Losing Faith(21)

“If you’re squishing yourself into clothes that are a couple sizes too small or you’re wearing men’s clothes, how are you going to go out on a date? How are you going to go to parties with your friends and feel like you fit in? That all has to do with self-esteem and body image. Could you imagine taking away all of the clothes for thinner women and saying, ‘Sorry, you’re too thin. You can’t have that.’ It doesn’t make sense.”

– Plus-Sized Supermodel Emme

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I’ve admitted to guilty pleasures before, and believe me I have many. One of them (that I am reluctant to admit because it gives away what a total feminine-stereotype I am!) happens to be shopping.

Shopping, for me, is something that goes beyond frivolous girly style… it hits to the core of my self esteem. See, for most of my middle and high school years I hated getting dressed, to the point where I actually decided to switch to a school that had uniforms for my freshman year* so as to avoid hours of self-consciousness and agonizing over a closet full of clothing that I hated… because I hated my body.

Somewhere in there, along with a few pounds, I gained a sense of self-confidence (and some new friends) that allowed me to go out and truly enjoy getting dressed for once, because I had reached a place where I could truly embrace my body and the way I looked!

I believe that the way a person dresses themselves can really have a major impact on their own inner confidence – partially because of my own experiences. This is why I was so excited to hear that Forever 21 was integrating a plus-sized line into their current offerings.

Although I, personally, tend to fit into straight-sized clothing I recognize the difficulties that larger women have to go through in order to find clothes that fit and flatter them due to the closed-minded nature of many retailers – thus, I was excited that the fashion tides seemed to be turning towards inclusivity.

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(Image from the Forever21 Website – First Week of May 2009)

Unfortunately I, along with many other women who were excited for Forever 21’s new line, were left disappointed with its unveiling earlier this week, both with the line itself, and the media’s reaction to Faith21.

“Yeah, as capitalists they have the right to address a growing marketplace and it’s a smart business decision,” said MeMe Roth, president of the organization National Action Against Obesity. “However, when you look at the human cost, what we’re doing is we’re on the Titanic and rather than forcing our children into the lifeboat, we’re telling them to join the band. Worrying about fashion rather than worrying about the food is a horrible message that we’re sending these kids,” Roth said.

No. Just, no. First of all this statement ignores the fact that it is perfectly possible to be healthy and fat – in fact, not only is it possible its common. Denying fashionable clothing choices to heavier women and men is simply the grown-up equivalent of taunting someone on the schoolyard – its not encouraging anyone to do anything other than feel bad about themselves. We live in a society that is constantly bombarding people with the idea that thin is good and fat is bad – this is why myths (like you can’t be fat and healthy) are so easily accepted by most people… however, its this precise mindset that really does harm, not fat.

Recently I caught about a half-hour of True Life: I Can’t Get Thin on MTV; the show focused on a young man who, in an effort to lose weight, had quit school and his job and isolated himself from family and friends, all so that he could devote his time to eating just 200-400 calories a day and watching weight-loss videos. This young man reached his goal weight and when he did everyone celebrated with him. I was horrified: isolation, obsession, highly limited food intake… these are all signs of serious disordered eating and yet… no one, not his friends, not his family said a thing to him about his problem. This is the culture we live in, so long as you’re thin or trying to get thin people will (generally) approve of whatever it is you are doing to “achieve” that weight.

It goes beyond this extreme though – the thin culture hurts almost everyone. For instance did you know that constant dieting is unhealthy? I’m not talking about healthy lifestyle changes – balanced eating and regular exercise are good for you… but that’s not what most people do. Most people diet (Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Atkins, etc.), get to their target weight, celebrate, stop dieting (because who would want to follow those plans forever?), gain the weight back, and then start again! This constant cycle can put a lot of strain on one’s body and do serious damage to one’s metabolism, psychological well-being, and even their heart! Many people yo-yo diet like this because, even with regular exercise and healthy eating, they are still larger than the social ideal… perfectly healthy people putting themselves through physical and psychological stress to fit a sociological ideal that most people are not genetically meant to achieve!

When did weight become a marker of worth? Why has weight become a marker of worth? In a society where over 95% of women do not fit that cultural ideal it seems insane that we would judge those for not being thin enough… and yet we do, constantly. We judge ourselves and others, usually without question… I say its time to stop.

Be healthy, yes, but above all else love yourself the way you are now because beauty comes in all sizes (and its time fashion retailers start to realize that!)

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60866854-07Not to mention, all of this drama? Over a line that is underwhelming at best, hideously insulting at worst. The clothing seems to be a caricature of what plus sized offerings usually are – from the cuts to the onslaught of animal and floral prints and the size chart is a joke. Yes, I know that Forever21 is a junior’s store but to end at a size 16 is hardly inclusive**!

What began as a potentially awesome expansion and inclusion on Forever21’s part, a chance to chip away at societal norms of thinness and style, ended simply as a barely plus-sized flop.

(The model’s face really says it all – I haven’t spoken with a single woman who was happy with Forever21’s plus sized venture yet.)

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* There were, of course, other appeals as well but the uniforms were a huge part.

** Another quote from the article about really hit home for me in terms of the size chart: “These brands don’t want the consumer to aspire to be a plus-size,” Cohen said, “they want them to aspire to be that mini-consumer, that slim model that walks down the runway, that’s a size 0.” Forever21 might have expanded a little but they’re still not giving “approval” to plus sized women on the larger end of the spectrum by expanding into a real plus-sized line. For instance, compare with Target’s new Pure Energy line that has gone up to a size 30.

(I’m popular! This post was illegally copied onto a diet site that doubles as a scam to steal people’s wordpress accounts (don’t “log in” from that site!) it won’t let me comment on my own post over there… anyone know how I can get this taken care of?)

2 thoughts on “Losing Faith(21)

  1. hi,
    nice blog, i heard that the curvy women are getting more jobs as models now:)
    i totally agreed on that dieting constantly is so unhealthy. finding a “diet” for life is a real challenge, i think…

  2. “Yes, I know that Forever21 is a junior’s store but to end at a size 16 is hardly inclusive**!”

    WTF?! I think I’m considered an “in-betweenie” at my size (can’t shop at most elite “skinny girl” stores, nor most plus size stores) so I might be wrong here… but I thought plus sizes were usually around 14+? If you’re going to design a separate line of clothes for larger women, you’d think they’d bother to pump them out in more than three sizes. Sheesh!

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