Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Plus Size War

Over the past week or so there has been a lot in the media about those of us who are 'plus size'. There has been debate about whether 'plus size' models make good role models for girls and young women; social media has been ablaze with 'plus size' women proclaiming their pride in who they are and with 'fat shaming' of these same women; bloggers have been writing about how hard it is to accept themselves and how they have finally learned to love themselves just the way they are; a radio interview with a 'plus size' model turned nasty, bullying and left the interviewee in tears. It's certainly been eventful!

I've been thinking about this subject myself over the last week. Some of the women I chat to on Twitter have been sharing their thoughts and experiences which has inspired me to do the same.

I am 'plus size' - I put it in quotation marks because I'm not sure if it's a term I want to use but it seems appropriate as it's the one which has been used most during the recent debate. There are many other terms I could have used but let's stick with 'plus size', it's probably the kindest. I have been 'plus size' for most of my adult life and I've learned to live with it. That in itself is revealing - as a 'plus size' woman my size is something to be endured and put up with. I don't feel able to celebrate who I am because of what I am. Life as a 'plus size' woman can be a challenge. I have to think about what I'm going to do carefully - clothes are chosen because they cover the parts of my body that I am ashamed of; there are certain places I avoid going to because I feel uncomfortable being there; there are activities that I don't do because I am too self conscious of how I would look and be perceived.

Looking back over my life I realise that there have been times when I've missed out because of being 'plus size'. I feel that I have put my life on hold at times because it's easier than putting myself out there and risking the judgement of others. And let's not kid ourselves that they don't judge; I certainly judge myself very harshly so I'm under no illusion that others don't do the same to me.

I'm acutely aware at all times that I don't look the way the world thinks I should nor, if I'm honest the way I wish I looked. An example from recent times; I went to a college reunion and was looking forward to catching up with old friends. I had bought two new outfits for the occasion and spent an hour showering, doing my hair and makeup and choosing an outfit to wear. I looked in the mirror after all my preparation and I hated what I saw. I didn't want to be the fat, old woman I saw in the mirror and I didn't want to leave my hotel room and face the world. A self indulgent bout of crying later and I pulled myself together and went to the reunion. But for a short while I felt very sorry for myself, very unhappy and very aware that I don't fit the norms of society.   

I have been horrified at the deeply personal things which have been said about 'plus size' women. If the same things were said about a person with a disability or disfigurement there would be an outcry. But it seems that 'plus size' women are fair game. And it is mainly about women; none of the debate over the last week has touched on the lives of 'plus size' men. The bullying of Callie Thorpe by a radio interviewer on Three Counties Radio was a prime example. She was constantly told that her size was her own fault because she was lazy and greedy. She tried to explain that there were many and varied reasons why women were different sizes but the interviewer just kept shouting her down. I was impressed she kept her calm for as long as she did; I don't think I would have!

So I've decided to try really hard to embrace the woman I am, all of her. It's time to live my life, all of it. It'll be a challenge as I'm so used to doing my best to hide away - I'm so good at it that there isn't even a picture of me on my Twitter page, I've used one of my cats (she is very beautiful though!) My first challenge is to get a picture of myself on Twitter, to finally embrace who I am and acknowledge that the 'plus size' me is an OK girl and she can be seen and heard.   


  1. What a wonderful post, Jo. I've been trying to keep out of this debate because I struggle so much with who I am, I am in no position to comment on anybody else.

    1. Thank you for commenting char. I wanted to stay out of the debate but once I'd heard Callie's radio interview I knew I had to engage in the debate.