When Cosmopolitan Magazine posted a photo of model Robyn Lawley, with a reference to her being “plus-size” in the caption on its Facebook page, the editors likely did not expect the backlash that came its way. Women and men alike were commenting on how a model as fit as Lawley should not be called plus-sized. One user commented, “That’s sad that’s she’s ‘plus sized,’ she’s flawless…this is how all models should look.”
Truth: Lawley is absolutely gorgeous, the way you would imagine and want a model to look. But does she need to be overweight in order to represent the plus-sized category? According to industry standards, “plus-size” models are typically those that wear a size 10 or 12, even if the majority of plus-size clothing starts at a size 14 or 16. I get it – that seems silly, and it doesn’t seem necessary to label models. “Plus-size” has a horrible ring to it, and even Lawley advocates against the title.
A friend of mine said that Lawley being called plus-size made her feel bad about her own body because she saw herself to be similar in size to Lawley – that kind of reaction pains me, because thinking that way allows the modeling industry’s standards to transcend into everyday life.
Just because models are held to strict standards doesn’t mean we should be. I admire a model like Lawley, a size 12 woman who has been able to find success in the modeling industry while proving that any size is beautiful.
By calling Lawley a plus-size model, Cosmo wasn’t intending to call her overweight, fat or huge – but the reactions and protests struck against the photo seemed to link the two. Responders were asserting that plus-sized meant something else. As long as we allow plus-size to have that connotation, we will be setting ourselves up for disappointment in our own bodies.
Similarly, Plus-Size-Modeling.com proposed a new “plus-size Barbie” on its Facebook page with an illustration dolled up of a new, curvy doll role model for girls.
Fortunately, I am not the only person who expresses discontent with this doll. Many commenters agreed that this version of plus-size was offensive and promoted obesity rather than celebrating curvier women. I’m actually a huge fan of this representation of a more realistically sized Barbie, which puts the doll into more accurate proportions for the average 19-year-old female.
The key difference between the two mock Barbies is not really the appearance, but the profitability. I would likely not want to buy my future daughter an overweight Barbie, because I would want to promote healthy eating habits. There are ways to make a curvy, fuller bodied Barbie without making her look unhealthy.
I stopped playing with Barbies when I was nine or ten years old, but this fight for a plus-sized Barbie stems from adult women–women who are fighting for representation in a demographic they don’t belong. As long as “plus-sized” is linked with images of double chins and words like “fat,” while “regular” models like Lawley are classified as “normal,” it will remain a dirty, disheartening, and embarrassing word.
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