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The Body Positivity Movement Doesn’t Include My Body

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by Deardre Thompson

This morning, I made my first purchase at Adore Me, a subscription-based online retailer for sleepwear, lingerie, and activewear. After a few months of disappointment with the plus-size options at Savage x Fenty (Rihanna’s lingerie subscription site) I decided to try something new, and admittedly a little bit lighter on my pockets.

“When I buy lingerie, I have to remind myself not to get my hopes up too high. That I won’t look like those girls,” I texted my friend along with screenshots of my recent purchase.

https://www.adoreme.com/trezza-black-plus

Let’s be real, none of us average folk look like our favorite top models or even the lesser-known faces that grace the campaigns of our favorite stores. They have professionals doing their hair and makeup, and photoshopping away their obvious imperfections.

However, what’s left should be women that somewhat represent what it means to be plus-size. Instead, their bodies looked nothing like mine or many of the plus-size people know. Most of us either look at these women as “#Goals” or we’re forced to accept that these are bodies we will never have, no matter how hard we try. It’s sad, especially since there’s a whole movement sweeping today’s culture that’s supposed to celebrate all body types. 

“Body Positivity” means a lot of things to a lot of people, but generally, it’s about accepting all body types no matter the shape and size, challenging the fashion industry to be more inclusive, and learning how to love yourself. Body positivity is a long-overdue movement, especially for people like myself, who’ve struggled with body image, disordered eating, and self-confidence. Unfortunately, it seems there’s still a barrier of entry to being accepted in this “movement,” and despite its intentions, the truth is that size and shape does matter.

The average American woman in the United States is between a size 16 and 18, and yet, retailers and designers rarely show women lower than a size 12 in their “plus-size” clothing. Few exceptions are made for women beyond a 12, so long as the have a coveted hourglass shape and relatively flat stomach. Which in reality, many of us don’t have. 

Take, for example, supermodel Ashley Graham, who despite being a size 16 (before her pregnancy) hardly represents the face, or more importantly, the body of an average American woman. Yet somehow she’s praised for her fat because it’s distributed all of the right places. I appreciate her using her platform to bring visibility to women larger than her, but the quick acceptance of her, and women shaped similarly to her did nothing more than create a new way other certain body types. 

https://www.si.com/swim-daily/2016/05/23/ashley-graham-designs-swimwear-line-swimsuits-for-all

At size 16, 195 lbs, with more fat in my stomach than my boobs, butt, or thighs, I am very much an average woman. Yet I can’t even make a simple purchase without lowering my expectations of how it’ll look on me because the plus-size models wearing them look nothing like me.

And I get why. My average body can’t rock a string bikini the way AG can. While she looks stunning, I would look so ridiculous, I would laugh at myself. Why would any designer wanna sell a fat reality, when a thick fantasy looks this good?

Of course, my insecurities are my cross to bear. But I expected the body-positive moment to support my journey to self-love, instead of booking “the good kind” of fat to sell product. I’m not blaming Ashley or any of the models that get booked as plus size because they have a rollercoaster of curves I can only dream of. They’re just doing their job, and to be fair, their bodies have broken barriers. Their visibility represents how far society has come, but also how far we still have to go…

More pressure needs to be put on retailers to look out for larger women instead of using their bodies to sell clothes they can’t even fit into. Designers need to continue to be called out for resorting to one type of fat to send down their runways during NYFW. But until things change, I’ll rely on myself to learn how to love my body, because this movement doesn’t feel like it was made for bodies like mine. 

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