Anna Barnard Wright: Should we encourage plus-sized beauty?

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Plus-Sized Beauty

(Hint: Yes.)

For its August issue, Women’s Running magazine featured a plus-sized model on the front cover. There was overwhelming support from the plus-sized community and other decent humans, yet the story sparked outcry from many. I often get into this debate on Twitter (sigh), and it frustrates me that the argument even has to be discussed: Plus-sized models should be equally represented in the media, without backlash.

But first, let’s talk about the ridiculous definition of “plus-sized.” Despite the UK average for a woman being a size 16, models are classed as plus-sized from a size 12 and up. Being a 10/12 myself, I’m often a “large” in Hollister and a very snug “medium” in Urban Outfitters. By this logic, an average, size-16 girl might be an XXL. How can average be based upon XXL? Not only does this make online shopping difficult, but it has a detrimental effect on girls’ confidence and self-esteem. The media would have you believe that an XS is the only appropriate size for young girls, and while it is normal for some, this is simply not a reflection of most of our society. It’s important for retailers to cater to a more realistic range of bodies and lower the bar.

My second issue is those who condemn plus-sized models for being “unhealthy.” (Unsurprisingly, these people also tend to hate feminism, immigrants, human rights, etc.) There isn’t one definitive image of “healthy,” so it isn’t accurate or fair to judge someone’s health purely by his or her physical appearance. The range of healthy BMI’s is actually pretty wide, and people carry weight differently depending on a number of factors.

You also have to consider that metabolism varies from person to person. It’s quite possible that a smaller person eats more than a larger person, but you wouldn’t know it either way. A truly healthy diet involves balance and variety. Foods containing naturally occurring good fats are far more beneficial to your health than many “diet” products loaded with chemicals. Crash dieting does more damage than maintaining a slightly higher yet stable weight.

It baffles me that so many people are willing to cast aside plus-sized models as unhealthy but accept slimmer models, who are overrepresented (their body types make up just 5 percent of the general population), without second thought. A huge problem affecting many of these size double-zero models is drug addiction and using drugs as a means of radical dieting. Yet the Obese Police don’t consider this to be an unhealthy lifestyle. Who sets the standards? I usually hear the argument, “Fat people are a strain on the government, wasting tax-payers’ money.” Politicians waste much more money—target your abuse at them instead.

Of course being overweight isn’t ideal for many, and there’s no question obesity is a serious problem, but not one we should shame people for. In fact, a study by experts at University College London has shown fat-shaming actually has the opposite effect. Over a four-year period, those subjected to “weight discrimination” gained an average of 0.95kg (or two pounds) compared to the control group who lost an average of 0.71kg (around 1.6 pounds). As well as weight gain, fat-shaming leads to self-esteem issues, depression, anxiety, anorexia, bulimia and countless other serious illnesses. These sufferers also need support from the government. A healthy mental attitude and wellbeing have a more positive impact on life. Encouragement beats shame.

Two brilliant role models are YouTubers Louise Pentland (SprinkleofGlitter) and Sarah Rae Vargas (RavingsByRae). They know they’re larger ladies; you don’t need to tell them. However, they focus on promoting self-love, acceptance and embracing what you have. This is especially important for an audience of young girls. They wear what they like and do what they want. They’re happy. Surely this is a healthier lifestyle than constantly feeling ashamed and embarrassed, feeling you’re worth less than anyone else?

No one has the right to punish people for their appearance. Someone else’s weight has nothing to do with you, and it’s not your problem to solve. Weight doesn’t define a person. Plus-sized ladies (and men) have as much right to chase their dreams and feel beautiful as anyone else. It’s not about encouraging obesity—no one sets out with that goal. It’s about encouraging happiness and a healthy mind.

Anna Barnard WrightAnna Barnard Wright is a British sociology student at the University of Durham. She’s an aspiring journalist who writes passive aggressively about beauty, lifestyle and other first world musings on her blog, Collections of Imperfections. Anna is a tea drinking introvert and proudly uncool, though not in the way that’s now considered cool. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.


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