16 Plus People Respond To #DropThePlus 2


Writer: Alysse Dalessandro | Last February, an agency-represented Australian plus size model named Stefania Ferrario created a campaign called #DropThePlus. She launched the campaign by posting a photo on her Instagram, @stefania_model and included a length caption about the dangers of the label plus size. Ferrario argued that she didn’t find it empowering to be labeled a “plus size model” rather than just a “model.”

The mainstream media coverage of Ferrario’s campaign was mostly favorable which I know came as a surprise to me and a lot of other plus size identified people who have found a lot of personal empowerment through the plus fashion and body positive communities. Dazed call #DropThePlus a “revolution,” and soon other size models on the smaller side of plus size including Robyn Lawley (a size 12), Ashley Graham (a size 14/16) and more were calling for an end to a term that they deemed negative and unnecessary.

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While the term plus size has become a euphemism for the word “fat,” its origins are actually in fashion. According to Ben Zimmer of the Wall Street Journal, when clothing started to become mass-produced rather than crafted at home or by a tailor, there needed to be a word to describe clothing for women who didn’t fit into the slender range of styles. While the initial term used was “stout,” Lane Bryant introduced the term “plus size” in a 1922 advertisement. The word was used originally to describe the clothing and not the women who wore them. But as Ferrario would tell it, that has changed.

Sizing for clothing has changed over the years, the accepted range of what is considered plus size by today’s clothing standards is size 12/14 and up. The definition of plus size is often used as “above average” which ironic given that the average US woman is a size 14. To put this all into perspective Ferrario is an Australian size 12 (according to her own website) which is equivalent to a size US 8. If we are going by US standards, she isn’t plus size at all. But while Ferrario’s campaign may make sense for her circumstance, her issue should be with the mainstream fashion industry who doesn’t have a space for a size 8 model and not with the space that actual plus size folks need to find clothing, build community, and fight against size discrimination.

On a practical level, the term plus size is the accepted terminology for finding clothing above a size 12. Plus size fashion is really growing online but if you are a straight size (smaller than a size 12) person, try going to a mall in the middle of Ohio and finding plus size clothing. You may find one dark, small corner of one store where they carry plus or you may see a sign telling you that their plus size is available online only. I remember the first time I went shopping with my cousin who is straight size and how shocked she was how few places I could actually buy anything as a size 3X. Just like it was in 1922 when the term was created, plus size is simply the easiest way that people size 12+ can find what few options are available. And calling it “queen size” or “extended” sizes (like Modcloth recently did) really doesn’t change the fact that we are still seriously lacking in options compared to our straight size counterparts. Until ALL clothing is made in ALL sizes, we need the term plus size for strictly practical reasons. Period.

But movements like #DropThePlus really aren’t about the practical fashion definition of plus size. They are about the stigma and negative connotation associated with people who are larger than the accepted beauty standard. And while it’s all well and good that people don’t want to be defined in some way by their size, living in a fatphobic society means that is not a choice for everyone. Let me make myself absolutely clear on this: being able to not define yourself by your size is a privilege and often one that people size 14+ and certainly size 18+ are not given at all. When I started reaching out to folks to be a part of this story, someone said, “I am size me” and while I so want to appreciate that sentiment, that’s just not realistic. As someone who receives threats of violence because of my size by from strangers, my existence as a fat person, and especially as a happy person, is still deemed a huge threat to the status quo and it’s a radical act.

While models like Ferrario may have a choice not to identify as plus size, someone like me, who is visibly fat, doesn’t have that choice. And one thing that I noticed in reading about eliminating the word plus size is that models were really doing a lot of speaking for people that looked nothing like them — no one really asked anyone sizes 18+ what they thought about #DropThePlus and what terms that they are comfortable using in reference to their size. So I did.

I put a call out on my social media and received more than 100 comments. As I suspected, people really wanted to talk about this! I reached out to a few of those people who represent a range of perspectives. I asked everyone the same questions, but for the sake of length, I picked a few responses from each person. And while what everyone had to say was different, there was a clear overall trend that the people I interviewed were tired of being spoken for instead of listened to.

