denotes that the women in the picture is outside of what the fashion world perceives to be regular.
Although ‘plus-size’ is the norm, the label emphasises that these women are outside of what fashion deems to be acceptable. The average clothes size for a woman in the USA, the UK, and Australia is a UK size 14. The average model in these countries is a UK size 4 (US size 0). Therefore, Rochester argues, that those that are the average size should not be made to feel abnormal, in the same way that it would be ridiculous to refer to those that are under the average size to be referred to as ‘minus-size’.
However, some ‘plus-size’ bloggers and models argue that the term is important and needs to stay as a reactionary movement to the ultra-skinny state of the fashion world. Maria Southard Ospina argues that ‘plus-size’ is a more accessible term for larger women than ‘curvy’, as being curvy is not exclusive to larger women. Southard Ospina argues that women who are not ‘plus-size’ are waging in on a debate which is not theirs.
That these women are alienated from normal fashion standards because they are larger than a UK size 4, however, they are still not large enough to be considered ‘plus-sized’. Here is the grey area, the place where the difficulty occurs. Southard Ospina states that ‘plus-size’ allows truly larger women to feel empowered. It is relevant because ‘plus-sizes’ cannot be found at regular high street stores and therefore their clothes have to be purchased elsewhere.
Indeed, there is a danger in referring to sizes 4-14 as ‘plus’, and Southard Ospina recognises this. ‘Plus’ implies that these women are larger than they should be. In an ideal world, both Southard Ospina and Rochester advocate for a time without labels, but that is unrealistic. We are conditioned to place people into categories that are deemed acceptable or unacceptable.
Social media is a powerful and useful tool to change perceptions, with recent hashtags celebrating a fuller figure, such as #curvemaintenance, have gained a lot of notoriety. However, I feel that social media is not going to change any opinions for the long term. After all, it is on these platforms that we are still exposed to #thinsperation and the equally toxic #fitsperation.
Fashion needs to change. Models of all sizes need to strut their stuff on the catwalk. It should not be news that a larger model is fronting a high profile ad campaign. Clothing of all sizes should be affordable and accessible. Marketing techniques should not alienate anyone. Each person should be made to feel special and unique, valued and important. Commenting on what someone looks like should be taboo if society really wants to stamp out the size wars.
Until that time when we are free to behave how we wish without societal conditions, when money grows on trees and pigs fly, then we will be able to ditch the ‘plus’ and celebrate all sizes on the same platform. However, call me a cynic, but that seems quite far off.
Madeleine is a recent graduate from the University of Exeter where she studied BA English with advanced proficiency in French. Madeleine loved her time at uni, especially her involvement with online magazine Her Campus Exeter and taking advantage of how close the city is to the beach. In the next year, Madeleine hopes to complete a semester studying Chinese and Chinese history at Soochow University, China, and indulge her love of travelling by getting lost on a gap year before returning to Blighty to undertake postgraduate study at the University of Bristol, studying MSc Gender and International Relations.