In a conversation I was having today, several of us were talking about our frustration with stores that sell plus-sized clothing but don’t use plus-sized models (and by “plus-sized models” I mean models who wear actual plus sized clothes – preferably models in all the sizes that the clothing comes in, but definitely someone who could actually wear the clothes in real life, the idea being that seeing the clothes on the model should give us some idea how the clothes might look on us, rather than showing us how they would look on thin women while being gathered at the back with industrial sized clips.)
As often happens in these conversations, someone brought up the fact that there is research that shows that plus-sized women bought more clothes when they were advertised on a “straight sized” model than on an actual plus-sized model. The person who brought it up acted as though that was the end of the conversation. I think it’s just the beginning.
According to a controversial study from Arizona State University:
“We found that overweight consumers demonstrated lower self-esteem – and therefore probably less enthusiasm about buying products – after exposure to any size models in ads (versus ads with no models). Also, normal-weight consumers experienced lower self-esteem after exposure to moderately heavy models, such as those in Dove soap’s ‘Real Women’ campaign, than after exposure to moderately thin models.”
Here’s my question: Do you think it just might, maybe, possibly be because we have been so aggressively sold the idea that there is only one body type that is “beautiful”/worthy to be seen, that we’ve started to believe it, and so as a culture when we see someone outside of the single image of beauty that we are sold 99.999999999% of the time we experience a conditioned response and immediately think “That’s a bad body. That body is wrong. My body is like that. My body is wrong.”?
Instead of looking at this study, asking the question that I asked, and pondering their culpability in the situation, what I see the media and advertisers and clothing companies doing is hiding behind the study and continuing to perpetuate their singular idea of beauty on the grounds that we like it better, which continues to reinforce that any body outside of that ideal is somehow unworthy of being seen, which means that we like the “ideal” more, and like our own bodies less. Especially in a world where we almost never see an image that has not been so “retouched” that it is a completely impossible standard of beauty. Does this seem like a good idea to you? I think it’s pretty much crap. If we want things to change, then we’re going to have to get it done ourselves, which I think includes insisting that the stores that want us to give them our fat money put their clothes on fat models.
In the meantime, here are some things that we can do for ourselves:
Seek out pictures of bodies of all sizes, look at them every day. Find things about them that you like. Start to really look around you at the diversity of bodies that exist, and appreciating that diversity. I think that the ability to appreciate all kinds of bodies is a skill that, in most of us, is left under-developed because society tries to convince us that beauty is singular and objective.
Decide, right now, that you are above putting down other bodies to make you feel better about yours (even if you only think it), or for any other reason. Start to notice any time you think anything negative about anyone’s body and stop yourself and replace it with a positive thought. Refuse to participate in body snarking with other people. Be the change.
Find ways to love your own body. If you want some help check out Love Your Body More in Three Simple Steps
Want some places to start looking at beautiful bodies of all sizes? Check these out for a start:
I have a gallery of my own pictures on this site.
The Adipositivity Project (NSFW)
VoluptuArt has amazing pieces to look at and buy. I have done both and I love the stuff. (Nope, they don’t give me anything to say that, they most likely have no idea who I am)
This post (check the comments for lots of amazing pictures of fat people doing awesome stuff from belly dancing to hammer throwing).
As always, if you know of others please add them in the comments.
Our thin-obsessed culture makes it easy to believe the lie that some bodies are better than other bodies, but it’s still a lie, and we don’t have to be duped into believing it.
Like the blog? More Cool Stuff!
Book and Dance Class Sale! I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!
Like my work? Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. Click here for details
Book Me! I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!
I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com
A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development, you can follow the progress on Facebook!