Jessica Hinkle of Proud Mary Fashion
Age: 30
Clothing Size: Women’s 26

Jessica

What are the term(s) that you would use to describe yourself in reference to your size?
I call myself fat, my body I refer to as fat. Sometimes when discussing clothing I may say plus size. But generally I prefer fat, because it’s important to me to remove stigma from that word. It’s descriptive as a lot of people in the community will reiterate. It’s important to me personally to remove all the bad feelings, the negative connotations from the word because it controlled me for a long time. I was constantly scared someone would call me fat, bring it up, anytime I angered someone or spoke up for myself, rejected a man, etc. it was used against me for as long as I can remember. So when I got involved in the body posi community years ago, it was so radical to hear people using that term in a positive or just general usage. It took a while for that word to stop feeling dirty leaving my mouth, and for me to stop wincing when others would call me that. But once it finally evoked no reaction, it felt awesome. It’s a strong word and I think it’s empowering once you remove it from the negative characteristics generally associated with it (lazy, stupid, etc.) it’s like you stop associating with those things. Because we all internalize a lot of bullshit. I have no issue with the term plus size though I know some fat people do. But until fashion is fully integrated and available in all sizes it’s just another descriptor that helps me to find things in my size to fit my body.

If you could tell one thing to the folks who are not visibly fat or plus size that are dominating this conversation, what would you say?
I’m really tired of smaller or non fats dominating the conversation because like when you’re a 14 you’re still acceptably fat. I mean society still doesn’t seem you as traditionally beautiful, and you lack some privileges, but your body doesn’t incite violence, you can still shop most places, you aren’t being told you’re a fetish, you aren’t being told you don’t deserve an airline seat or love or respect. I understand how some smaller fats feel the desire to be involved and apart of something bc they’re not “thin” and maybe they feel like there isn’t a place for them. But at the end of the day, it’s just not the same. Their need to be included does not outweigh my need for self love and respect and safety. All bodies are great and everyone deserves a seat at the table, but let the people sit first that need it most ya know.

Chardline Chanel-Faiteau of Plus Size Beausion
Age: 27
Clothing Size: Women’s 20W

chardline

Is there any one term which you absolutely will not use?
I don’t like the word obese. At the doctor’s, sure, but not as an identifier. That word creates a stigma for being fat that’s typically associated with illness or overly excessive. In the end it’s all about what you answer to.

If you could tell one thing to the folks who are not visibly fat or plus size that is dominating this conversation, what would you say?
Hey Folks! At the end of the day, we all go to the same section of the store. You know that section? The little dingy corner of the store that has one rack full of subpar clothing? Yea, we are in the same boat. I feel like you want to drop the plus so bad because you’re ashamed of your own fatness not because you want equality. And if you are under a size 12, why does it matter to you? Being big or plus size is not a bad thing. When outsiders feel the need to “advocate” for us, plus size women internalize feelings about themselves. We aren’t a special project to make you feel better about yourself. Just accept us as human beings and not as a distressed subsection of women.

Madeline Jones of Plus Model Magazine
Age: 43
Clothing Size: Women’s 18

madeline

Are there any terms that you can call yourself but that make you uncomfortable when someone else does? If so, why?
I think it depends how the term is used. If someone uses “fat” to try and insult me it does not hurt me like it used to, but I know they are trying to hurt me by using that term.

If you could tell one thing to the folks who are not visibly fat or plus size that are dominating this conversation, what would you say?
The term PLUS SIZE does not make ALL women feel bad about themselves. Historically the plus size industry fought to be where it is today and has been very proud of its accomplishments in bringing a body positive message to all plus size women. It was not until a few “plus size” models began speaking about not wanting to be called PLUS SIZE that the term began to bring controversy. Plus size models are not modeling for size 12/14 customers only. They are modeling for women from size 12 to 30/32. A large percentage of these women identify with the term plus size because it’s part of who they are and it’s how they shop for clothing. It does not define ALL of who they are much like being a mom does not define ALL of who I am. I’m not speaking for all women but a majority of women who have responded to our many social media post about the term over the years. I think everyone has a right to embrace whatever term they wish to identify with but as of late, it seems like there is a campaign for us to feel bad about being called plus size. Being a model does not automatically make you a ROLE MODEL, modeling is your job. I think if you don’t feel comfortable modeling for us, plus size women, then find another job! We deserve to have models that are not insulting the very customers they are selling to. In addition, brands and designers should be paying attention to what is happening. Plus size women are very loyal and if we know a particular model is part of the DROP THE PLUS campaign, we are not buying ANYTHING from that models body.

