why do we need the term plus size?

Last week I was reading a Washington Post article by Tim Gunn from the show Project Runway titled “Designers refuse to make clothes to fit American women,” and in this article he criticizes fashion designers for making clothes that are only for smaller women that where sizes 0-12. He also criticized the designers that do make clothes for plus size women that wear sizes 14 and higher for making what he called “unattractive clothing.” I agreed with so many of the points that he made but one thing I kept asking myself is, “why do we need the term ‘plus size’?”

In Tim’s article he mentions the average size of American women which actually falls within the plus size category that the fashion industry has outlined which tends to be size 14 (sometimes even 12) and higher but I’m not going to go there, because I don’t see how it’s relevant. Why does it matter what the average size of women in America is right now? We don’t need to break up women shoppers into separate categories and the only reason we do is for the benefit of the clothing designers and retailers, not the consumers. Not to mention, using the word “plus” is just as insulting as it is unnecessary.

There are multiple reasons why designers chose to only make clothing for smaller sized women. The first one being that it’s easier. Think about it. Women’s bodies are complex, which also makes them beautiful, but dressing smaller women means not having to deal with as many curves, which makes it simpler and faster for the designer.

Another reason is that designers want their creations to be worn by people who are going to make them look good and according to America’s current beauty standards we think clothing looks better on slimmer women versus bigger and curvier. That’s why you usually only see Glamazons on runways.

Designers have a horrible understanding of what curvier women want to wear. I remember watching an interview Melissa McCarthy was doing on her new fashion line where she recounted how when she first started she met with multiple designers who consistently told her that curvier women did not want to wear prints, stripes or bright colors and they would tell her this while she was wearing all of these items.

Finally, there are not enough designers who are brave enough to break away from the pack. There have only been a couple of high-end designers who do make clothes for a diversity of sizes, including Christian Siriano who made the news this past summer when he dressed Leslie Jones for the Ghostbusters premier after she struggled to find a designer that would. A lot of people praised him for dressing the taller and curvier Jones which Siriano did not accept because he did not see his efforts as heroic. He was just dressing a famous woman, something he does every day, what’s the big deal?

In addition to the designers let’s not forget about the role that retailers play in keeping the term plus size alive. As much as designers don’t want to make clothes for curvier women, retailers don’t want to sell clothes to these women either. The majority of stores only carry sizes 0-12 and if they carry sizes that are higher they usually create a “plus size” section that is separate, because there is no way all of these sizes could be kept together (in my sarcastic tone). As if we need to create the illusion that there is a “normal” size and “other” size. There are also whole stores that only carry “plus size” clothes because we wouldn’t want to expose “normal sized” women to these “plus sized” monsters (again, in my sarcastic tone). It is ridiculous!

And why do we allow this to continue to happen? Why do we continue to put women into these small boxes. Why haven’t we learned that healthy bodies come in every size. I personally know women who eat way healthier than me and could run circles around me at the gym but because of various factors, like their body shape or height, will never fit into a size 6, and for this we punish them by making them shop in a different section of a store or a different store entirely.

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My plea is that designers and retailers stop using the word “plus” altogether and start offering a greater range of sizes in their lines and stores. Ideally they should do it because it is better for women, but realistically they should do it because at some point (I believe) the term “plus size” will be severely outdated, and because they are missing out on the potential to make lots of money from a market that has been underserved.

My other plea is that women do not let these ridiculous terms that the fashion industry has made up and put on us determine how we see ourselves. Our bodies are allowed to be different, difficult and complex. We do not need to fit ourselves into meaningless categories. We have what the fashion industry wants, our hard earned money, so let’s make them work for it.

 

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not every woman aspires to marriage

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You know those people who at age five knew what they wanted to be when they grew up? Maybe they wanted to be a doctor and they would spend time dissecting insects or frogs whenever they could. Or maybe they wanted to be a chef and made their first three course meal when they were ten years old. Or maybe they wanted to get married, have children and be a stay-at-home parent. Well, I was not one of these people. I’m still not sure what I want to do when I grow up, but what I have known since I was a young gal is that I’ve always wanted to travel and see the world.

