Recent news of a plus-sized model has caused social media uproar this week. Tess Holiday, the 29 year old signed a contract with MiLK Model Management’s plus-size division Curves, at size 24 and a small frame of 5 ft 5 inches, she is the largest plus sized model to be signed… Need I say more? It was obvious from the get-go what sort of storm Tess was about to cause. Hence forth: The fat-shaming storm and “obesity is wrong” brigade from the woodwork. Well, here is my opinion on the whole ordeal.
First and foremost, I’m sick of people claiming that “obesity” is being “promoted.” In Western society and culture, we idealise, objectify, and sell the thin image to its bones. Like male white privilege, thin women have this privilege over other ‘bigger’ women. These bigger people are outcasts in our society, the dregs and downfalls that we bully, victimise and scoff at on the bus or take photos of on our phones to send to our friends, like we’re in some freak-show free-for-all where this is acceptable behaviour.
Magazines and runways obviously fill the cliche of the “perfect” impossible figure with the likes of Victoria’s Secret Angels who aren’t far behind. Yep, it’s a hard world when you’re a woman and every bit of evidence points to being unhealthy and unhappy with your own body. Not to mention the all-famous photoshop. But I don’t want to get into that yet – I want to talk about “obesity promotion” and how frankly, that doesn’t really exist, and that we thankfully live in a culture that exercises free speech and so to be honest, even if she was promoting obesity, she has every right to do so.
On Tess’s instagram, she urged the hashtag, ” #EffYourBeautyStandards. ” Frankly, I don’t see anything wrong with this. Our beauty standards are so distorted and twisted, we should be able to be who we are and want to be. She doesn’t say #FuckYouSkinnyBitches (like Meghan Trainor does in her song, All About That Bass), or criticise anyone for being thin. Nor, does she promote obesity or lecture anyone to become overweight, unlike the glossy magazines I remember reading when I was young and impressionable that “teach” you how to be thin. Literally, I remember a photograph of Victoria Beckham and the headline “What Posh Ate” at some fancy restaurant. In short, she ate about 200-300 calories (this is going way back) and I thought the magazine’s presentation of her small frame is more damaging than the model runways as they provided you with a go-to guide on what to eat (or not to eat) to achieve this unhealthy and withered body. Their constant unaproving eye that roams back and forth like a Kit-Cat clock, constantly crying out “too skinny!”, then suddenly “too fat!” It’s relentless. It’s exhausting. We can’t cope anymore. Or I can’t, anyway.
Unfortunately, young girls feel the need to lose weight by starving themselves not because of the thin photoshopped women (which do obviously significantly add to the cause), but by the way the women are presented and objectified in these magazines. I stopped buying magazines when I was sixteen. I don’t even look anymore. Listen to me and believe this:
You will never come away from reading a magazine feeling good about yourself. Never…. Do. Not. Bother. Do not bother with that negativity.
Anyway, the glorification and objectification in our magazines is vile. You’re too skinny, too fat, you’re this, you’re that.. They rob you of your own identity. It’s not okay, and they’ve got us all like putty, mind-numbing brain-washed putty, rolled up like squashed fleshy bits of brain in the palm of their sweaty and corrupt thieving hands. Give me back my confidence and self-esteem, please, I know you took it.
So naturally, we’ll be outraged at the “fat girl” gracing our magazines but not the thin one (not that we should be). It’s the norm. And after years of punishing ourselves to achieve the dream, we’re shocked at her curves… What, we could have just been… ourselves? Why didn’t they tell us that!
Here Tess Holiday is bravely baring all. She knows the hate and criticism she’s going to get from know-it-alls (probably ironically including myself here) who feel it’s necessary to comment on her body. But sadly this is our society and a common pass-time we have taken up. I wish things were different and I could just write about candles all the time..
Tess is simply saying, (literally I quote):
“This has ZERO to do with health & all to do with believing in yourself”
on her instagram. This idea is liberating. It’s radical. Seriously, read those words! It’s something we’re not used to so naturally, we hate her?! “Go back into your hole” (literally, a facebook comment I saw) with similar cries of diabetes being flung around and other illnesses associated with obesity… yet thinner women get comments like “goals” with a love heart or, if they are deemed anorexic, sudden support networks and shoulders of kindness are offered instead. Why are we so cruel to the larger folk of our world? But, besides the point, why has the principles and message that larger women such as Tess are trying to convey lost? A message that other models aren’t promoting: to be yourself and believe in you, forget the rest.
But I’m losing my point now. Excuse my detour, but to put it bluntly promoting “obesity” is just something one bitter journalist causing trouble made up, a typical victim to our system and voicing our small-minded views.
However, forgetting that point (again), I would argue that if she was promoting obesity, she should be allowed. I don’t agree with censorship of our press and media, and quite frankly it’s liberating to see someone in all their glory that isn’t fake or photoshopped beyond recognition. She’s promoting being yourself. Why should we blindfold our children from Tess, but not the McDonald’s happy meals we feed them with? Can’t you see what is more damaging here?! Open your eyes!
Shouldn’t we firstly see this woman for what she is: a confident lady. She shouldn’t be shamed for the lifestyle she chose/chooses. We don’t criticise or cause outrage at the alluring and often romanticised depiction of smoking that many magazines grace the cover of. Picture it now, a papped celebrity with a cigarette elegantly clasped between their fingers, and not one word mentioned about it (the article usually tends to focus on what they wore that day… ) But why is that okay?
It’s okay because we teach our children that smoking is bad. “Skinny” and unhealthy girls are allowed in magazines and television because we tell our children they’re not “real”(photoshop), that they’ve damaged their health by achieving that look, or that some women are naturally thin. But it’s okay because we teach them and educate them about reality and who they are. So, why are bigger and larger women excluded? Why don’t we teach our children that if you are naturally bigger, do not be ashamed. But over-eating, just like under-eating can damage your health? Why don’t the two go hand-in-hand? Why do we feel the need to rudely comment on a women’s body that is not our own – thin or fat? Why are women’s bodies open to debate? Or whether you’d “fuck her” or not – because that is all a woman is useful for? After all, what really is so offensive about someone being fat? That we’re not attracted to them personally? Well, how righteous and self-centred of us to assume that everyone is the same or that our comment is valid. She might not want to fuck you either, sir.
Personally, I find pornography to be more damaging in our society than a plus sized model, although I don’t condone its censorship. It’s necessary in our society now, but some men are literally sexually dissatisfied in real life from their high expectations and idealised idea of porn, also not to mention the objectification and submissive portrayal of women. Men are expecting more of women now than they were a few decades ago, and aren’t satisfying women in the same way (please click this great link to ‘Make Love Not Porn’. I watched a TedTalks not long ago and this was really interesting – make sure you click the “know it” section and read the porn myths to get what I’m referring to..) Anyway, that’s for a different article.
If we want to really morally correct the media without censoring the whole thing altogether: ban photoshop. Have real women side by side. The thin, the obese, and all the in betweens. Everyone. Because they’re all still women no matter what size or who they are. And they’re all beautiful. Tess is only shocking to us because we’re so used to (alarmingly) the vast polar opposite. They’re two extremes at the opposite end of the spectrum, and we currently live in a society where we sadly favour the slim. But Tess is pushing for a very small market, and so she should. She’s presenting a much more positive message, and that’s the key.
The thing people are failing to grasp is what Tess is saying.
She’s not promoting obesity or body image. She’s promoting personality and empowerment of your self, and that is inspiring, and very very brave in a culture that is so hateful and critical… not to mention she is actually beautiful. Modelling is just as much as about beauty as it is fashion and figure, and I think she aces all of them.
I got all images from her instragram.