The Body-Shaming Debate: Do Size Categories Perpetuate The Issue?

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Those three little words. Easier said than done, right? If we lived in a world where the media or outside influences didn’t exist perhaps it would be a hell of a lot easier. But just like the M.Night Shyamalan movie ‘The Village’, no matter how you try to isolate yourself, the outside world somehow finds a way to infiltrate your barriers.

So if cutting ourselves off isn’t the right solution, perhaps banding together with other like-minded people amidst a sea of oppression is a much better option. The body-shaming debate is not a one-size-fits-all approach (no pun intended) because everyone is different.

There has been a huge backlash to the fashion and advertising industries’ narrow-minded ideals and many other brands as well as ordinary people are rising up to stake their own claim in the beauty space. Just look at how the internet pretty much imploded after Victoria’s Secret released a campaign featuring their stock standard skinny, pretty, airbrushed size zero models with the words “Perfect Body” strewn across them.

The movement toward inclusivity and diversity is pretty huge at the moment, but is it swinging too far in the other direction? Shouldn’t body diversity also include one of those size zero models also? Sure, we’re not in any danger of missing out on seeing the size zero model in any media, but in the name of diversity these other brands and campaigns need to put their money where their mouth is and show that they aren’t effectively “skinny shaming” by only promoting curvy or plus size women.

Plus Model Magazine is a publication dedicated to giving “full-figured women” a platform to find content about fashion and body confidence. They are the number one blog, magazine and social media platform doing this, and it is incredible to see such a rich source of fashion content that is different from the rest.

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Plus size bloggers have also saturated both the blogging and fashion worlds, which indicate there was a HUGE need that is now finally being filled.

In an interview with ABC news, Plus Model Mag editor in chief Madeleine Jones says they released a ‘Love Your Body’ issue because they wanted to put an end to body shaming once and for all.

“I wanted to create that conversation, and I wanted people to say, hey, maybe I need to stop writing those negative things,” she said.

She and her team have photographed a series of models naked with empowering captions on the image. The fact that it is giving an elevated view of a different type of beauty is a good thing, because it has been a long time coming.

The position we are coming from is that the end to body-shaming will come when both sides can find a happy medium. It shouldn’t be about Victoria’s Secret models vs the curvy women brigade. We need to see plus size, straight size, petite, tall, and anything in between, walking the runways of the world and appearing on the same fashion spreads together. Otherwise what’s to say all the plus size only campaigns aren’t just feeding the same habits?

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Just before Halloween this year, Lingerie Fashion Week was held in New York and was one of the few events where attendees saw a very diverse range of bodies on the runway.

Lauren Rich, founder of Lingerie Fashion Week, wrote in a press release, “From the beginning we envisioned Lingerie Fashion Week® as a platform to embrace and celebrate a wide range of intimate apparel brands, and hence body types, from petite to full bust to full figure to maternity. Lingerie is not one-size-fits-all, and neither are the women who wear it — on, and off, the runway.”

Website Bustle sand the praises of this event saying it was exactly the type of thing we need to see in fashion.

“By featuring a wide spectrum of body types, the folks behind Lingerie Fashion Week did an effective job of promoting body positivity for all, without fat shaming or skinny shaming. This is such an important step for brands to be taking, and I hope to see this kind of body acceptance become more mainstream in the near future (lookin’ at you, VS),” writes Erin Mayer while mentioning the Victoria’s Secret debacle.

Lingerie Fashion Week didn’t just feature curvy women, it featured pregnant women, women who have survived breast cancer and a whole spectrum of women’s bodies that also deserve to be represented alongside other other categories. Because it’s not just plus size or zero-sized models that wear clothes and lingerie, everyone does, including disabled women who for the first time were featured on the runway at New York Fashion Week when designer Carrie Hammer decided to buck trends and use a range of models unlike any other show.

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This is not a “fat vs skinny” debate, it’s about finding a middle ground where all bodies are celebrated equally. Sure we are mad that for too long the industry has only shown us one body, but that doesn’t mean it is every skinny girl’s fault for being that way naturally. We should not shut them out of the conversation.

In order to truly affect change, we need to make every body size part of the conversation about how we as everyday people can force change in the industry. Perhaps all the skinny girls of the world are feeling left out because they aren’t part of the movement? Did we ever stop to think that now we have a very strong plus size voice in the market, that they are doing the same thing to skinny girls that has happened to them for so long?

Let’s not copy the mold of fashion and advertising. Segregation and categorization is not the answer. Inclusivity, diversity, and creating new platforms is the way ahead.

It is great we have magazines like Plus Model Mag, but essentially it is reinforcing the “us vs them” mentality that we can’t integrate and celebrate body image together.

How much better than Victoria’s Secret are the plus size blogs and magazines if they don’t want to capitalize on their mistake? We issue the challenge to all the body-focused platforms of the world: use body size ranging from size 0 all the way up to size 16 (or whatever size range they choose) alongside each other. Promote the ideal that women can support each other despite their body differences.

Now that the internet has established a ground for many other voices to speak out loud and give visibility to different people groups who weren’t represented before, it’s time to take the next step and find ways to merge these messages and truly create empowerment that represents all.

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