I recently read an article about this woman (yes, it was on Buzzfeed. Yes, it counts).
Tess Holliday is a size 22 (UK) model, who is the first of her height (5’5″) and size to be signed to a major modelling agency. No matter who you are, or what your preferences, there’s no denying she is a very beautiful person. She has an appealing, symmetrical, feminine face. But there is also no getting around the fact that she is bigger than the average lady
I’ve been wanting to write a piece on plus-size women for a while, but haven’t been able to formulate an angle that allowed me to make the points I wanted to make, but I think now I’m going to give it a bash. I’m not about body-shaming and this isn’t about dictating rights and wrongs when it comes to body image, it’s about being both happy and healthy in one’s own skin.
Let me start by pointing out that I am no catwalk model. I am also 5’5″ tall, over 11 stone in weight and a size 10 – 14, depending on where I shop. I am heavy. In terms of BMI, I am well in to the overweight category. However, I also know that years of playing contact sport, lifting weights and cycling have contributed to some seriously dense muscles, which isn’t factored in to BMI calculations. Muscle is heavier than fat – go figure. I know I could stand to lose a few pounds (starting my desk-bound job two years ago has not helped in any way at all), but generally I’m happy and body-confident. I am by no means complacent, however.
Tess, and a whole host of emerging plus-size models, present me with a dilemma when it comes to forming an opinion. So, I decided to ask a few of my friends for theirs. On presenting the above picture to them, without any context, just asking “what do you think of this lady?”, this was the reaction. (See if you can guess which are guys and which are girls…)
- “Big, busty, beautiful. Good tattoos.”
- “Her make-up is beautiful. As is her hair. Power to her!”
- “She’s… Large. Nice face, just not the rest of her”
- “She’s scowling. She looks like she’s got attitude and I’m not into that”
- “The confidence to do it is always a good thing. Personally, she wouldn’t be my type, but confidence is always a good thing”
- “I personally go for petite girls, but she has a nice face. If you’ve got it, flaunt it, and I’m sure to some guys she’s got it.”
A mixed bag. But we’ve established that she certainly is a beautiful woman.
I truly believe that we live in a world with hugely unrealistic beauty standards – we’re bombarded all day, everyday with airbrushed images of women with waistlines that could only be achieved in reality by investing in some seriously sturdily-boned undergarments, and the skin of a porcelain-faced infant – so if a sister goes to try and start a revolution that will allow the rest of us to roll out of bed and face the world make-up free and sans Spanx without feeling like a troll, more power to her! #effyourbeautystandards, indeed! However, to my mind, there is a difference between being comfortable in your own skin, and loving your body.
People can be self-confident no matter what they look like, and heaven know they should be. We’re all born equal – who gave the fashion industry the right to wave their glittery, size 0 wand and declare that if you’re not a size 8 or below, you’re not fit for human consumption? Over recent years there’s been quite a media storm around too-thin models promoting unhealthy aspirations in young girls, and therefore the health issues associated with being seriously underweight or developing eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa. We’re talking fragile bones, reproductive issues, heart problems, anaemia, the list is a long and unhappy read.
But. Is there a chance that by promoting body-confidence at all shapes and sizes that we’re swinging too far in the other direction? There’s no denying that carrying a significant amount of extra weight is unhealthy. The long term complications associated with obesity (technically anyone with a BMI of 30 or higher) are also significant and pretty scary – from high blood pressure to pregnancy complications, to Type 2 diabetes and increased chances of developing cancer. Not to mention other rubbish side effects like snoring, lethargy and low self-esteem.
Where’s the middle ground guys? Putting very overweight models on a pedestal is just as irresponsible as using size 0 models. Both of these images should probably provoke a similar reaction. Neither is healthy.
Shouldn’t we shift the focus from embracing our bodies at any size, to loving our bodies enough to want to be a healthy weight for our frame? People come in all shapes and sizes (thank goodness – variety is the spice of life, after all!) and yes, the vast majority of us wobble, especially girls (we’re supposed to, what with boobs and all), but being accepting and happy with your shape doesn’t necessarily make it healthy.
#effyourbeautystandards, I agree. But how about we also #loveourbodies & commit to a #happyhealthyme? And I’ll put my money where my mouth is and commit to lowering my BMI…