Divided We Fall ...

Excuse the obvious girl-power reference here.

As it stands right now, the body acceptance movement is at a complete standstill. And many of us are playing a role in holding it back.

Somewhere along the line, in the fight to be accepted as the women we are, whether fat or thin, we have allowed ourselves to become divided and pitted against one another.

You don’t have to look far to find the infighting. On social networking sites, in articles, in material meant to be uplifting, I constantly read plus size women cutting down models for being “too skinny” or not a “real woman.”

It's frightengly familiar to the criticisms that have haunted so many of us for all our lives: “she’s too fat.”

It’s not that I don’t understand how it happened.

For decades now, women have been shamed into believing that failing to live up to the media and fashion industry’s standard of beauty has made them less than their thinner counterparts. You don’t need me to tell you how many of us have been made to feel less than deserving of quality fashion, respect, love and desirability for not resembling celebrities and models.

And it’s not just in the media.

When I was a teen, in the critical years of shaping my self-worth and deep in the throes of disordered eating, I had a person close to me try to shame me into losing weight.

“Aren’t you embarrassed at how everyone is staring at how big your butt is?"

“Don’t you want to look pretty?"

“No man will ever want a fat woman.”

It still hurts me to type those words – an excerpt of examples that could fill volumes – all these years later. I forgive that person, they were using their understanding of the world to try and “fix” me. But it failed miserably. It made me hate myself and therefore abuse myself.  I carry it with me. It shaped my understanding of myself and the world around me.

As women, especially in adolescence, the criticisms we face on a daily basis give birth to an ugliness that casts a dark shadow on our lives and relationships: Jealousy. Bitterness. Sadness.  A penchant for cutting other women down.  It is a cycle as old as time and one of the most difficult to break.

In our own journeys to self acceptance, how often have we used these terms?

Real women have curves.

We’re “real size.”

Only a dog likes bones.

The “us vs them” attitude permeates in everything we do. We have created our own destructive and damning fortress --where plus size women are firmly pitted against their smaller counterparts. And in our division, we are slowly allowing ourselves to be conquered.

As the fad diet industry soars and a condemnation of women above a size 4 saturates the media, America’s obesity epidemic is growing more and more grave.

In the fashion industry, models are not becoming more realistic representations of the women to whom their clients cater. They’re getting smaller. Companies that claim to promote “healthy models” are being outed for encouraging ridiculous diets for their girls (Yes, I’m looking at you Victoria’s Secret).

Supermodels from the 90s , wearing a size 6, would be considered plus size by today’s standards. Women today who wear between a size 6 and 10 are left profoundly confused and isolated. They are either grouped with plus size or left with nothing at all.

We’ve all walked further and further away from the middle to a twisted, confusing and destructive world of extremes. And instead of looking at those who are causing the problems, we are turning on each other.

As Madeline Jones of Plus Model Magazine has so often pointed out, when it comes to the use of thin models to represent plus size women, agency bookers blame the clients. The clients blame the bookers. And we, as consumers, have in turn begun blaming models and public figures.

I understand the logic behind the criticisms. It is so confusing, so hurtful and so damaging to see a woman who is a size 6 wearing clothes that are being marketed to you when you’re a size 18, 20, 24 etc.

Worse, women’s careers in the public eye skyrocket after losing weight – look at Kelly Osbourne or Kim Kardashian. And when an already established talent loses weight, the sheer obsession with it often overshadows their career. It's easy to forget Jennifer Hudson, Valerie Bertinelli, and Kirstie Alley were established talent before they became weight loss icons.

I know why we get mad when they lose weight.  

When someone you admire for accepting themselves loses weight and talks about how happy they are thinner, it feels like a reaffirmation of what the world tells you 10,000 times a day: that you are a better person if you are skinny.

Having been both slimmer and fatter than I am now, I can safely say that a woman who loses weight is not attempting to make a greater statement on this issue.  She is just trying to settle something within herself.  I was not better when I’m thinner and I’m not worse when I’m fatter. And vice versa. I am always Allie, the loud, crazy, slightly ill-tempered, obsessive woman I have always been. My outside packaging has NO impact on it.

And with that, I would ask – even implore – plus size women to stop cutting smaller women down. The movement I am a part of and want to be a part of is one that uplifts women, regardless of their appearance. One that accepts women of all shapes and sizes.

It is not one that believes in cutting down someone who does not look like you.

We cannot ask people to accept us if we turn around and shun them. By declaring that slim women, women without any curves or any non-plus size woman is somehow less “real” than us, we are part of the problem, not the solution.

After all, aren’t we fighting for the ability to be accepted and embraced at the size and shape that makes us happiest? Do those rules not apply to a woman who is smaller than a size 14?

In the interest of being explicitly clear, I am in no way condoning forcing models to lose excessive amounts of weight. I do not support companies that market to a plus size woman with a model that is nowhere near their customer’s size. I do not believe that everyone needs to be a size 6. Most of all, speaking from experience, I do not believe that losing weight will solve all of one’s problems.

What I am saying is that we have to remain steadfast in our support of ALL WOMEN in this whirlwind storm 
going on in America today. No battle was ever conquered with insults. Fat shaming is ineffective and damaging, but so is shaming women who choose to lose weight or those who are naturally thin.

So today, I am stepping back and committing myself to resist being a pawn in an industry that promotes a “divide and conquer” mentality. I am going to stop preoccupying myself with proclamations that cut down someone else to make me feel better. I am accepting myself and every single one of you, at the size you were yesterday, today, tomorrow and in 20 years. I am going to try my hardest to set an example for a generation of women that will not cut down other women. I hope you will join me.



Anonymous said...

Your a gem!

Unknown said...

I posted on 'skinny hate' a few weeks back. I agree, it needs to be stopped.

Unknown said...

Very well said!


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