When I graduated from high school an aunt of mine took me to London and we did it all. We saw Big Ben, the change of guard, Westminster Abbey, Picadilly and much more. We ate fish and chips, drank at pubs, and went to Harrods for high tea. It was amazing. I loved all of it. When I came back to the States I started to plot my next adventure.

As of today I have visited 42 states and been on 6 continents. During my travels I have couchsurfaced, stayed in hostels, AirBnBs, cruise ships, hotels, resorts, retreat centers and even a few school gymnasiums. In Australia I stayed in the scariest hotel room I have ever come across (thankfully, I wasn’t alone) and in Hawaii I stayed in the nicest resort suite I will probably ever see again (where I also survived my first earthquake and hurricane).

I drove a car on the wrong side of the road, on the wrong side of the car and managed not to hurt anyone. I arrived at Amsterdam at 6 am and saw a grown man in a Superman costume walking around and kicking trash that was on the street and had to ask my friend if I was hallucinating, due to lack of sleep, to which he assured me I was not. I teared up when I saw the pyramids in Egypt. I drank more wine than a person ever should when I was in Paris. I tried to sing along with the two bachelorette parties I stumbled across at a pub in Ireland who broke out in energetic song to John Denver (yes, John Denver). In the Caribbean I swam with sting rays who were terrifying. I got the worst stomach bug I’ve ever had in India. In Uganda I met women who filled me with pride when I saw their strength and determination. In West Virginia (yes, here in the U.S.) I met children who had to use a bucket as a toilet, and shower at school because they had no hot water at home and it broke my heart.

I have had a lot of experiences that I am proud of, and I truly love this life I have been able to live, but I’m always amazed that the question I get first and the most, whether it’s from a stranger or someone I haven’t seen in a while is if I’m married yet. As if I have somehow dropped the ball on what every grown woman should be aspiring to do. When I tell them I am not, and sometimes more quickly then I mean too, they seem either perplexed or sad for my situation. I kid you not. Let me give you two examples from this past year alone.

Example #1 – I was at the doctors office back in late May getting an annual exam and the nurse was updating my chart. She confirmed my birthday (I’m not sure why because that never changes) and then asked if my marital status had changed and I told her no. She then looked at me and asked, “don’t you ever want to have children?” I was so shocked by her question that it took me a minute to process. Did this woman have a crystal ball and could see that I was going to die in the next three to five years? Or did she have some kind of super power that allowed her to x-ray my ovaries and see I only had a few viable eggs left? Also, what does being married have to do with having kids? You can be single and have kids, many people do. This nurse truly seemed concerned about my “situation” of being single and barren so I tried to let her down easy by saying that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to or not (which is honestly how I feel right now), to which she responded by looking at me silently for a very uncomfortable 10 seconds and then tried to joke off the situation by asking if I wanted to take her kids (yikes!).

Example #2 – At the end of July I was at a hair salon in San Antonio having my hair done for a wedding I was about to be in so of course the stylist and I were chatting about marriage and she told me all about her recent wedding in Vegas. I have always loved the idea of a destination wedding so I was happy to hear about how she had a cheap Vegas wedding and then she and her hubby spent their money on a glamorous Hawaiian honeymoon. It sounded perfect to me. She then asked me if I was married, and I told her that I wasn’t. She told me that she could see it happening for me soon. For some reason she was trying to comfort me and I thought it was a sweet thing for her to do. I should have just said thank you but instead I told her that I wasn’t sure if marriage was for me. She went silent for a few seconds and I could see her face in the mirror and could tell she was struggling with what to say next. She didn’t look sad for me, she just looked uncomfortable, like she had never heard anyone say something like this before. I quickly changed the subject and asked her about Maui because I have only been to the big island of Hawaii and our friendly banter was soon resurrected.

