Body Diversity in American Culture

In the latest burst of the news cycle on fashion and celebrities, image after image of famous people in their sometimes wild choices of evening wear, I felt like something was missing. Through all the make-up, designer shoes, jewels and glamour, it was image after image of people attending The Met Gala and besides ethnic and racial diversity, everyone was fashion forward and not plus size, save plus-size model Ashley Graham.

Ashley

Photo: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri via Yahoo News

And that’s when it hit me: the lack of body diversity on a national level puts people into two categories — people who are thin, beautiful and celebrated; and those who aren’t and are presumed not beautiful enough to be celebrated. Designer labels are still notorious for often manufacturing their clothing lines to stop at size 12, sometimes size 8. They are speaking the unspoken language to plus size women: you are too big to have the pleasure of wearing my designs because I won’t carry them in your size.

Yet millions of women are subjected to still idolize the wealthy, the thin, the fashion world that places thinness on a pedestal. Those who do not bow down to the constrictive views of the fashion elite are excluded. The Met Gala was by invitation only and one has to wonder, did event organizers purposefully not invite plus-sized women and men to be part of their event? Where was the body diversity at that event, that seems to celebrate creativity and the love of fashion — I know there are some amazing plus sized designers and celebrities that could have rocked that event, if given the opportunity.

anna-wintour

Anna Wintour, Wiki Commons

 

Anna Wintour is the editor-in-chief of Vogue, was ultimately responsible for The Met Gala and the invites to the guests part of the event. The choice to exclude some amazing and beautiful people who are celebrities and plus size was very apparent in who was in attendance at The Met Gala. Wintour had the opportunity to be more inclusive of other body types, but she chose to stick to people that fit her criteria — thin, famous and Vogue-worthy only.

We know that designers have made huge strides to create gorgeous lines of clothing for plus sized women and the market has exploded for clothing sales that cater to larger sized people — the online shopping generation has proved it a successful business model. But individuals like Wintour in the fashion business, particularly in the business of deciding who and what is hot or not, create events that control their ideal society of beautiful people, a society that makes a plus sized person an exception to their strictly followed rule of thin, rich and good looking members-only type club. They take their ideal and shove it down the throats of the media, the general public, and most of all, people who follow and love fashion.

Reading fellow blogger Dances With Fat made me proud that others see that the lies of Wintour and other fashion icons don’t always have it right. People who are persistent and consistent in making sure bigger people aren’t on their runways, magazine spreads or advertisement.

“So we fatties probably have every right to be bitter that Anna Wintour is at the helm of fashion, creating a whole world that purposefully and systematically excludes us.”  – Dances With Fat

And this blogger wrote this in 2011. But really, it’s 2018 now — why hasn’t this changed yet? Why are we as a collective society still feeding into this ridiculous, almost mean-girlish type of behavior and choices by leaders in our fashion industry? It’s frustrating and disheartening at minimum.

I also love that I’m not alone in seeing this still happening in 2018. Write Madison Flager with Delish posted similar sentiments in her article “There Were Almost No Plus-Sized People at The Met Gala.” Other people are seeing through the bull crap that individuals, corporations or even small business that push the agenda of unwritten policies that shame or exclude plus-size people.

It’s refreshing that others are pointing out those who support fat-shaming and letting society know it’s not okay. Especially those who exude their opinions on others while speaking from “thin privilege,” as well as even those who are also plus-size themselves and give reference to larger to intentionally make plus-sized people to feel guilty or bad about their bodies. Just because you think it, doesn’t mean you have to say it. What good do your words do when the intent is still very clearly meant to hurt someone. You’re not fooling anybody by saying it out of love or because you’re concerned about their health. You’re just rude and exactly what you try to disprove you are, what you believe.

 

 

 

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The Camera on a Fat Face

My jaw literally dropped when I saw the dramatic difference in appearance in sets of photos taken by blogger Maria Southard Ospina in her March 11, 2016 article “27 Photos Of My Fat Face That Prove Camera Angle Is Everything” — and you will be blown away too. Her experiment was to take photos of her face in both flattering and unflattering angles, and then analyzed how and why the shots were so different just by adjusting things like the angle, and how lighting and even a scarf or collar can be the difference be a double-chin and a chiseled jawline. Her experiment did not include Photoshop; Maria could only use the camera itself and positioning her body in front of the camera.

