Tuesday, 3 February 2015

"Nothing but the rain"

Unless you've been living in Gollum's Cave for the last few weeks, I assume you will have come across the news that Tess Munster, creator of #effyourbeautystandards has been given a modelling contract. As with anything else on the internet, nothing out of the ordinary can happen without extremes of opinion flying out of the woodwork faster than you can utter "I didn't see that coming".

Tess is 5'4" and a dress size 22 - as such she's far from the traditional size and shape found in the fashion industry. Whilst plenty of people have celebrated this as a victory over the stranglehold of the incredibly narrow vision of beauty perpetuated in the media, plenty more have waved their pitchforks in impotent rage and shouted into the void about what a terrible thing this is.

(Image from http://tessmunster.com/effyourbeautystandards.html)

Various arguments are being thrown about as to why that is. "The fashion industry shouldn't promote poor health" is the first. No, strictly speaking, it shouldn't and it has a responsibility for the media and imagery it produces. However, given that for years we have been discussing the trend of models who are underweight or suffer from eating disorders, this is hardly a new idea. We should also be considering the fact that the primary thing being promoted by the fashion industry is the fashion industry, because it needs to remain relevant on a massive scale.

Second among them is the typical "Oh my God, how is that person a model?!" I'm not even going to dignify that. If you're one of those people, take a fanned long look at yourself and consider your choices.

The one that particularly interested me in terms of this post though is more inextricably tied up with what #effyourbeautystandards is all about. I've seen many variations on the theme of "People that shape should not be comfortable with themselves."

To which I ask, who the hell do you think you are?

There is a difference between being comfortable with yourself and "promoting obesity" or however we wish to phrase it. How comfortable another person is with themselves has nothing to do with anyone else at all - it just simply isn't any of your business.

Why is it that when, just possibly, a small baby step has been made towards a wider representation of shapes and sizes in fashion (which is surely to the good of all), that people are so put out?

I suspect I can answer that. It's because it's something different.

There are a lot of people who don't like anything outside of the norm. It challenges the status quo, and that makes them uncomfortable. Things they don't understand frighten them.

Because they can't understand why a person at a particular end of the weight spectrum would feel happy and secure in their size, they try to impose their view. Anyone outside of the norm has " no right" to feel the comfort and security associated with that norm.

Something else to consider - there appears to be a (completely misplaced) sense that anyone outside the norm is immediately open to public consumption. Everyone else "owns" the right to have an opinion on them and to express it to them regardless of any hurt caused. In revealing I'm a fibromyalgia patient I'm frequently bombarded with everyone and their aunt's opinion on my "attitude" and various things I "should" be doing in order to feel better (because everyone's a doctor). In the same way, it appears anyone carrying extra weight is subject to the fact everyone feels they have the right to tell them what they should be doing with their own body.

Tess Munster is indeed overweight. However, it's her body, and I for one am behind everyone feeling as good as possible about themselves. I'm lucky in many ways that as a petite slim woman I don't have to try very hard to seek representation of someone my size and shape. However, I've still suffered through body hangups and feelings of inadequacy. Having done so, I would not wish them on anyone. The idea then that those outside of the average should be forbidden from feeling good is nothing short of disgusting.

(Even early 90's Disney got their head around the fact people are rubbish at dealing with "different".
Image from quotesandmovies.com)

The same logic can be applied to many things. To take the stereotype of "lazy" chronic illness patients, this sort of thinking would dictate these patients have " no right" to fulfilment and happiness because they are outside someone's box of understanding. They are yet again outside of the "norm".

I quoted Steven Erikson's thought on lifestyle fascists in this post. Humorous as it is, there's a serious point there. When you begin to dictate the parameters and ostracise those outside of them in terms of size, shape and weight, a lifestyle fascist is exactly what you're  becoming.

To further the alternative example of patients with chronic illnesses, to the narrow minded, anyone not out of the house in an average nine-to-five job is "lazy", so patients who are forced to remain at home much of the time are definitely squarely in their firing line. However, they can be doing plenty within their limits to help themsleves and to hopefully improve their situation - negative and ill-informed attitudes do not help. In the same way that attacking Miss Munster stands in the way of the very movement she has thrown herself into supporting, so attacking "lazy" patients can hamper their own efforts to effect change in their lives.

Also, here's an interesting idea to stick in your pipe until you choke - not everyone "can" get better. Not everything is curable. Do you really think you imposing your vicious inability to think outside the box is going to do anything except damage the person you've set your sights on?

But wait, everyone and everything should match your opinion, right? Nothing else is acceptable in your hopelessly narrow existence, is it?

And very neatly, we're back to those people who claim people the size of Miss Munster "have no right to be comfortable with themselves".

You do not get to dictate who can and cannot feel good about themselves, and neither does anybody else. You have no right to take that away from another person.

For me, I tip my hat to Tess Munster. If having just one single representation of themselves makes a group of people who usually cannot see themselves in the fashion industry feel better, then I refuse to accept that is a bad thing. It could well be the first step on the road to all shapes and sizes finding a space in fashion media.

Everyone has the right to self worth and to make peace with themselves - whether they match the ideals of what you wish to do with your own body or not.

If you do not accept that, I suggest you should have some long and hard self-examination ahead of you.

I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on this - even though I'm not in the group this is most relevant to, I still think the abuse and narrow-mindedness says a lot of damning things about people, and that needs discussion.

Wishing you all many spoons xxx

1 comment:

  1. I love everything about this post. As a larger woman (who previously spent a lot of her life at a size 10/12) I find it very difficult to feel good about myself as I'm now a size 18/20. Am I a lazy sod that gorges myself all day I hear you ask? Well no. I suffer from Fibromyalgia and CFS which means I'm constantly exhausted and am in pain. I constantly cancel plans I've made and more often than not spend my life stuck at home. My metabolism is rock bottom and I can't exercise due to my illness. I was previously very active and sporty and that is what I need to stay slim. I don't eat any more than most people (actually I eat less then I did when I was a size 10/12) and refuse to starve myself to fulfill other peoples idea of how I should look. I've taken a lot of criticism for my size, even from family (actually mostly from family) who fail to see that I can be attractive and large. I still struggle accepting myself at this size as my confidence is very low. I tell you this as I want to make a point that just because a person is large, does not mean they are lazy, greedy or have no pride in their appearance. There is often a story the people who criticise, are not aware of.

    I think the inclusion of Tess is wonderful for all ladies who do not fit inside the narrow band of the fashion industry. Models are generally slim as clothes hang better on their frame and therefore the designers work is showcased as best as possible. This is something I have the biggest problem with. Surely it should be about the women who want to wear the clothes and not about indulging a designers ego. I know I'm much more interested in seeing how clothes will look on a woman with a similar frame to me than I am looking at website after website and runway after runway of teeny tiny models. Surely introducing models of all sizes to represent the wide range of the public will sell more clothes and will therefore be more beneficial to the designers.

    Your blog however says it all perfectly. Big thumbs up from me. x