A few thoughts on the issues of body positivity and size and the godawful language used around body shape.
Sizing Things Up
I’m a size 12-14. The issue of ‘body positive’ seems to have got mixed up in a whole load of body shaming shit about ‘real women’ having curves or not being skinny, obviously this is not real body positivity, but there is a trend for skinny shaming and body positivity being seen as almost interchangable with fat positive movement. Don’t get me wrong fat postive is awesome, but body psoitive is about all shapes, fat, skinny, inbetweeny. I suppose I’m an inbetweeny sized person and feel a bit unsure of where I fit into all of it. Do I have any right to talk about feeling fat when I’m not really fat? What is fat anyway? Is there an official limit of when one is deemed ‘fat’ or ‘plus sized’ A quick google has confirmed various ‘plus size’ fashion shops whose ranges start at any size from a UK size 12 to a UK 20 with most of them plumping (ho ho excuse the pun) for a 14 or 16. Dress size is a bit of misnomer anyway, the sizing varying wildly from garment to garment and it takes little account of body shape, many of us are different ‘sizes’ on different parts of our bodies and we just tend to plump for ‘well it fits most of me ok it’ll do’ items.
The average UK dress size is 16. I’m a 12-14 roughly but own items than (mostly) fit from a size 8 to 16 and many more in ‘small’ to ‘large’. I’m somewhere between 5’4 and 5’5 , hovering between the ‘petite’ ranges and ‘normal’ ranges height wise and I have 34 E/F boobs. My weight yo yos, I have no idea how much I weigh as I just don’t like knowing, but by the power of looking in the mirror and the tightness of waistbands I change size often ish. A combination of medication, diet and exercise all varying. I have small feet and delight in being able to buy kids shoes.
There’s so many contradictory messages as to what is an ‘accepted size’. I am smaller than the average dress size for the UK and not really ‘plus sized’ though my BMI tells me I should loose weight, though even at my thinnest I have always been at the borderline between ‘hey you’re ok no need for shame here’ and ‘OMG FATSO YOU’RE GONNA DIE OF OBESITY AND EXPECT THE NHS TO PAY FOR IT YOU SELFISH FUCKER I HOPE YOU CHOKE ON A DONUT’. I’m considerably larger and wobblier than the models in all the magazines even the ‘curvy’ ones. Though ‘curvy’ seems to mean anything from ‘has noticeable breasts’ to ‘OMG A HIPPO MADE OF LARD!’ depending on what article one is reading and the exact levels of body shaming going on and what has been determined as the ideal woman shape of the nanosecond. Despite the fact the human body is made up of a lot of water I’ve still not managed to work out how to ‘pour my curves’ into my clothing as opposed to just putting clothes on like everyone else does with zips and buttons and stuff, plus the old ‘skinny jeans lunge’ and ‘freestyle tights gymnastics’ one must do to get the crotch area anywhere above your knees
On the Fruit Salad of Body Shape
I’ve never heard of men’s body shapes being described in such an odd fruit and inanimate objects based way. In the guise of making us ‘dress right for our body shape’ we are patronised into worrying about our proportions, fitting ourselves into some bizarre fruit shaped category forever worrying if we’re doing it ‘wrong’. A pineapple must never wear that, what do you think you are a raspberry? The shame!
Different body shapes are also given different attributes, as if the distribution of fat, muscle etc has a defining say over our personality. I am usually described as an ‘hourglass’ which means , by way of having large breasts and a waist smaller than my hips with a bum that sticks out a bit, I am a super sex goddess siren, always ripe to be sexualised because, well I have big breasts so I must be a nympho right? If you’re a ‘pear shape’ it’s all about the ‘booty’, if you’re ‘athletic’ or ‘apple shaped’ it’s all about how to create the ‘illusion of curves’. The advice written about women’s body shapes reads little differently from soft porno lads mag wank material, I am told by way of fashion advice, ‘Lady, check out your sexy curves!’ . Other body types are told they ‘struggle with creating curves’ or that they are ‘juicy, juicy pears!’. It’s all about our sex appeal, how to appeal to men, how to pass the ‘patriarchal fuckability test’ . Not about say , the best styles of jeans that cover your bum and don’t dig in or how to find a bra that isn’t agony or tights that don’t roll down, all very important fashion dilemmas thats are of more use to me day to day that attaining some fabled sex goddess status which probably requires me not to admit human foibles such as the need to fart (more than) occasionally or the desire to wear comfortable knickers.
The fact women are ‘curvy’ or ‘voluptuous’ or whatever word you want to use for ‘big breasts and/or bum’ type figures seems to be used an excuse to sexualise us, if we wear tight clothing we are ‘asking’ to be harassed or have our figures commented on, despite the fact that duh, clothes designed for smaller boobs and bums (which is most women’s clothing) tend to be tighter if yours are bigger. If your bum wiggles or wobbles when you walk, if your tits jiggle, you are a ‘tease’ despite the fact this is just physics, boobs and bums just do that, I move therefore my tits and arse move. My flabby stomach also moves but that’s ‘gross’ not sexual because of random societal dictates as to what fat cells are deemed sexy. Similarly if you are not ‘womanly’ shaped, you are made to feel inadequate for not having big breasts or sexy enough hips or a bum that isn’t pert enough. You are de-sexualised, told you look like a ‘teenage boy’ or you’re ‘not a real woman’ you should be wearing a padded bra, or padded pants to create the ‘curves’ another woman is being told she needs to control with shape wear to ‘minimise’ from head to toe. Women of colour are subject to yet more bullshit, their bodies not only subject to misogynist assumptions but racist ones too, from the stereotypes of ‘big butts’ and ‘exotic’ hypersexuality to those of ‘meek, mild and servile’ the celebration of accepting diverse women co-opted into yet more patriarchal fuckability bullshit for the pleasure of men, usually white men. We can never be just women, just us, even the advice supposedly by and for us, friendly ‘woman to woman’ chat reminds us our bodies are not our own that they are to be preened into a societally acceptable shape, sexualised, examined and commented upon by strangers.
Conclusion – I Blame the Patriarchy
I feel guilty in some ways talking about how ‘fat’ I feel and how I relate to being wobbly and in and outty, when I know many people are larger and might see me as a ‘moaning skinny bitch’, as I used to do to other women smaller than me before I realised it’s all patriarchal divide and rule bollocks. Patriarchy makes us hate other women; whatever our size or appearance it seeks to place us in the category of ‘not good enough’, to turn us against each other. I remember being on an online forum ages ago as a teen, making friends and we did they ‘post a pic of you’ thing and someone accused me of having a boob job and lying about it. I’ve heard friends, acquaintances, rip other women to shreds over appearance things like ‘yeh we’re both fat but I have better boobs’ and ‘she’s skinny she looks like a boy, gross’ and all sorts of horrific shit only designed to divide and rule, to set women against each other in competition for what? The sexual attention of men? some scraps thrown down by patriarchal bullshit kyriarchy?
We are told some women are more ‘womanly’ by the random distribution of fat on their bodies, if they have a wide pelvis or not. We insult women who do not live up to this ideal, we sexualise women who are a certain shape, we de-sexualise women are another shape. Capitalist Patriarchy offers us all ways to reach this idea, with a million and one types of shape wear, exercise, diets, surgery, cosmetics. The natural variation in humans is used against us to make many of us feel inferior, less than human through racism, sexism, cis-sexism, transmisogyny, disablism, body hate, fat shaming, skinny shaming etc etc. I am trying so hard to detach a love and appreciation of clothes from all this but it’s hard sometimes. Why should liking clothes, nail polish,red lipstick and eyeliner have to mean I hate myself?