These Plus Size Activists Are Expanding Fashion Boundaries By Including Men In The Bo-Po Movement

We talk a lot about body positivity and the movement started by everyday fashion influencers who are making a real impact on the way the fashion industry decision-makers portray bodies and construct narratives around them. A lot of the conversations are focused on women, and for good reason. An overwhelming amount of fashion advertising is directed at women and has been a powerful force in alienating so many people who don’t fit into a narrow mold.

But body image as a whole topic is certainly not just a women’s issue, it is a human issue affecting literally anyone who who has a body. That includes men. In fact, because of the uptick in bo-po messaging infiltrating the industry, we are now also starting to see more men speak out about how they have felt immense pressure to look a certain way, but haven’t necessarily felt they were able to because of toxic masculine culture which teaches them talking about insecurities or feelings is considered “weak”.

Well thank goodness for the men who are joining the bo-po movement in a bid to give permission to many others to define masculinity for themselves and be OK with who they are. One of those men is Ryan Dziadul, a publicist from New York who also runs the Instagram account ExtraExtraStyle, “an XXL dude living in a slim fit world” as his bio states.

Having worked in fashion for a decade, in a recent interview with Yahoo Style, he says he started the account about a year and a half ago after noticing there was not much in the way of male-centered body-positive messages or images.

“I realized that there were resources for women dealing with body-image issues, but there didn’t seem to be a place for men to talk about body positivity or to celebrate their style. So I decided to create that resource,” he said.

An experience many plus size people can relate to, Ryan says he spent years feeling embarrassed going shopping especially knowing not all brands and stores would carry his size. It took him a long time to realize that his size was not a curse and that it was the industry that was lacking something, not him.

“I just got sick of it. I decided to make peace. I’ve never been a small person, and I likely never will be. But it’s a process — I mean, I started my Instagram to help other people but it’s really helped me…Shopping as a plus-size person is hard…It took me 35 years to realize that size is just a number,” he said.

So far, the overwhelming amount of feedback he has received has been positive, bar a few comments here and there which he doesn’t take too much notice of. Some of the many DMs and comments include a follower from Japan who told him he shares his posts with his plus size friend, and a mother who has been showing Ryan’s posts to her son suffering with body image problems. That is the power of speaking up for those who cannot!

Ryan wants to see more male bo-po messages in mainstream media, the same way it is now doing with plus size women.

“The media just isn’t talking about it. We are beginning to see mainstream women’s media outlets feature plus-size women on covers and in their pages — I mean, Ashley Graham has a great page in InStyle every month. But that just isn’t happening for men. The only non-model bodies in GQ are professional athletes. I never see anyone who looks like me in the media,” he said.

Ultimately, it is about empowering everyday people to know that they should not have to look a certain way to feel happy or healthy or loved.

“I hope that by sharing my journey and my style I’m helping people with their own confidence and helping to take some of the shame away from being plus-size. This is a conversation that people are ready to have, and I’m proud to be a part of it,” said Ryan.

He is not the only one looking to expand the visual definition of what it looks like to be a man in the 21st century. Brooklyn-based photographer Tarik Caroll has started an online movement of his own to combat the lack of diversity in advertising when it comes to men’s bodies. He started The EveryMan Project, an attempt at “reforming the male aesthetic”.

Through the ongoing photography project, where he captures men over the age of 16, Tarik says he wants to inspire, empower and liberate all men from self-hate.

“My main goal is to create a safe space. And to really show what body positivity is. Body positivity is not fat versus skinny. It’s being comfortable in your own skin. We’re also battling toxic masculinity. It’s like, yeah, you can be a man, but you don’t have to dress according to social gender norms. My goal is to show the entire spectrum, going from skin color to body size to masculinity, and create a safe space where everyone can see themselves represented,” he told Mic.com in an interview.

Like Ryan, Tarik says he grew up not feeling represented int he images he saw around him.

“As a kid, I was always different. I’m sure it was challenging for my parents to raise an outspoken, headstrong, vibrant, eccentric black child. As I began elementary school, I found myself in classrooms filled with students that looked nothing like me…During my developmental years, I often felt isolated. I was consistently the tallest kid in class, the dude with a voice higher than most of the other boys, and (of course) I was always the chubbiest kid in the class…I worried about getting glances and being judged based on my appearance… From the beginning, I was labeled “different” which is something that has followed me throughout my life. At 6 years old, being “different” felt like a curse. But now at 29, being “different” feels more like a blessing,” he writes in the mission statement on the project’s website.

He went on to write about how society’s obsession with perfection seeps into our lives at such an early stage, constantly telling us we are not enough. It wasn’t until he started working in the fashion industry and learning about airbrushing that he realized it was all a facade, and now he wants to be part of breaking that down with his counter-message about embracing diversity and being inclusive about ALL body types.

“I want to challenge society’s obsession with hyper masculinity and perfection by capturing men/male identifying from all backgrounds, orientations, gender identifications, personal classifications, races and colors.This is a call to all. This is a visual conversation about inclusion and diversity which I intend to translate into an actual conversation about the positivity that begins within,” he said.

Similar to Ryan’s overall mission, while it is important to see change in the industry, Tarik believes change has to begin with individual attitudes being willing to go against the grain and defy narrow standards.

“It’s going to take a change in the mindset of how we look at ourselves as men, for bigger guys and guys without ripped abs to be out there. It’s all on one person willing to take the risk of doing things that are not conventional, shaking the table. I’m one photographer, and maybe one photographer will do something we’re doing. Maybe a stylist will be like, ‘Hey, let’s do something different’,” he said.

If you are inspired by The EveryMan Project and want to be part of it, contact Tarik via open casting call section of the website. You can also follow @theeverymanproject and @extraextrastyle both on Instagram.

 

 

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