In late September I was shopping at Addition Elle, and because they were in the midst of spreading word about their upcoming plus size model search, they gave me the flyer advertising it and urged me to apply. Initially I was flattered. I was really excited at the prospect of being a plus size model.
While I didn’t end up following through with applying, I did watch the model search closely. I noticed that some of the online public comments around the models’ appearances were incredibly offensive. One particularly off putting comment was something I have been faced with for most of my plus sized life: “What a shame – she has such a pretty face.” What this comment implies is that it’s unfortunate the woman is plus sized, because if she wasn’t she would be beautiful.
In order for society to see plus size women as beautiful, there must be an aesthetically pleasing physical quality that allows us to look past the fat. Society has a tendency of only accepting one difference at a time. If a woman is white, fat and conventionally beautiful, it’s easier to look past her fat – almost excusing it. However, if a woman is white, fat, conventionally beautiful and queer, it’s far more difficult for society to accept. As a queer, fat woman I have experienced this frequently. It’s incredibly problematic because it further constructs an unattainable idea of beauty – continuing to enforce the idea of fatness as undesirable and something that should provoke disgust and shame. This is one of the many ways that thin privilege functions in our society.
Being fat is not new for me. I have been fat my whole life. I used to say that I struggled with my weight; which is the exact language that revolves around these non-normative topics. It’s so common to hear negative implications, guised insults or outright abuses when we talk about fatness. It’s rare to hear, “you’re so beautiful” with no shame attached to the compliment.
A friend of mine recently asked me how, as a “bigger” female, do I embody confidence and what are some tips for embracing her own, new bigger body. Of course, gaining weight can come as something that may take adjustment, especially if you have never experienced fatness before. That struggle or adjustment should come as no surprise, because of the way that society has constructed ideas of beauty. We have not been equipped to handle changes in our bodies because those changes typically represent the negative. The only tools we have been given are to abolish the fat through our diet and working out. I told her it’s important to understand that society makes fat people (especially fat women) feel really terrible about our bodies, so we should do our best to not allow that negativity to pile up and dictate our self-worth and how we live our lives. And we certainly shouldn’t have to excuse or apologize for our fatness.