The new plus-size

Recently I stumbled upon this article, it is one of several I have seen in recent weeks, featuring thin models portrayed as ‘plus-size’. Ever since seeing these articles, I wondered if this is perhaps the new ‘plus-size’, and, what has happened then to the old plus-size.

The models in these articles may not be called “Thin”, but to me they are definitely not plus-size either. They may be called that perhaps because they are not ultra thin. Or, perhaps there is an actual agenda at play here, which I want to hypothesize about in this article.

Same story, different name

In what I can best describe as my “Aha!” moment, I came to the realization that the fashion industry – selling its distorted body image through its mainstream media outlets – may be catching on to the ‘plus-size’ train, but, may have hijacked the term for its own purpose.

What purpose am I talking about? This one: Letting women know they are inadequate unless they adhere to an impossible thinness that is both unrealistic as well as unhealthy to maintain. Same old story, albeit renamed by having adopted and using ‘plus-size’.

Fat discrimination in disguise

The plus-size community knows that (real) plus-sizes are subject to discrimination by the mainline fashion industry and media. To plus-size community founders this continuing trend shouldn’t come as a surprise in what first appears as an adoption of ‘plus-size’.

Except for many plus-size women it probably does come as a surprise. They see “plus-size” in article titles such as the one linked to above from the mainline fashion industry and the media, but then are greeted with models who are anything but plus-size.

In the past, when real plus-size women (you know, curves abound) would read articles portraying real plus-size models, they would be able to identify with them, because what they were seeing were women with curves in abundance. But that seems different now.

What hasn’t changed however, is the story of discrimination, albeit using the plus-size twist. The fashion industry and media labels thin women as ‘plus-size’ and once again saying to the average woman: “You do not fit the standard, therefore you are not beautiful.”.

Ulterior motives

So instead of promoting (real) plus-sizes, they seem to be adopting the term to label their non-ultra thin models ‘plus-size’. And I just can’t help but wonder: Why did they choose a term like that? Why use an existing term that already is defined and widely adopted? Why?

Because they can.

And perhaps, because of ulterior motives.

Writing on the wall

Real plus-size women will likely still not feel beautiful, because when they compare themselves to those supposed plus-size models they notice the difference just as before when comparing themselves to thin models; it’s not about that them being fat is bad.

It’s about the difference between the body they have, and the propagated supposed ideal body. A real plus-size woman sees those models and may think “Oh, compared to them I am not even a plus-size, I am (morbidly) obese.”, or something along those lines.

In other words, it’s the same story all over again, but when just having discovered and established oneself as ‘a plus-size woman’, now that definition is stripped, like it never belonged to them in the first place and they can never justify using it again.

Now regardless of what size a real plus-size woman is, what matters most is how these women perceive themselves, and how the media and fashion industry co-opts the ever growing plus-size community. This may not be intended, but it is certainly a real possibility.

Taking back our terminology

So plus-size is plus-size, and while there may not be a size or a weight attached to that, it doesn’t mean that just because you sell more smaller-sized clothing and have the media apparatus to promote it, that you can steal a term and once again make women feel ugly.

So, today I’m coining a new term: ‘Minus-size’. While that may sound totally off, let’s not call some thing that it is not, i.e. a thin is not plus-size, or, in other words, the models featured in that article (and many others like it) shouldn’t be called “plus-size”.


Last updated: January 10, 2018