Why Plus Sized Representation In The Media Is SO Important

Our world is so beautifully diverse in terms of body types. People of all shapes and sizes are out in the world every day, existing, flourishing and living their lives, sprinkling magic everywhere they go. However, if you were to pick up a magazine, or look at a billboard, or attend a catwalk show, you'd be inclined to assume that only one body type exists in the world as it seems only one type of appearance is glorified or represented as 'beautiful.'
It's really heartbreaking how mainstream media is so narrow minded and it's even more heartbreaking to witness the impact this has on those consuming it. Whilst the bodies we see on the runway and in the media are beautiful, there is so much more to beauty than just models with small waists and thigh gaps, which is what are used to sell and promote brands and products.
Thin models, who have often had their appearances edited post shoot to make their skin smoother, legs skinnier, eyes brighter, hair shinier, waists tinier and stomachs toned or, in other words, to make them 'perfect,' are what we are consuming all the time. It's something we can't escape and it's causing so much damage to readers, customers and just everyday people who mind their own business.
Seeing a thin model on the cover of a magazine isn't a bad concept, however, the damage is done when that is the only image we see on the covers of magazines. When the same models are the ones constantly in the limelight, we become conditioned to believe that we need to look like them in order to achieve success and be happy. They are put on a pedestal and presented as the ultimate idea of beauty because they are the ones who can land a major fashion magazine cover. These models with slim bodies and gym honed physiques are just existing in their bodies like the rest of us but it's important that those who don't look like them are not erased. It's important that brands and companies represent society as a whole with their advertising, otherwise, who is it really for?

How can a brand expect a fat person to buy their clothes if they don't promote them on fat bodies? How can a brand expect fat people to give them their hard earned cash when they do nothing to meet their needs? It works both ways. Brands cannot expect everyone of every shape and size to connect with or relate to them when they're being so unfair.

Young girls are feeling it most. They're developing eating disorders, mental illnesses and serious body image issues as a direct result of what they're seeing in the media. They're starving themselves and questioning their own worth, they're waking up every day wishing they hadn't and spending every waking moment wishing to change how they look. A recent study showed 1/4 of teenage girls are self harming and the media must be held responsible. The media shouldn't influence how we see ourselves but it does, how can it not? It's easy for me to sit here and say, "Love yourself no matter how you look!" but that's futile when the next thing you're going to see as you click off this blog post is an Instagram post of a celebrity promoting weight loss teas or a TV commercial of a model wearing a full face of make-up promoting an acne cream. No, we need change. The issue of lack of diversity is a real problem and is no longer one we can ignore unless we want young people growing up with low self esteem, anxieties about their appearance and toxic relationships with food.

Change is happening right under our noses, actually, with very small steps, we are making progress and initiating conversations. Just recently, in fact, plus sized models took centre stage...

In September 2018, Cosmopolitan magazine unveiled Tess Holiday as their October cover star. She weighs 300 pounds and posed on the Cosmo cover, proudly and confidently, looking beautiful and radiant in a swimsuit. Tess has been dubbed the world's first size 22 supermodel.

Swimwear and athletic brand Chromat showcased their spring/summer 2019 collection at New York Fashion week this month with a whole host of diverse body types modelling their collection. From plus sized to disabled to people of colour, they didn't come to play with the representation! They even created a 'sample size' t-shirt to challenge other designers who don't cater for a variety of sizes.

These are incredible steps towards better plus sized representation, although, the fact that they are met with such negative responses from many people shows there's still a long way to go on our journey to combating ignorance and fatphobia.
Every time a fat woman appears on a magazine cover or walks down a runway, people question her health and whether it's right to be promoting obesity or, in other words, they disguise their fatphobia with "we're just concerned for your health!" when, in reality, her health is no ones business other than her own. Society doesn't question the health of super slim models on magazine covers and are silent as soon as anyone suggests they could be encouraging anorexia amongst young people. But, seeing a fat person in a positive light in the media is such an alien concept to some people, that their initial reaction is to tear that person apart because we've been socialised to believe that only slim people should be on covers and catwalks.
Fat and plus sized people appearing on magazine covers isn't promoting obesity or encouraging unhealthily lifestyles. Those models are probably healthier than most of us will ever be through their diets and exercise regimes. These models are simply existing in their bodies as they deserve to be and are having the spotlight on them when they are so often shoved back into the shadows. Fat people are erased by the media to the point where it's 'abnormal' for them to be seen. They aren't saying to young girls, "Hey, eat loads of junk food and be like me!" They're simply showing people that people of all body shapes and sizes do exist and encouraging them to never let the close minded perceptions of society stop them from living their lives. They're being real, they're being themselves, and I cannot express to you how important it is for young people, especially, to see that. That kind of representation really does save lives.

Fat people deserve to be seen, they deserve to be heard, people who aren't overweight but who don't look like the models on the magazine covers deserve to be seen and heard. It isn't about 'promoting being fat,' it's about sending a positive message to human beings everywhere that their body is acceptable, despite them being conditioned to believe it is not. It's about reassuring young people that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and that they do not need to waste their lives aspiring to obtain a figure which has been edited so severely it doesn't actually exist. Society is so vibrant and fit to burst with diversity so why should this not be reflected in the media we consume? Why erase people? Why cut them off? Why should the sights we see walking down the street not be shown exactly as they are on TV? Perfection isn't just 'skinny,' the meanings of 'beauty' and 'perfection' are so broad that they cover anyone and everyone. There's nothing wrong with using slim, tall models to advertise but the issue lies in how these models are being used and the messages they're sending out.

We shouldn't need to have this conversation. It shouldn't be so foreign for people to hear "the media needs to be diverse" but, sadly, it is, and it's vital we continue the conversation until everyone feels confident in their own skin. EVERYONE deserves to see themselves represented in the media, in ALL forms. No one deserves to pick up a magazine and instantly begin hating themselves, no one deserves to open up Instagram and feel that it's 'normal' that social media makes them feel 'fat' and 'ugly.'
Children are growing up hating their bodies because the fashion magazines are telling them that they ought to. Children are being indoctrinated from birth with the idea that the only way to be accepted in society is to look like a carbon copy of the models on the billboards. Children are looking at the covers of glossy mags, in awe of the girls on the covers and then quickly turning to page 10 to read a lengthy article on how to be beach body ready before flicking to page 23 to learn how to lose two stone in two days.
The time for change within the fashion industry and media has long passed. The human race is made up of people of all kinds of appearances, so why should just one get the spotlight? No matter someone’s shape or size, they deserve to be represented. Everybody and every BODY is beautiful and companies have a responsibility to fairly represent the people and give everyone the chance to look and feel good.

I have such endless adoration and respect for the body positive women fighting against the world’s twisted beauty standards. Every day, women are putting themselves out there, bravely and boldly, doing the most that they can to tackle the obstacles put in place by society preventing them from being heard. They are why I continue to believe in the goodness of humanity, because they are fighting for a future of equal and beautiful advertising. I can only hope that, one day, we will not need to fight for representation and it will not feel like such a frustrating battle, asking to see someone larger than a size six on the cover of Vogue.

Remember, YOU and YOUR BODY are beautiful.

Love, Emily

No comments:

Post a Comment