Jordan S Bonner, @fattuous on Instagram
Age: 24
Clothing Size: Men’s 2XL/40

Jordan

What are the term(s) that you would use to describe yourself in reference to your size?
Fat, Fatboy, Chunky, Insulated

Why do you use those terms?
It’s important for me to use playful words to describe my fatness to dispel the tension around others around me describing my size, and at the same time allows me to set the precedent about what words are okay to use to describe me. As much as I wish people around me knew already not to deny my fatness (“don’t say that! You’re not fat!), I try not to invite it. I don’t want that somber attitude surrounding my identity.

If you could tell one thing to the folks who are not visibly fat or plus size that are dominating this conversation, what would you say?
This is about systematic oppression. Body positivity, repairing self-esteem, healing and self-acceptance are worthy pursuits for activism, and people of all sizes can benefit and grow from it, but the fat activism movement is about structural harm to fat people at its core and that needs to take priority. The abysmal quality of healthcare fat people receive, the lack of justice surrounding fat survivors of assault and violence, the intersection of fatness with other oppressions and the straight-up fat quality of life are at the forefront of our concerns, and if you are not visibly fat, you don’t experience these oppressions. Period. It’s a feminist issue. It’s a racial justice issue. It’s an accessibility issue. It’s a transgender issue. It’s an LGB issue. It’s an income-equality issue. Sometimes, it’s a life-or-death issue.

It is not, however, a music video issue, or an ad campaign issue, a beauty issue issue, and it’s certainly not an issue that applies to all facets of pop culture that can be used to make something commercially viable or used to derail criticism of non-fat people.

Thin people should not be confused by the fatshionistas, the fat musicians, the fat artists and the fat models using their visibility in pop culture to challenge stigma and lend publicity to fat activism. That is activism where fat people are putting their careers and livelihoods in vulnerable, public spaces. They’re fat. They’re in danger. They’re using radical action. This is different when non-fat people try to use the same vehicles. They are not fat. They are not in danger. They are not using radical action. It’s a great way for thin people to hijack the conversation with little risk, minimal controversy and nothing to gain but praise and paychecks.

Jessie Reed
Age: 22
Clothing Size: Women’s 22

Jessie

What are the term(s) that you would use to describe yourself, in reference to your size?
I’m open, but it depends on the environment I’m in, like when I’m around my friends I call myself fat. At school since I’m a Fashion Major, I refer to myself as plus size. But I use the word big more because I was raised in a southern home and usually my family called me big a lot so I’m more quick to refer to Big. I don’t use the term BBW anymore because it seems to be used as a fetishize term for big women.

If you could tell one thing to the folks who are not visibly fat or plus size that are dominating this conversation, what would you say?
Tell them to shut up. I’m honestly tired of seeing people who aren’t visibly fat talk about this issue. I notice when I speak about plus size and fat phobic topics, I’m immediately toned out. Nobody don’t want to hear what I have to say because I’m just that fat girl complaining about something that it’s look at as my fault. The fashion industry has painted this picture of acceptable plus size for years, now they are slowly becoming less visibly fat.