“…with the help of my partner slash photographer, I began to see just how straightforward it is to make yourself look thinner or fatter.”

And that brought a reminder of a meme a photographer friend of mine posted on Facebook the other day, something about the constant request from clients to make them look good and thinner with post-editing and camera angles. People want to look their best when they have a photo that captures a specific moment in time and other people will see it. Why is that so bad? Is it because some people believe that doing so is deceiving? That image of a person (the selfie or whatever) can have the subject looking one way, and in real life they are say 50 or even 100 pounds heavier.

But appearing to be thinner in photos wasn’t Maria’s goal. What she was trying to achieve was to simply show honesty, and she strives to communicate in her article that the “imagery we consume and allow others to consume should be…as realistic as possible.” And it further proves that what you see in magazines isn’t real — it’s a deceptive mirage that is so convincing that we willingly believe that perfection is the norm.

In the age of online consumption of images, media and lots of other visual things, we set ourselves up to constantly accept that perfection is the norm. But perfection as a cultural norm is a lie, as humans are flawed and we lie. We lie all the time. And we lie because we don’t want to look fat even if we are fat, because as Maria pointed out that

“Fatness is among[st] the characteristics most stigmatized in contemporary culture.”

Bingo. Just appearing fat is scary — so much so that we will move our bodies, heads, arms, whatever around in front of the camera for the most flattering angle. Don’t tell me you don’t do it. We all do it. Inside each of us is a sliver of vain-ness that knows our Facebook profile picture needs to be crazy cute, sexy, etc. otherwise people might not like us, be impressed, or whatever idea we have of what that image of ourselves represents.

So next time you pick up a phone to take that next selfie, what do you do? Do you angle your face to look thinner? Or do you smile with no regards to the outcome, when a sliver of time is captured with your face in it with the simple sound of the camera shutter’s click? Will you hide your chins or embrace all that is you?

Fall Fashion Covers Leave Larger Ladies Out

No Plus Size on Glossy Covers This Fall

Thanks fashion world, again, for failing to recognize that there are women of all sizes and the larger ones are being disproportionately represented in fashion and print media. So frustrating to be excluded, like being the last one on the playground to be picked on a team sport.

And at some point, it’s getting a little ridiculous that in 2015, with more than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese (see CDC on Adulthood Overweight/Obesity). In my age group of 20-39, it’s at 30.3%. In my state, according to this map by the CDC, 25%-30% in my state have extra chub on their frame. So if about a third of us are plus size, why does the fashion industry ignore us? Are they putting us on the back burner, hoping that we’ll accept the fact that we shouldn’t — or gasp — couldn’t care about fashion? Really?

Don’t even get me started on what the fashion industry thinks of us larger ladies wanting leggings.

But I really, on a more honest note, I applaud all the women bloggers I have met here so far. Those who are showing glamour in each their own way, forging a unique path to enjoy and explore their love for fashion despite the lack of effort from the overall fashion industry. I can only hope that some company, some designer will notice the innovation and the passion so many of you women have, no matter what your size, to be bold, be creative and have fun with whatever you wear, head to toe.

May they realize there are dollar signs for those that see the bigger picture, with plus size ladies in the frame, thank you very much.

Ideal Body Type in 18 Countries

If you haven’t seen the article from the Huffington Post on What The ‘Ideal’ Woman Looks in 18 Countries, you need to seriously take a look! What an eye opener, and frankly, a little creepy in the photoshopped images, but hey, the general idea of asking designers to create what they think is the ideal form of a woman’s body in various cultures around the world was there.

Some images and their corresponding country/culture surprised me while others I wasn’t surprised. China was spot-on with the heavy influence of Asian femininity and anime-like features. Italy’s woman looks exactly like what Western women are subjected to see on every cover of every magazine. Ugh.

But Peru, Columbia and Spain really surprised me. They look like real bodies, shapes and textures I recognize. No airbrushing or twiggy arms or a large gap between crotch and thighs. These images of women tell me they have cellulite, their thighs rub together and they are curvy, but REAL.

It made me feel better about myself today, knowing that I’m not crazy for thinking I’m the abnormal one.

