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  • Who Are You Calling ‘Plus-Size’?

    Wednesday, February 11, 2015

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    Oh joy. It’s that time of the year when most of us are reminded that the wages of sin is death. Or cellulite. Or something.

    Pull up a chair, pour yourself a glass of wine, it’s time for the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

    Is it me, or do they release this yearly study of unattainable beauty standards at exactly the point in the year when we are simultaneously drowning our freezing, snow shoveling sorrows in casseroles and dreaming of a jaunt in the sun? Preferably NOT while wearing a swimsuit? Coincidence? I think not.

    While I am never particularly inclined to take a peek inside this annual celebration of the genetic equivalent of the 1%, this year’s issue did raise enough (let’s call it) curiosity, in me that I kind of had to see it. Not wanting to actually fork over cash in exchange for a reminder that swimsuits only look ‘like that’ on The Few. The Taut. The Supermodels., I headed over to my local book store, strategically placed the issue in between a pile of home improvement and knitting magazines, and parked myself in an out-of-the-way table in the café.

    SI Swimsuit Issue Cover

    Oh look, the cover model is the girlfriend of Derek Jeter. Excuse me while I recover from the shock of that news. Alas, I’m not perusing the pages to see bikini-clad photos of the wives and girlfriends of sports guys (I’m talking to you Tom Brady…and Gisele). Nope, I’m here to get a good look at the plus size models in the issue.

    This. Is. Historic. People.

    SI plus size model_ad

    According to my (admittedly limited) math skills, these ground-breaking editors dedicated just under 1.4% of the photos in this year’s issue to real women (for you math geeks out there—there are approximately 144 photos of swimsuit-clad models (not counting advertisements), and exactly 2 of the photos (one being an ad) were of ‘plus-size’ women).

    OK, can I just say this now?

    You keep saying that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    Sure, is the model curvy? Hell yea. She’s voluptuous, gorgeous, feminine, and well, kinda hot. Seriously, if I looked like that in as little clothing as she’s wearing back when I was an actual plus-size, I’m not so sure I would have ever worn clothes. Or spent the last 20 years sweating my ass off at the gym. Or worked on developing a genuine love enjoyment tolerance of kale and tofu.

    In fact, I may have just moved to an island, curated a wardrobe entirely made up of ‘plus-size’ swimsuits, cute little cover-ups and a universally-flattering pink lipstick with SPF and called it a day.

    Now for the real model. You know, the one who can say “I was in the 2015 SI Swimsuit Issue” and be totally legit?

    SI swimsuit issue plus size model

    (…sound of a needle screeching across a record)

    Are. You. Kidding. Me?

    Listen, I am the first one to argue whether or not most of us really needs an understanding of geometry, or exactly what it is that makes the Kardasians worthy of fame and fortune because, let’s face it, there’s little value in really contemplating either topic (and pondering the Kardashian thing for even a second will make your soul cry).

    However, I do think we need to understand the baseline by which ‘plus-size’ is being applied here. The average American model is 5’9’’-6’0” tall and weighs between 110 and 130 pounds. They are typically sized 0-2.

    Can we please all agree that 0 isn’t a size? (Though it may be the tolerance policy for actual ‘plus-sized’ women in the SI Swimsuit Issue).

    The height and weight of the average American women? 5’4” and a little over 166 pounds. And she *probably* sports many more stretch marks, lumps, and bumps than these two women do. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    That does it, I’m hiring my very one Photoshop guru.

    So, what is this little rant really all about? The folly of applying labels at all? Here’s a radical idea. What if they had just published the issue without applying labels? Or, what if they went all out and applied labels or qualifiers to each and every model. What might that have looked like? What it’s not about is taking anything away from these gorgeous women and their bold badassery. I imagine they live in a kind of body-image limbo. A place where the skinnies of the world call them fat and the chubbies call them skinny.

    All I’m saying is that until we can get past the need to put women in a box in terms of her outward appearance, we don’t really celebrate them, do we? I have absolutely no problem with or protest against the SI Swimsuit Issue. Hell, as I’ve gotten older and been more able to accept that yea, that’s the genetic 1% I’m looking at right there, I can sometimes get lost in marveling at and appreciating their beauty (as unrealistic as it may be). And, frankly, I wouldn’t want to go back to my days as a plus-size woman, not for anything.

    Here’s the thing. I am not pissed off because these women aren’t ‘plus-size’ enough based on my personal definition of what that really means (for the record, I was a size 22 at my heaviest). I’m not pissed off that the typical SI Swimsuit model is so small that her size often doesn’t warrant, you know, an actual number. I’m pissed because the gauge by which we measure these things is so distorted.

    Or maybe I’m really pissed off because there’s a gauge at all.



    Who Are You Calling ‘Plus-Size’?


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    2 responses to “Who Are You Calling ‘Plus-Size’?”

    1. PT says:

      Maybe I’m pissed off not because of the gauge which will continue as long as we as a society idolize on looks and not what I believe is the most important thing a person should be proud of…..their character. Take a stroll in your towns oldest cemetery and you will not find it noted anywhere what the person’s size was (fat or thin), what their educational credentials were…..but you WILL find that those that are valued for their character are often extolled on their headstone with traits that SHOULD be of the most importance to everyone. Our bodies are fleeting but the character we build and grow will be with us to the very end.
      Now I’ve joined your rant!

      • @PT–Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my post! I couldn’t agree more! I have had the opportunity to experience life in (essentially) two different bodies–one that society deems acceptable, and one it does not. Though my strong character is something that has never wavered, the way I am treated as a thin person versus when I was overweight continues to remind me that a person’s true value lies within who they are, how they treat others, and what they put out into to the world.

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