Lydia Wolfe of formallylw
Age: 27
Clothing Size: Women’s 3X/4X

Lydia

What are the term(s) that you would use to describe yourself in reference to your size?
The terms that I would use to describe my body? Well…any term, to be honest. Ok, well maybe not any term, but for the most part. For the longest time, since my childhood into my teenage years, I was physically, verbally, mentally and emotionally abused. I was told repeatably by family members, strangers AND lovers, that my body wasn’t ideal, it wasn’t acceptable and that I needed to hate it and change in, in order to love myself and have others around me love me as well. It wasn’t until I reached my late 20’s, that I started to see myself for who I was, which included my body. I started to face my life, face what I had gone through and when I did that, all sorts of doors started to open, including my acceptance of my body. I’m far from where I need to be, but I’ve come a long way. I still have my days where I’m very insecure, but I also have a lot of days, where I can call myself fat and see nothing but love while saying it. I use to be able to not call myself fat, or chubby or bbw or plus size, but now? I call myself all of the above, ANY terms, because it’s true and I’m finally getting to a place where I can say those terms (such as fat, fattie, chubby, curvy, chubster, plus size, bbw) and see beauty and strength.

If you could tell one thing to the folks who are not visibly fat or plus size that are dominating this conversation, what would you say?
If I could tell one thing to the ones who are not visibly fat or plus size that are dominating this conversation, it’d simply be to just stop. Stop. Stop for the individuals who have had to go through hell and back to earn the beauty in the terms “Plus Size”, “Fat”, “Curvy”, “Chubby”, “BBW”. Stop for the individuals who were told on a daily basis, that being plus size, was a sin against humanity, and needed to be extinct. Let us use the terms that make us feel happy, feel loved by ourselves. Terms that we were once so afraid of, but now welcome with complete open arms, because we now realize, they’re another way of describing our beauty.

Jannique, @free3dgze on Instagram
Age: 26
Clothing Size: Women’s 22/24

Janique

Is there any one term which you absolutely will not use? If so why?
BBW, SSBBW, etc are the terms I could never use to describe me or others. People type that in the search bar on PornHub to get off to bodies that look like mine having sex. Like, eww, lol. I’m not a fetish or your late night creep.

If you could tell one thing to the folks who are not visibly fat or plus size that are dominating this conversation, what would you say?
Just stop. You can’t speak on something you have never lived. Let us bigger people have our space to connect with others who understand what we have gone through or are still going through. Listen and learn from others.

Nonnie Of Underdog Photography
Age: 26
Clothing Size: Men’s 2XL/46

Nonnie

What are the term(s) that you would use to describe yourself in reference to your size?
I almost exclusively use the term “big kid” when describing my size to anyone and everyone. Why? Well for one, by using the words ‘big kid’, it puts everyone at ease, myself included. Don’t get me wrong, in my personal circles, I’ll refer to myself as ‘fat’ all day long. Another reason is because it eliminates the use of gender pronouns, which is especially useful and/or helpful when shopping for clothes. I’ve used the term “plus size” in the past when speaking to a sales associate at a department store and even though I’m a short haired queer woman loving woman you could spot out of a crowd of 100,000, without fail, the sales associate will lead me to the plus size women’s section (if they even have one).

Is there any one term which you absolutely will not use? If so why?
There aren’t any terms that someone can call me that I call myself that would offend me because I own my fat. I am exactly what I am and I love it.

Caitlin, @caitliness on Instagram
Age: 28
Clothing Size: Women’s 30/32

Caitlin

What are the term(s) that you would use to describe yourself in reference to your size?
I prefer to use the term fat to describe myself.

Why do you use those terms?
Not only is fat an anatomically correct term to describe my body, but it’s also empowering to own a term that has been used to persecute me all my life. A quick online search will tell you that a euphemism is a mild expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing. My fat is not unpleasant or embarrassing. As such, I don’t feel a need to characterize my body in any way that makes other people more comfortable with it.

Are there any terms that you can call yourself but that make you uncomfortable when someone else does? If so, why?
I have used terms like curvy and voluptuous to describe myself in the past but when used by others, they can feel objectifying. I am a sexual person, like many other fat people, but my body doesn’t need to be validated with terms that sexualize it.

Nikki Gomez of Nikki G. Photography
Age: 38
Clothing Size: 20

Nikki

What are the term(s) that you would use to describe yourself in reference to your size?
Plus Size, Curvy, Full Figured, Busty, Zaftig. All of those work for me.