It is amazing to me how much value we put on women getting married. We could come across a woman that we haven’t seen in a while and she could be accomplished in many ways. She could have just completed her graduate degree, started her own business, ran her first marathon or climbed Mount Everest, but what we start jumping up and down over is whether she has a ring on her finger or not, as if marriage is the ultimate accomplishment, which it is not. Let me say that again, marriage is NOT an accomplishment. It is wonderful for women who want it, but as Natalie Brooke put it in her Huffington Post Article, “you don’t have to have a brain, drive or special skill set to get married. You just have to have a willing partner.”

Need further evidence of the value we put on marriage? Take some time over the next few days to notice what people react to on Facebook. This weekend a woman from a mastermind group I am a part of made the comment that she will post something about a social justice issue, like a brilliant article about how schools can better meet the cultural needs of students of color, and it may get 10-20 reactions, but then she will post a picture of her and her hubby, or a picture of her children and she will get 100s of reactions. What does it say about our culture when we don’t feel compelled to react to an article about Brock Turner’s early release but manage to heart the relationship status update of a person from high school we haven’t talked to in 11 years?

My plea is that we find a balance in what we celebrate for women. Marriage should certainly be celebrated but so should a number of other things. At the very least let’s have the question we ask first be about what she has been working on, or where she has traveled to, or maybe just a simple how is she doing. My other plea is that women not feel bad if they have not aspired to marriage. You are still able to live one heck of a life and although nobody may ask you about it or like it on Facebook you will still have the joy and lessons of those experiences to fill your thoughts and reflections. Also, if you ever find yourself traveling alone in Cannes River, Australia looking for a hotel room for the night just keep driving to the next town. Trust me.

 

 

not all women hate each other

“Some say, it’s in a woman’s nature to be jealous of another woman but a woman who knows her true self-worth can never be jealous of another. Not every woman has the habit of hating other women.” – Ikeke Nkem

All of us have guilty pleasures that we may not want to admit too. For some of us it may have to do with eating junk food, or buying trashy gossip magazines or maybe watching the same bad movie over and over until we can recite almost every line word for word. I could go on but you get the picture. My guilty pleasure is the Real Housewives of New York City. For those of you who have never seen any of the Real Housewives braches on Bravo they are real women (but not necessarily housewives) who are usually wealthy and usually have strong personalities. Bravo puts these women together, throws some alcohol at them, requires that they interact with each other and then points a camera at them. The result of all of this is that the women are usually gossiping about each other, trying to make someone feel left out, then confronting each other and sometimes full out fighting. It is ridiculous and uncomfortable…and I love it. I know I probably shouldn’t but that’s why it’s a guilty pleasure. Also, I think when you grow up in a small town in Iowa where folks are very nice and not confrontational at all you sometimes crave anything that is the opposite.

Another reason why I watch the show is for Bethenny Frankel. Back in 2008 a couple of friends told me about the new show on Bravo and how their favorite was this woman who wasn’t actually a housewife, she wasn’t even married and she wasn’t wealthy either. I asked why she was even on the show and they said they weren’t sure but she was very honest and she had the best one-liners. After the first episode I was hooked. I watched as Bethenny went from being a chef to coming up with the Skinny Girl Margarita while on camera and then started the Skinny Girl empire and left the Real Housewives for her own spinoff show.

When Bethenny left in the housewives in 2010 I stopped watching but when she came back last year I did my best to resist but I just couldn’t. It was great to have Bethenny back and to catch up with the other ladies who are still on the show, and to have Carole Radziwill join the cast who is quickly starting to tie with B as my favorite. This current season has been especially tense and it is mostly because of one man who is currently engaged to Countess Luann De Lesseps (another housewife) but had dated both Ramona and Sonja (also housewives). I’m not sure why Luann even wanted to date a man who had dated two of her cast mates. I have to think she knew what she was getting into, but it didn’t stop her from going full steam ahead and getting engaged after only knowing the guy for two months. She was flying high for about a week and a half before somebody sent pictures to Bethenny of this man making out with another woman. Bethenny showed these to Luann, on camera of course (because that’s good TV), and after confronting him about it and hearing his side Luann decided to stay with him. I’m not sure what reason you give that excuses away making out with someone for over an hour in a crowded New York bar…actually, I don’t have anything witty to say about this, I actually found the fact that she took him back to be very sad.

