Life is too short, and I’m Italian. I’d much rather eat pasta and drink wine than be a size 0. —Sophia Bush
This isn’t a new conversation, but the fact that we are still talking, regularly, about body size and weight shaming is itself a symptom of a larger problem that doesn’t have a simple solution. The human race has, as far back as anyone can tell, judged people by their size. At certain points in our history, being larger was considered more attractive because it was a sign of wealth that one had enough food to eat. Our obsession with being thin did not happen until the twentieth century, but body size has always been an issue.
While doing a bit of research, I came across a very interesting quote:
I felt like a loser. I was unhappy as a child most of the time. We were terribly poor and I hated my size.
Do you know who said that? One of the most unlikely people ever: Don Knotts, the late comedic actor known for his thin, wiry frame. A guy who felt bad about his size.
While the topic is not a new one, and not going to go away because of anything I write here, it has taken on a different direction of late. First, comedienne Amy Schumer is upset because she is in Glamour magazine. I know, that doesn’t sound like a horrible thing, but the problem she has is that she was included in the magazine’s special plus-size edition. Schumer wrote on her Instagram account:
“I think there’s nothing wrong with being plus size. Beautiful healthy women. 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? “
“First off, we love Amy, and our readers do too — which is why we featured her on the cover of Glamour last year. The cover line on this special edition — which is aimed at women size 12 and up — simply says ‘Women Who Inspire Us,’ since we believe her passionate and vocal message of body positivity IS inspiring, as is the message of the many other women, of all sizes, featured. The edition did not describe her as plus-size. We are sorry if we offended her in any way.”
Still, more than a few people have noted that the very act of producing a special “plus size” issue further marginalizes anyone who doesn’t fit the stereotypical thin shape society expects from women.
Then, almost simultaneously but on a different part of the planet, Model Iskra Lawrence dealt handily with a troll who attempted to fat shame her. Lawrence, who is a bit of a gym rat, didn’t hesitate to post a picture of herself covered in bags of chips (known as crisps across the pond) and letting the troll know she’ll eat what she damn well wants. Scroll on down Ms. Lawrence’s feed and you’ll find some impressive pictures of her in the gym doing squats with more weight on her shoulders than I know I could manage.
Fighting against weight shaming is an eternal battle that, because of how some people respond to their own negative feelings of self-worth, is likely to never go away. Yet, I cannot help but think that we aggravate the problem with how we label both clothes and people. As mentioned in the Schumer/Glamour dustup, anything size 12 and higher is considered “plus” sized, but even women who wear size 4-10 often find themselves being ridiculed for not being a model-worthy size 0 or 2.
While changing the labels won’t make the problem go away, perhaps if we re-think how clothes sizes are named we can, at least, provide both men and women with something that doesn’t immediately demean them when they take an item off the store rack. Why not replace numbered sizes or even the more general small, medium, large, etc. with labels that provide a more general definition without being insulting. Here’s what I’m thinking for new labels:
- Casual would be similar to what we now consider a medium size. Hips might be more full, waistlines more forgiving, but within a range appropriate for the average person.
- Fit might be a more appropriate label for those who take body tone seriously. Waistlines might be tapered, but not too small, shoulders would be more accommodating, and trouser legs would be full so that those calf and thigh muscles would have room.
- Sensible seems to make sense for the next size range up, as this would encompass those whose skeletal structures would never allow them to fit into smaller clothes no matter what they tried. Millions, if not billions, of people fit into this range that is not trim, but still quite healthy with nothing to be ashamed of.
- Abundant might be more appropriate for that size range higher than what is currently a size 16. Admittedly, for those who fit into the largest of sizes, nothing really takes away the stigma that comes from being compared to those who are smaller. Yet, by using a label that at least has a less-offensive connotation perhaps we can minimize the hurt to some degree.
- Attenuated could work for smaller sizes, which can be just as difficult emotionally as larger sizes. Women, especially, whose metabolism runs high are never going to fit well into Casual-sized clothing. Kat is one of those people who typically has to shop in the Misses or Teen section to have any hope of finding something that fits. And that’s despite consuming healthy portions of my cooking.
These are obviously just suggestions and I don’t expect anyone influential to pay any attention. Getting the entire fashion industry to change anything is extremely slow and difficult. Yet, we need to start somewhere and realize that our labeling conventions are helping to shame millions of people who have no cause to be concerned about the size and shape of their bodies. Size labels seem like a good starting point.