And throughout history, it’s been more normal to be “plus size” than not. It’s the last 40 years of American (western) culture that tells women to be a certain type that very few can actually be — take a look:

Bam. Take that fashion world.

Skinny Shaming & Fat Shaming

I’m using some material from the response I had to FaturdayNightLive’s post for this blog post… I think it’s important to start with a disclaimer that I had an empowering weekend with my hubby and we sent all three of our kids to hang out with my parents for a full 24 hours. We have an awesome time, just the two of us and I got a makeover complete with false eyelashes and I felt like a movie star. It was a good feeling that at least lasted until midnight when I had to take the eyelashes off to sleep.

Ok, back to the topic of skinny shaming and how it relates to fat shaming. I think that we all think that we think too much.

On a more serious note, I have a feeling that the majority of us plus-size ladies have battled with our weight and self-image for so long it becomes hard for us to emphasize with women who, to us, seem like they shouldn’t have a worry in the world. They after all have a cute figure, aren’t feeling shame every time they walk into a store only to walk out with nothing because nothing came in their size.  I don’t think I’ve specifically skinny-shamed anyone, at least not out loud, outside my head. I know I have voiced my frustrations in my personal journal and will be using my blog as an outlet as well.

What happens is that skinny women think their body image is just as hard to accept as a plus size woman would accept their own body image. And that’s where the beef is because the majority of our society already accepts skinny, thin, what-have-you, bodies as that is what is considered already beautiful in our culture. A busty size 20 is not. There are a few (my hubby among them) that find women with more curves more attractive. That’s the battle we have, having to live/accept what society tells and how we feel about our own bodies at the same time, whether we are skinny or fat.

I don’t like bringing up race much, actually hardly ever, but the expectation to be thin and white is pervasive in our culture; beauty on the magazine covers are only proof that this stereotype is carried on generation after generation. I think another race that has it worse than Caucasian women are those of Asian descent, where it is expected of you to be petite, thin, young and often, submissive. My sister-in-laws are half Korean and we were talking about this not too long ago — this overwhelming expectation that they have to be tiny to be attractive. Their mother herself is 4’11” and barely 90 pounds and has the same figure now as when she met my hubby’s father.

Culture has such a huge impact on women, what it asks women to be in order to be attractive, pleasing to the eye and often, worthy of fashion. Of course, I think fashion has come a long way in just the past decade but we still have a long way to go when there are some of us that don’t wear the same size as the mannequin on display, we have real bodies that are all sorts of shapes and sizes. It’s still not mainstream yet for plus-size clothing to be normal; that all sizes would be available instead of 0-10. Sometimes if you’re lucky, a store will have size 16 tops that are loose enough that a size 18 or 20 can still wear.

The plus size section is still minimal selection in many stores, whereas smaller sizes can find fashion easily in just about any store and have hardly any issues finding something in their size. Try going wedding dress shopping as a plus-size woman, and you’ll immediately see the huge disparity in fashion availability, even for the brides with a healthy dress budget. I was almost brought to tears when I was trying on dresses for my wedding and the gowns wouldn’t zip up for me to see the true fit.

I’ve been fat shamed so many times in my life, I’ve lost count. Whether it’s your own mother trying to get you to lose weight at 7 years old or that drunk boy during college spring break tell you at 19 there’s no way in hell he’d sleep with you because you’re fat, it hurts. Wishing every day that it would get easier somehow to not give in to cravings for whatever sounds good and then people telling you that it’s simple as will-power and exercising all day. The worse is when your own mother couldn’t tell you looked beautiful on your wedding day. Instead, she reminds you to keep your veil around your shoulders so that your fat arms are more covered.

After 33 years on this planet, I’m trying to find the balance of when do I accept myself, or will I just cave in to what society wants, what will make me feel more attractive — get that lipo, go for the lap-band surgery or staple the stomach, get a tummy tuck? Paint it over with some fancy make-up and put on pair of heels and classy outfit, and now the world will embrace you? If I do lose a bunch of weight, how will that change me as a person — will I be just as happy then as I am now? Is the grass truly greener on the other side?

