MEstevezPicPersonally, I have struggled with the way I perceive my body from the time I was allowed to choose my own clothes. This loss of confidence occurred the moment I couldn’t fit into the popular clothing that all of my friends were wearing. There had to be something wrong with my body. The way the media talks about women’s bodies has been this push and pull for years. We worship the exposed bodies of some celebrities but refuse to accept that the Melissa McCartney’s or Rebel Wilson’s can wear risque or revealing clothing. As a teenager, I felt such shame about my body until the opinions of a group of people were not my fault but their close-mindedness and inability to see beauty in all shapes and sizes. Fat shaming is pervasive and still threatens my self-confidence, like many women. I am “plus size” because I fall in the spectrum, but I shouldn’t be told who I am based on a number. Thankfully there is a larger conversation being held in this country and around the world about body positivity and the inclusion of women, instead of judgement based on a certain size.

What is “Plus Size” anyway?

The term “plus size” is thrown around so easily without thinking of what it really means. According to various sources, “plus size” represents women between US sizes 12/14 – 24. This is a large range of sizes worn by so many women! This sect of fashion had to be created because women with different bodies were nowhere to be seen on the runways in Milan or in catalogs. It’s remarkable that still, as a US size 16, I’m not only forced to search harder for stores that cater to my needs, but I have to pay more for a dress than someone who is a US size 8. “Plus size” clothing should not be a specialized form of fashion but instead streamlined to become another article of clothing on the rack.

“Plus Size” Models Taking Names

In February, Tess Munster (size US 22) was dubbed the largest model signed to a major modeling agency. Amazing! And yet, the outrage over her size overshadowed this amazing feat for women all across the world. She is a role model, both figuratively and literally, for girls of all shapes and sizes. So why the outrage? Many critics believe that “plus size” models promote unhealthy lifestyles. More commonly, critics find it necessary to continue to tell women how they should feel about their bodies. As if we don’t worry about it enough. In our society, women are told to manipulate themselves for the benefit of men, the media promotes crazy celebrity diets, and advertisements peddle photoshopped versions of real women. As women, we have an opportunity to take control of the conversation and refuse to take sides on how beauty should be defined. Definitions are social constructs, so why don’t we redefine how we speak about bodies?

In recent years, there have been an abundance of “plus size” blogs hitting the internet in an effort to share the fashion and lifestyles of women larger than a size 12. Women like Gabbi Fresh, Nadia Aboulhosn, and  Nicolette Mason are making a name for themselves and creating fashion lines geared toward women who have been left out of the fashion industry — or in social terms, women who are “plus size.” They are not only creating clothing but promoting a community on the internet that supports women instead of shaming them. Dropping the term plus size will, in turn, create a healthier environment for younger girls in this culture. We should stop deciding women are “plus size” and regard them as they are; human beings who have the power to define themselves.

DSC_0628bBecome A Part of The Body Positive Movement!

Tess Munster founded an online movement which was made for women to have a space to love themselves unapologetically. As women, we are often told to love ourselves and when we do, we are judged for being too overconfident. I posted a picture of myself in a bathing suit for the first time last summer and the response was amazing. I wasn’t shunned or shamed for not having a thigh gap and I forgot that I was self-conscious about my cellulite or rolls. I’ve decided to include that picture in this blog post because I hope to inspire other women to take that step of owning their bodies publicly. I’m not at that point where I am completely confident (you won’t see me in a bikini any time soon), but I can say I’m on the right path. I’ve surrounded myself with women that celebrate my beauty, both inside and out. Join me and post a picture of yourself that makes you feel beautiful with the hashtag: #GetSmartSelfie.

A Positive Future

When I heard the news of Tess Munster taking the modeling world by storm, I felt empowered about my weight for the first time in a while. With the influx of “plus size” stores online and in malls, I find myself being more represented every day. I’m filled with joy that younger girls who may struggle with body image will not feel left out or isolated in the same way I did. Now, it’s up to us to continue to promote productive conversation on how to stay healthy, body positive, and refuse to accept the way the media speaks about women. Whatever size you are…we all deserve to be represented, even if you are larger than a US size 12.

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