Here at SoSensational, we are suggesting a new way of thinking and some new terminology.
Instead of using ‘Plus’ for size 16 and over, why not use ‘Minus’ for women who are under size 16?
We suggest this because in the UK, the average size for women is 16, with 45% of UK women wearing that size. Yet the fashion industry persists in calling size 16 plus which strikes us as unnecessarily pejorative, helping to make ‘average’ women feel bad about their bodies.
Over the past 50 years in the UK, our perception of the ‘ideal’ size has changed, falling from the achievable, healthy size 10 or 12 of our youth, to much leaner sizes, 8, 6 and, in America, Size Zero. This change has come as a result of images of ever-skinnier models and celebs being thrust under our noses 24/7 by the fashion industry and magazines.
We know that the clever Susie Orbach explored these issues in her seminal book ‘Fat is a Feminist Issue’ but we don’t think even Ms Orbach suggested dropping the label ‘Plus’ and calling below-average women ‘Minus’.
We are truly sorry if you are a naturally skinny and the label ‘Minus’ makes you feel bad about your body. But that is probably how the ‘average’ woman in the UK feels every single day!
The problem is, we have a body-size template which originated in the 1930s when the Duchess of Windsor made her famous declaration that a woman “can never be too rich or too thin.” We beg to differ. Maybe not the ‘rich’ bit, but ‘too thin’ definitely and has just gone on getting thinner.
Models, of course have always been slender, from Suzy Parker to the models who so powerfully influenced our Boomer generation, such as Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy.
Naturally they were super-thin because the belief is that clothes only look good on thin women. But the reality is different: some clothes look good on thin women; but some styles look better on curvier women. There is also a perception that only thin women look good in photographs. But do they, or is it just that we have been so conditioned to think that way, that we don’t challenge that view; that we are so accustomed to seeing thin women in magazines that we believe they are the ‘ideal’. This ‘thin’ ideal, of course, is why there are so many women and girls with eating disorders…
So, as we said hyper-thin became the template and we know we shouldn’t hold our breath while we wait for real women, or rather women with a real woman’s body to be seen on the catwalk or in magazines except in a tokenistic way.
Sure, a few, er, ‘bigger (i.e. ‘average’) women, such as Ashley Graham and Robyn Lawley, break through as ‘Plus Size’ models. But that brings us back to our original point: why, when 45% of UK women are size 16, are those girls who are close-to-average called ‘Plus’ and not the size-zero girls/women called ‘Minus’?
In our society, we constantly tell ourselves that overweight is unhealthy and ‘thin’ is healthy. The truth is more nuanced. Yes, being seriously overweight is bad for our health, but being too underweight is equally unhealthy. And certainly the quest to be hyper-thin and the extremes that some women go to in order to be hyper-thin, such as starving themselves or making themselves vomit or taking laxatives, are very much not healthy….
We don’t have a solution. We also recognise we are being a bit hypocritical because, currently, if you search for Size 18 or above on SoSensational, you search for ‘Plus’. We just think it may be time to stop calling women who are average and near-average ‘Plus’. Or perhaps, it is time to start calling women who are below-average ‘Minus’… Your suggestions and comments are welcome…
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