So in the end, is the shaming just really our way of justifying that we either fit or don’t fit in? Do we hurl words at the other side, hoping that it will make us feel better about ourselves, when in the end we are just being adult bullies? Skinny or fat, we are just people. Imperfect people trying to fit this idea of what is perfect to society. It is unattainable, ever out of our grasp, yet we are desperate enough to berate other people to maybe for a moment, feel beautiful ourselves, to be above others.

Shaming others really accomplishes nothing but creating more shame in ourselves.

H&M Replies – Not Good Enough

Literally going to copy and paste the response I got from my email complaint (see previous blog) to H&M for having one of the most pathetic plus-size sections in a large chain store I’ve seen in a L-O-N-G time:

Hello,

Thanks for reaching out to us.

I’m sorry that our new store in Anchorage, Alaska didn’t have what you’re looking for. We’re always accepting feedback to try to help make your shopping experience more enjoyable. The products and categories in-store can always change based on the demand, but it can take time.

Please see our H&M+ section online. Perhaps you can use the selection in-store to find out what sizes fit you best for different styles. This way you can browse our online plus size items and better select your fit. 

We will continue to grow and expand H&M+ online and in-stores! Please let us know if you have any further questions or concerns.

Best Wishes, 

Susie

H&M Customer Service

Well, thanks for nothing — the point is I want to see the clothes IN THE STORE, not on your frickin’ website. I came in person to your store to physically touch and try on clothes. But nope, if I only saw one shirt that might fit and maybe two bottoms I could possibly try on, what is the point?

H&M is so proud they offer plus size clothing but they get a big F from me for failing to provide the products in-store. Why does H&M provide almost an entire floor of their store to sizes 0-12, but only a tiny corner with 4 racks and a partial wall dedicated to sizes 14-24?

Ugh.

Maybe I’m just being a 33-year-old brat. Or am I fighting an uphill battle?

Open Letter to H&M – #plussizefashion

I visited your store last night at your newly opened store in Anchorage, Alaska and saw the plus size “section.” This “section” was literally about 4 racks and half a wall. The selection for size 14+ women’s clothing is honestly appalling and compared to the rest of the women’s fashion section of the store, that plus size “section” only represented about 5% of the inventory. On top of that, the section wasn’t even labeled and I had to hunt around the store to find anything in my size. Very disappointed in H&M. Maybe explain to your corporate people that I am 33 years old, my household income is $150K+ a year, I have two teenagers and a toddler and they are losing out on customers like me that enjoy fashion and can’t fit into a size 2. I walked out of that store with nothing for myself. I am a professional in the public relations and marketing fields and truly was shocked last night how far behind H&M is in providing ALL customers of ALL sizes fashion choices in their most recently opened store.

Get with it H&M. Larger girls have money to spend and love fashion too.

I noticed the mall that hosts your store had a new release: DIMOND CENTER – H&M and they mention a plus-size “line.” What a joke! Shame on you H&M for bringing that amount of hype. The kind of hype that felt a little like last week’s Amazon’s #PrimeDay that was a total failure.

According to this article last year:

“…the average American woman is 25 pounds heavier than she was in 1960. However, the plus-size clothing market still only accounts for 9% of the $190 billion spent on clothes annually in the United States. This means major retailers are leaving a lot of money on the table.”

Do you even want our business? Did your company not learn from your faux pas last year on using medium-sized models in their plus-size advertising either?

Some Twitter users like @readytostare in Toronto have reported their local H&M store had a selection in their plus-size store. Maybe my Canadian neighbors have it better at their local H&M. Maybe they complained about it to that particular store’s management. What does Alaska have to do to get more than 4 racks of plus-size clothing in the Anchorage store?

I did contact your customer service folks via chat on the H&M website. Their answer was simply sorry, you can’t call the store directly but you can 1) complain in person; 2) email the general customer service email or 3) call our general customer service number. I’m doing all three and then some on social media.

There’s a lot of us plus-sized ladies ready to purchase if the goods are there H&M. Some of us are professionals, some stay-at-home moms, some of us are young or young-at-heart, and we carry our purses in hopes that when a store claims to carry plus-sized clothing that they deliver with just as much inventory as other sections in the same store.

Some of us are now simply are tired of feeling ashamed when we walk into a major retailer and there’s NOTHING, nothing, nothing, in our size.

It’s 2015 H&M, time to make your fashion more accessible to all sizes.

Sincerely,

That One Chubby Lady in Anchorage