photo © 2010 Sean | more info (via: Wylio)
In the city in which I reside, there is only one store that sells plus size clothing, which means that if they don't have something you like, you are S.O.L. I have taken to doing a lot of my shopping online. There is nothing worse than going somewhere and seeing a bunch of people in the same outfit and this happens quite a bit with plus size women in this area due to a lack of selection.
Looking through my closet, I realized that I really needed some new summer clothes, and so it was off to ebay to get some shopping done. I tend to use the same vendors repeatedly, because their clothes are exactly as shown and their shipping prices are reasonable. While going through my favs, I noticed one thing repeatedly, when an online store did have a model, they tended to be White and slim. Any fat person can tell you that clothing hangs differently on us and therefore, showing me how the shirt I want to buy looks on a size two, does absolutely nothing for me, on top of erasing me.
It seems to me, that if your target market is the plus size woman, then a plus size model makes perfect sense. I know that due to the culture of fat phobia that we live in, women with fat bodies are often constructed as repulsive; however, with the exception of dealing with those who have internalized fat hatred, it would be a positive experience to see fat women modeling clothing, because we are nearly universally erased. If a fat woman cannot see herself reflected when she is buying clothing for herself, then when are we allowed to be visible?
I'll be honest and say that I have a few areas I like masked by my clothing, and seeing a shirt on someone with washboard stomach, gives me no idea as to whether or not the shirt will accomplish what I want, furthermore; as a woman whose booty is literally a family inheritance, I would much prefer to know whether or not the pants I am looking at makes my already ample behind even bigger. None of the concerns that I have are unique to fat women, the only difference is, when a skinny woman goes shopping online, she can be absolutely guaranteed of seeing someone of her size, if not her exact shape as well.
Issues like this truly makes shopping a pain. It's bad enough that clothing is over priced for the wee bit of extra material that is necessary to make our clothing. without being even further erased. There is also the issue of clothing that lacks any kind of style. Why the hell is it that manufacturers and designers believe that once you are a plus size woman, that you either need to wear a tent, or those ugly as hell polyester pants with the elastic waist? I will never be old enough to wear anything like that.
Not only are fat people not allowed to take up space without being publicly ridiculed and shamed, fat people are sold substandard products that are over priced to further penalize us and shame us for our size. If you have money, you can always hit a high fashion boutique, but while you are thinking about this, remember that fat women are not only are paid less because they are women, they are also paid less, and are less likely to get promoted because they are fat. Everyday experiences that skinny people can take for granted, fat people cannot. Yes, thin privilege absolutely exists, and if you doubt this, walk through a mall and count the number for stores that cater to people size 14 and above.
I would love to be able to boycott some of the retailers. but the lack of great options. means I have to get my clothing where and when I can. I sent each retailer a small note about getting some plus size models, and this actually took quite a long time. This is exactly how marginalized bodies get worn down. We have to repeat ourselves continually, and we have to keep fighting for the respect that is so easily accorded to so-called normal people. This is a passive form of silencing, because it counts on us to become exhausted and thereby discouraging us from continuing our efforts for equality. Erasure is every bit as damaging and hurtful as screaming out epithets, because it says quite clearly you don't belong, and you are not worthy to be seen.