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Plus-sized war paint

So, unless you’ve been living under a rock this week, you may have seen adverts in the UK for Channel 4’s Plus Sized Wars, which was aired on Tuesday 21st at 8PM GMT. The documentary focused on the rise of the plus size fashion industry and the bloggers who have been championing it.

It is true that for many, many years, plus sized women have had very little in the way of choice surrounding clothes. For those women with bodies sized 16-18 and up, we have been relegated to a small corner in the back of a store, or the likes of Evans (brutally once named Evans Outsize), who until recently provided clothes that made young plus-sized women look drab and dreary, in garments that hid the figure rather than accentuate it. Along with other high street brands, Evans is updating its image and starting to recognise that all women like to dress to highlight their best bits and plus size women of all sizes are no longer having to be relegated to wearing moo-moos and glorified sacks.

Now, Evans has competition; Yours Clothing have also updated their look. Recently, they used Tess Holiday in their lingerie campaign and this was met with praise from the masses of plus size women in this country who struggle to feel beautiful. Using Tess (a US22), it has had the result of a lot of women feeling more comfortable in their own skin. Indeed, Tess does inspire numbers of women and she now has over 700,000 fans on Facebook alone, many of whom will fiercely defend her against anyone who disagrees with her size. Many will say she glorifies obesity – which I explored in a previous article for WMW so am not covering again – but the truth is that there are many other women out there like her that will not go away; women that are waiting to buy clothing that makes them feel beautiful.

Generally I found the documentary quite uplifting in many ways and it was lovely to see the bloggers I follow in such an inspirational way, but I feel that there is a lot more that they could have covered. In the documentary, we see Georgina Horne of Fuller Figure Fuller Bust invited for interview by Anna, who runs MiLK Management, a model agency based in London. Georgina was scrutinised for being too short and not having quite the right measurements, but had a “pretty face”; however, this same agency also signed Tess Holliday who is shorter and fatter, essentially admitting the potential of Tess as a cash cow. This, to me, sent entirely the wrong message across and this is where my sticking point is: when does what should be a positive movement then become a gimmick? All companies want to be “body positive” because it attracts customers, even if they themselves don’t believe what they say. This may hinder women and not help them at all and we are back to square one. On the whole, plus model agencies still don’t represent the majority of women and has a narrow view of “acceptable” beauty.

In actuality, I believe there is still a long way to go before all women can be comfortable in their own skin without conforming to the beauty standards set by our society.
Just recently, singer-come-panelist on Loose Women, Jamelia, stated that providing clothes in larger sizes encourages women to continue an unhealthy lifestyle and that women should be made to feel uncomfortable if they cannot find their size in a clothes store and that underweight and overweight women should be segregated from society in shame until they slim down/bulk up. I cannot begin to tell you how wrong these statements are, particularly coming from a black woman with a young daughter.

What message do we want to send our future generations?

Here is what I think. There is beauty in everyone. EVERYONE, just in different ways and it should be celebrated, not scorned. Womankind should be lifting each other up in support, not tearing each other down with shame tactics. Is it unhealthy to be under or overweight? More than probably. Should we look at being as healthy as we genuinely can? Always.

If any single one of us feels repulsion for another person’s body we need to ask ourselves this:

– Why is this affecting me so personally?
– Do I feel driven to help this person, or do I simply want to point out their flaw and tell them to eat a sandwich or hit the gym?

The simple truth is this: we have only one life in this body and everyone is fighting their own battles. Everyone should be treated with compassion because everyone has a different story to tell. The only bodies we can control are our own and until we train our minds in a different way, we may always struggle to help all women feel valid and accepted in society. I still hold out hope.

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