As I walked into my Feminist Thought class Monday I wondered what kind of discussion would ensue as I took my seat. Talking about intersectionality had my head spinning and was in many ways twisting my brain to uncharted territories. But that Monday the computer was on and the projector was buzzing and there was a picture of a model bending her body and advocating for Calvin Klein’s underwear line. My professor asked us, “What do you think of this image?” We discussed how normal the model looked; there were no sharp bones threatening to crack her open, not a single trace of lifelessness in her eyes. She is beautiful and healthy and she looked real.
Then my professor dropped the bomb: this model is considered a plus sized model.
Fury and anger and unadulterated disappointment flooded the room. That cannot be a “plus size” model, this is what my friends look like, this is what the women I see in Starbucks look like…this is a real life body. So how dare a brand claim this to be “plus sized”?
So, what’s the issue here? The perpetuation of this as “plus size” furthers the idea that, somehow, this is bad. That the ideal that needs to be, what are for many, unattainable bodies. There is also a clear issue of misrepresentation in the media, and feeling as though not all people can relate.
I find myself grappling with this problem of size and portrayal in the media, and the overall battle people fight to justify being a size that is natural and healthy for them. However, leaving that class left me a bit more hopeful for this fight. My professor shared that this image had gotten a lot of heat online and Calvin Klein was receiving significant backlash from the community. We need to get angry, get PISSED that this is happening in our communities. The demographic of models and designers and photographers pale in comparison to the millions of people who reject this notion of beauty and who want, and need to be justly represented. [editor’s note: It seems to be the modelling industry, not Calvin Klein, who was labeling this model “plus size”. Click here for statements from the brand and the model!]
It is a big problem, and sometimes issues of this size become too scary to act upon. I often find myself wanting to break something every time I try to come to an answer of how to simply STOP all of this. So yes, it is frustrating. But this fight is worth it. So get mad, get upset, and most importantly voice your opinion. Because no matter who you are, you deserve to be justly represented.
Read here for more info! (same link as in the editor’s note)
So, what do you think? Is “plus size” a bad thing? What does “plus size” mean? And what does it mean that a model who is considered “plus size” is actually smaller than the average American size? We want to hear from you!! Comment below or feel free to email Julia if you’d like to write a response, firstname.lastname@example.org
**Special thanks to Dr. Ann Ciasullo at Gonzaga University, and the students of Feminist Thought 466