Why Plus Size Models Aren’t Necessarily Helping the Body Image Revolution

Why Plus Size Models Aren’t Necessarily Helping the Body Image Revolution

I think it is great that we are finally starting to see more than one type of accepted body in the media. Plus-size models are standing up against the idea that only thinness is beautiful and they are jumping on board with many body-positive campaigns. So, what is the problem here? Well, plus-size models still only represent one kind of body type. They are typically proportioned similarly to straight-size models. They are bigger, yet they still possess stereotypical model qualities; tall with long legs, perfect skin, smaller waist, and large breasts.

Now, don’t get me wrong…I love seeing women stand up for body-positivity and diversity, but there are so many body types out there. We need to see more!

People think Plus-Size is Diverse

We are so used to not seeing real bodies in the media that we automatically accept plus size models as representative of diverse body types. The truth is that plus-size models still only represent one type of body out there. What happens when real plus-size feel that they have to look like all of the plus-size models out there? The same thing that happens when straight models are hired to represent all women. Body dissatisfaction happens. Plus-size models used to advertise and represent body diversity is problematic because women will still compare themselves to those models.

The Label “Plus-Size” is Wrong

The idea that a plus-size model is representative of all plus-sized women is wrong because most plus-size models are between a size 12 and 16. There are many body types in between and above what is represented. We need to see images of all body types represented in the media so that all bodies are seen as valuable. We need to see real diversity. Many plus-size models are advocating for dropping the term “plus-size” when referring to their body type and I agree. By labeling larger models as “plus-size” we tell women that they can only ever be straight-size or plus-size. This is just as harmful because, at the end of the day, the media is still telling women that there is an acceptable way to look. If you have a plus-size body type, the media is telling you that you need to look like a plus-size model. Model, Georgina Burke, has said, “The day where we don’t get so excited about seeing a plus-size model in a magazine is the day we’ve made it.” Without more representations of female bodies, we will continue to feel as if we need to fit into only one category or the other.

We Need More Diversity in Mainstream Media

It’s amazing that plus-size models are creating change and acceptance of larger bodies, however, when their bodies are the only representation of diversity, it can be confusing. I would even go so far as to say that plus-size bodies are the only type of representation for body diversity in mainstream media. There are, of course, some exceptions to this. I want to highlight the companies that are doing a fabulous job of being inclusive in their advertising. Companies, like Knix and Dove, are making a conscious effort to listen to their consumers and create advertising that does not negatively impact female self worth. We need to see more body-positive campaigns with a variety of real women (not just straight and plus-size).

The message here is not that straight or plus-size models are problematic, it’s that we should be including all body types in the media. Instead of putting each other down with comments like “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” or “Real women have curves” we need to build each other up. Tearing other women down for their appearance is not how we will win this battle. What are your thoughts?

Emily is the founding editor of Happy Daughter, a body positive online community for women. She is a body image expert, who is passionate about promoting positive body image, media awareness, and healthy relationships. Emily is getting ready to release her book, Body Positive: A Guide to Loving Your Body in January 2021.

One Comment

  1. Alys Reply

    I agree with you whole-heartingly. We need to see real diversity not just the the ideal model proportions which plus models always have.

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