Why do you use those terms?
I have been working in the fashion industry for a long time now and honestly, when you work with designers, tech designers and many brands that carry a range of sizes for all women… it’s clear that they need to differentiate between the lines they make/carry. Plus Size is just another term to describe one size range. It’s no different than using the terms missy and Junior to me. I don’t see it as a negative term at all… just a term.

If you could tell one thing to the folks who are not visibly fat or plus size that are dominating this conversation, what would you say?
It seems as though they want to distance themselves from the progress plus size models and women in general have worked so hard to make over the years. In the fashion industry, if you are a model who isn’t a size 0-8 you are considered plus size. This does not represent millions of consumers that shop plus size fashions. While there is clearly a disconnect between the industry and the reality that does not mean that plus size is a bad term.
If you are above a size 8 and a model you are still beautiful. You are still a model. No one can take that away from you but please be mindful of those that came before you that helped paved the way so that you can be a model today. There was a time when there were not as many brands and options as their are now. It’s the work of models, activists and designers that opened the doors you are now blessed to walk through.

Hollie Burgess of Pretty Big Butterflies
Age: 29
Clothing Size: 22

Hollie

What are the term(s) that you would use to describe yourself in reference to your size?
I tend to use the word ‘big’ if the person doesn’t know me that well, and if I’m around friends I’ll happily refer to myself as fat to plus size.

Why do you use those terms?
It’s really interesting. I’ve taken ownership of the word fat and taken away the derogatory meaning society has given it. It’s just a descriptive word, it isn’t ME as a person. But if I call myself fat in front of others I get responded to with lines such as ‘oh don’t say that’ or ‘no you’re not don’t silly’. I look at them, because they are trying to be NICE, but I’m like look at me. I’m fat. But that’s OK! I’m not calling myself a bad person. It’s the same if I said I was tall or had red hair. I’m not self harming myself with words. I’m allowed to be fat. But somehow, if I say the word ‘big’ it’ seems non offensive and almost edges around the whole situation.

If you could tell one thing to the folks who are not visibly fat or plus size that are dominating this conversation, what would you say?
Being fat or plus size isn’t a bad thing. It isn’t abnormal. It’s a description and one that everyone recognizes. I’m allowed to describe my body or size in a way which isn’t deemed negative; a bit like having a ‘petite’ or ‘tall’ clothing section. It isn’t deemed negative if you take ownership of it. Also, when it comes to clothes, do you know how hard it is to find my size when it’s at the back of all the other sizes and seems out first? Give me my own space but make it decent. I’d also say stop making the term plus size negative. That’s all this debate is. You don’t need to feel sorry for me. I’m fat and I got this!

Jamie Lopez of Babydoll Beauty Couture Salon
Age: 30
Clothing Size: 32

Jamie

What are the term(s) that you would use to describe yourself in reference to your size?
The term that would use to describe myself in reference to my size would be sensational

Why do you use those terms?
I’m fearless and very proud of my curves! I’m a sensation ! I can call myself a bad bitch ☺️ but if someone else calls me that I may feel disrespected,! The. Term I would not use would be fat ! I feel like that’s a degrading term to use . If I could tell one thing to the folks it would be my struggles are huge! But I work hard and believe in my dreams and have made many sacrifices to get were I am today!! I’ve been homeless for my dreams I’ve been tormented for my dreams I’ve hurt hurt and hurt for this vision to have become a reality!! And I wouldn’t change it for the world!! All I do is for my beautiful plus size women ! We deserve acceptance we deserve A beautiful glamorous place that accommodates our needs we deserve beauty and fashion

Why do you like the term BBW?
I like using the term BBW because it stands for what I am a big beautiful woman that is comfortable in her skin a woman who is fearless and knows her worth!

Kavah King of The Gentlemen’s Curb
Age: 30s
Clothing Size: Men’s 3x

Kavah

What are the term(s) that you would use to describe yourself in reference to your size?
The term that I would use to describe myself is a “man of size.” In previous years I would describe myself as “fat boy,” or (Big was the prefix for my nickname) Big Kavah. I have been big for most of my life and I try not place myself in a category because of my size. But, I am reminded daily of my size — from shopping, dining to traveling, (a lot of seats are small! I ask myself ‘are these seats made for children?’) So, I decided that a “man of size” is easier on the ears.