As sad as I was the thing that upset me the most was that she seemed to get more upset with Bethenny who told her about the make out, and also upset with the other ladies who had gone out with this guy prior to her even meeting him. These ladies did nothing to Luann. They really didn’t. So why was Luann directing her anger at them? I mean, maybe these ladies haven’t always been that great to her, but at least they’ve never put a ring on her finger and then made out with somebody else. At least I don’t think they have. So, why does it seem that for some women, like in Luann’s situation, that it is easier to give anger to another woman then to a man (especially when that man really deserves it)?

It isn’t just housewives that do this. Have you ever been at a party when a gorgeous woman walks through the door and then you start to hear a small group of women behind you tear her down in hushed voices that aren’t that hushed? I have. As a woman, have you ever been introduced to a group of people and had that one woman that after looking you up and down became an ice queen? I have. Have you ever been at a bar and seen a woman getting lots of attention from men while every other woman is staring daggers at her? I have.

I have seen all of this and much more. I have been victim to it, and, I hate to admit it, but I have also been a perpetrator of it as well. I have misplaced my anger, anxiety and insecurities on women who did not deserve it, and now that I am aware of it I have to question why this continues to happen and what impact it has on my gender.

After doing some research on the topic there were some recurring themes for why this “Mean Girl” mentality still exists. The first one is around the pressure women feel to fit a certain standard of beauty. I have often felt this pressure myself and instead of dealing with my insecurities with my weight and looks I would decide to be mean to anyone that I felt was thinner or prettier. So wrong.

The next theme was around competitiveness in getting attention, and for heterosexual women there especially seems to be a lot of competition for male attention. Ever seen The Bachelor? The whole premise of the show is that women will compete for one man’s attention (and we are entertained by this!). I read an interesting study on how in olden times this competitiveness was almost a necessity for a woman’s survival. Back when women were dependent on their husbands for their income, security, safety and even social status then there was a definite incentive to compete for either the best potential husband, or just any potential husband. It seems that this behavior has continued and women are still competing for their potential partner. The question I have is why? Women don’t need men for any of these things. At least not anymore they don’t (not in the U.S.).

Although I have only talked about competitiveness when it comes to gaining male attention, the competitiveness can expand to multiple areas. There can be competitiveness in the workplace which can often stem from women feeling like there are only so many spots for them, especially in more male-dominated fields. There also seems to be competitiveness when it comes to parenting as well. I read an article about a country music singer who had recently posted a picture of some baby food she had purchased on Instagram and got a ton of flack for it from her followers who thought it was wrong that the woman wasn’t breast feeding or making her own baby food.

I do need to say that although this mean girl-ness is especially highlighted in the media (Real Housewives, the Bachelor, etc.) that doesn’t mean that all women are mean to each other or compete with each other, however, there is still enough of this mentality out there and for those women who still subscribe to this type of thinking I am sending you my plea that this meanness needs to stop. We need to stop competing with each other. We need to stop taking our anger out on each other.

Who cares if somebody prettier than you walks into the room? You don’t know her story and you don’t know what she’s been through. Who cares if the guys at the bar are giving their attention to somebody else? You’re not really mad at that woman, you’re mad at those guys and you’re probably even more mad at yourself. Also, please stop competing with your female co-workers, even if you work for an organization that does have a limited number of seats at the table for women it’s not okay, in fact, it makes us weaker and nothing will ever change unless we support each other.

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