It’s highly likely that you’ve already heard of the campaign #droptheplus, initiated by ex-Biggest Loser host Ajay Rochester and model Stefania Ferrario. If you’re on Twitter and follow any fat activists at all, most of us have been pretty vocal about it. If not, Rochester and Ferrario are behind a push to stop the media and businesses using the term “plus-size”. From what I’ve read, they both believe that referring to women as plus-sized is embarrassing and they don’t like the idea that models who are outside the very thin range that high fashion deems “standard” are called “plus-size”.
I have a lot of serious problems with this campaign.
Firstly, let’s talk about the two women who are spearheading the campaign. Anything initiated or supported by anyone who was ever involved with The Biggest Loser strikes some serious alarm bells for me. I know Ajay Rochester has left the franchise and she’s had some criticisms of it, but the fact that she thought it was an acceptable project to ever put her name to is something I find deeply worrying. It is probably one of the most blatant examples of fat hate and is actually the televised torture and humiliation of fat people. Nobody who actually really cares about fat people would have anything to do with it.
Then there’s the matter of a woman who is happy to make money out of the plus-size market, even though she isn’t actually plus-sized herself. Stefania Ferrario is deemed a plus-size model, though, like most other plus-sized models (a tiny few are in-betweenies, with exception of Tess Munster who is actually the first REALLY plus-sized model), she does not have to shop from the plus-size section of any store. Yet she is employed to sell us plus-sized clothing. She is a model in a thin body, even if the very dodgy industry refers to her as a plus-size model. Perhaps if she does not want to be referred to as plus-size, she could campaign for realistically sized models in the entire fashion industry – move away from the extremely thin for “standard” fashion and actually get some fat models who have bodies like the customers they serve for plus-size clothing? Will she be advocating for more diversity in modelling for clothes, or is she happy to continue being paid to model clothes that actually would never fit the customers she’s supposed to be selling to?
To me, it seems that both Ajay and Stefania are ashamed of being referred to as plus-sized, as do those who support the campaign. A quick look through the photos on Instagram and Tumblr under that hashtag show that most of the women who support it are either thin, or at most, in-betweenies. So these are women who either are, or can pass as, not-fat. Which tells me that most of these women are actually on this campaign because they don’t want to be considered fat, probably because they believe that fat is a bad thing. There is a lot of rhetoric in the campaign about “all women being normal”, but I don’t see anyone with a body like mine being celebrated as “normal” as part of this campaign.
I do have a problem with people who don’t actually need to shop in the plus-size section, or those who have more options than others in plus-sizes, having any say on whether or not we use that term. If you’re a thin woman, or even a smaller fat, why is it any business of yours to demand that anyone not use a term to describe their own bodies?
The only reason it would be “embarrassing” to be referred to as plus-size is if you think being plus-sized is a bad thing. This is another example of how the body positive movement excludes fat people, by suggesting it’s embarrassing to be identified as one of us.
Fat activists and fatshion bloggers have spent a lot of years working very, very hard to improve the market for plus-size clothing. We’ve worked hard to get the industry taking plus-sizes seriously, and to include us in their merchandise and marketing. We are still a very, very long way from being where we should be by way of options for fat women, but, there are more and better options now than there were 5 years ago. That said, if you are over a 2X (or it’s local equivalent), the options dwindle down to very few indeed. We are still in a time where major retailers exclude plus-sizes by removing them from their stores and expecting plus-sized customers to buy online. They exclude us by charging ridiculously inflated prices compared to straight-sized clothing. They exclude us by offering unfashionable styles in dark, dreary colours. And many, MANY of them simply exclude us by size. By either not offering a range over a size 14 or 16, or offering only a slightly extended size range, cutting off before actual fat people. As it stands, at a size 4X I can count on one hand the number of places that carry clothes in my size, and only one of those has styles and colours that I REALLY like, rather than just settle for because I need clothes.
What I would like to know is if Rochester and Ferrario and those supporting the campaign, are campaigning for retailers to include ALL sizes in their clothing ranges. And I don’t mean just a few extra sizes on top of what is currently considered straight sizes, I mean to AT LEAST a size 5X or 6X. Because unless they are, this campaign to drop the term plus-size is actually not helping those of us that rely on plus-size ranges. It is in fact, going to impact negatively on us. Retailers will feel that it’s acceptable to no longer stock any sizes over their standard range, because they’re going to “drop the plus”. Which will leave people of actual size with even fewer options than we already have. The last thing we need is for plus-sizes to be eliminated in any way.
I also want to know how Rochester and Ferrario and their supporters would like to address those of us who are actually fat. I don’t mean twee euphemisms like curvy, chubby, fluffy, BBW (such a gross concept) or voluptuous. I mean actually fat. If they have a problem with the term plus-size, you can bet that also have a problem with the word fat? Or do they think that there is a limitation on which people get to be considered “normal”? Are they just moving the bar of “normal” slightly to a place that still excludes many of us? If they’re not going to use the word “plus-size” to refer to bodies like mine, what word will they use? I’ll bet my 300lb+ body won’t be considered “normal” by them, so what do they propose I use? I have the funny feeling that the vilest of all words “obese” will be tabled “because it’s a clinical term”. HELL NO. I am not going to be labelled as a disease.
All in all, the #droptheplus campaign is another deeply misguided attempt to create some kind of feel good movement that yet again, excludes those of us at the far end of the bell curve. And as I said in my last post, if your activism doesn’t include ALL fat people, it is not making any real change.