Why do you use those terms?
I use these terms to separate myself and embrace my body structure. When I am seen, my size if the first thing that is noticed. Then I built enough confidence to embrace my body. I am very honest with myself, there aren’t words or names that can harm me in regards to my weight. In most cases the obvious is stated. But, “big man” is one term that kind of gets under my skin. I am a man that happens to be big. Can I be a recognized as a man first? It may seem petty to some, but it’s annoying to me. Doctors make me uncomfortable when I am defined as “morbidly obese.” But, I am healthy. I have no blood pressure issues thankfully. I am given a death certificate because of my weight? Let’s be honest, smaller people have health issues too. Who makes the average weight requirements anyway? Were all genetic makeups taken into consideration?

Terr Cacilia of Skorch Magazine
Age: 21
Clothing Size: 18-22

Terr

What are the term(s) that you would use to describe yourself in reference to your size?
I would describe myself as thick, or fat to friends, and family. I have also been called “skinny fat” by others, and have wondered where that leaves me to identify in this industry. In a professional setting I prefer terms like “plus size” and “full figured”.

If you could tell one thing to the folks who are not visibly fat or plus size that are dominating this conversation, what would you say?
If I could say one thing to the individuals who are not visibly fat, or plus size but still manage to be the ideal models for the job it would something like this; You have been given the job that a real fat person (model) should have, and with this job you have accepted more than just a check, and publication, but the responsibly to be a TRUE ADVOCATE for those whom you are playing the role as, and selling a product to. To work in this industry you must be smart, so do not play dumb in acting like you do not know how influential the role you are playing is, or that you are only doing a job. You have a voice, use it.

Amanda Crichton of Amanda Apparel
Age: 26
Clothing Size: Women’s 22

Amanda

Is there any one term which you absolutely will not use? If so why?
I don’t rarely (if ever) use the word “curvy.” It feels like a cheap euphemism for “fat” that makes thinner people more comfortable. When I hear “curvy” I think of the size 14/16 model that’s we’re so used to. You know the type, flat stomach, hourglass shape, hip pads, no double chin. The biggest (hah!) term that I absolutely will not use is BBW. Some women identify that way, which is totally fine. But for me, it represents a hyper sexualised and fetishised view of fat women, and I don’t want anything to do with that.

If you could tell one thing to the folks who are not visibly fat or plus size that are dominating this conversation, what would you say?
I would love the opportunity to look them in the eye and make sure they KNOW that they do. not. represent. me. The “plus size” models who are not visibly fat are doing my head in just now. They are paid by plus size brands to sell clothing to fat girls, but these models HATE the term “plus size.” They have major internalized hate for fat people, and it’s so unbelievably damaging. I wish I could ask them to please stand down and let someone else have a turn to speak.

Ariel Woodson of KiddoTrue
Age: 30
Clothing Size: Women’s 18-22

Ariel

What are the term(s) that you would use to describe yourself in reference to your size?
Plus size for clothes, fat for everything else

Why do you use those terms?
Plus size is a useful, industry accepted standard term used to designate clothes in my size so I’m not endlessly scrolling or strolling through stores that have nothing for me. Fat is the best way to describe my body size and it’s also a deliberate, political choice to try and take back a word that has become negatively charged.

Are there any terms that you can call yourself but that make you uncomfortable when someone else does? If so, why?
Curvy is upsetting because it feels like a deliberate attempt to soften the blow of my body. I don’t need words that don’t apply to me to make myself more palatable for others.

If you could tell one thing to the folks who are not visibly fat or plus size that are dominating this conversation, what would you say?
Talk less. A LOT less. Your experience doesn’t reflect the average fat person’s and your frustration about not wanting to be identified with us becomes a more important narrative than the struggles of actual fat people.

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Alysse Dalessandro is a size inclusive designer, fashion and beauty writer, body positive advocate, plus size fashion blogger, professional speaker, and all-around loudmouth.

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