Yesterday I wrote about the issue of people who suggest that fat people are responsible for accommodating their size bigotry by wearing what they think we should wear. You can read the whole post here. It got a lot of positive reactions and some really strong reactions, both on the blog and around the internet where it got picked up, from people who said things like:
- What’s wrong with wearing flattering clothes?
- Why is it wrong to want to look my best?
- I’m short and I prefer to wear heels because they make my legs look longer.
- Some clothes look better on some bodies than others, that’s a fact.
- I like to wear make-up so that my skin looks better and I feel more confident
- I prefer to hide my rolls.
- I like to wear shapewear to smooth out my stomach bumps
I said it in the original piece and I’ll say it again – people are allowed to wear what they want for whatever reason they want, including an attempt to get as much societal approval as possible, or to try to get as close as possible to the current stereotype of beauty.
I was not trying to tell people how to live or what to wear. What I was suggesting was that it might be worth thinking about the social constructs that dictate what is “flattering.” Why do we, as a society, think that certain looks are better on certain bodies? Why is being seen as taller also seen as better (up to a certain point where women are seen as “too tall” and given suggestions on how to not appear less tall.) Why are long legs “better” than short legs? What’s wrong with rolls and cellulite? How do racism, sexism, ableism, ageism and homophobia play into our ideas of “flattering.” Why do we, as a society, value clear skin – even if the make-up we wear to give the appearance of clear skin causes breakouts and ultimately skin damage. Why does “looking our best” mean working toward being as close as possible to a single stereotype of beauty.
In short, why do we believe that looking our best means spending our time, money, and energy making our bodies look different through what amounts to a series of optical illusions? Why can’t we learn to perceive beauty in every body instead of trying to make every body fit a single perception of beauty.
Again, I’m not saying it’s wrong to do these things – I’m suggesting we consider the roots of why we do them, and decide if we feel like that’s ok, which is a decision each of us gets to make. Then what’s important is to be able to make our choices while not trying to push our ideas onto other people, or judge them through our lens.
As I said in my piece “F*ck Flattering” – you get to dress how you want for whatever reason you choose. You can pick clothes because you like them, because you think they will gain social approval for you, because they highlight your shape, because they disguise your shape, because your significant other likes them, because your mom hates them, because you think they are flattering, because you think they are unflattering, or for any other reason. It’s your body and they are your clothes and you are the boss of your underpants and also the boss of your regular pants.
Something that we are not often told is that we do have the option to throw off our jacket and give flattering the finger with our arm fat waving unrestricted in our tank tops, our breasts comfortable in a bra that neither lifts nor separates (or no bra at all), our skirt showing every roll of our stomachs, and our leggings showing every dimple of cellulite on our thighs. We get to choose how we dress our bodies and why, we can choose to wear things that are flattering by some definition of flattering or not. But no matter what we choose, I think it’s important to remember that we do not owe anybody flattering, and nobody owes it to us.
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