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Sex and the Fat Girl: If You Want My Body

Sometimes it seems like we're bombarded by study after study telling us fat girls that unless we fit a certain body type, we're doomed to be relegated to the "unattractive" bin. If your fat happens to settle into an "hourglass" or "pear" shape, your fat is more likely to be seen as "OK" by the dominant culture. That's less a product of evolution and more a product of the images drilled into our heads of "curvy" women with a desirable waist-to-hip ratio. Unfortunately, this is now a cross-cultural phenomenon and we have Western culture to blame for disseminating this beauty propaganda.

The hierarchy of body shape is something that exists in the very fabric of the plus-size clothes we're sold. Pants and jeans are usually made with the pear or hourglass figure in mind, and tops can be ill-fitting if your gut happens to be bigger than what the manufacturer determines to be the correct size for the shirt. Our "plus-size" models are never apple types. Even when brands and magazines give us images of bodies that are supposed to be our representatives in the fashion world, they manage to marginalize a whole lot of fat girls by only presenting certain types as desirable enough to model their clothes. We're expected to fit a type of fat distribution, and if we don't, well, they tried to make clothes for us, right?

Of course there's so much that goes into attraction; body shape is just one part of the equation. But it's an important part of how you're viewed as a fat girl who owns her sexuality. If you feel less desirable because you're not the right shape, it's hard to remain confident in yourself as a sexual person. We need to stop putting up celebrities and models who have a little extra junk in the trunk as models of fat beauty because a good majority of fat girls don't and could never look anything like that. The fat ideal is just as dangerous to our self-esteem as the thin ideal, and they're both equally out of reach for many of us.

The best revenge is looking good, and that's also the best way to fight the body-type hierarchy. I say it again and again, but having confidence in yourself and your appearance is incredibly important to living a full life and expressing your sexuality. Don't listen to what society says about which shape is the right shape because society is never going to encourage us to do anything but keep our heads down and stay out of sight. The more fat girls decide to ignore the rules of what shape is "right," the more classifying body type becomes a relic of the past. We all have to retrain ourselves on a daily basis to reject narrow-mindedness and see the beauty in every body, including our own.

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Comments

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You go girl!!!

It is true that women are always to supposed to fit one ideal or another be it emaciated or hour glass figure. I follow a lot of plus size blogs and the most popular ones represent plus size models like Crystal Renn, a size 8. Or, models that are size 10,12 never 14 or 20. I do agree with you the best way to garner acceptance is through always looking firece.

Look Your Best...Best Advice

I agree with you. Women are always told what to look like even if they are plus size; Either emaciated or hour glass. Our notion of Plus size woman is Crystal Renn who is a size 8. Not very plus size. There needs to be more women in the media that are a more common size like 14 or 20. The best way toward fat acceptance is looking your best and that is a sure fire way to feel your best.

Looking Good and Loving It

To me the key is NOT to wait to look fashionable until some pie-in-the-sky day when I may lose weight (or not). I have my own sense of style and manage to find awesome clothes and shoes to fit my generously sized body.

I'll quote what someone else

I'll quote what someone else said on Bitch's Facebook on this: "I'm glad I'm not the only person who feels alienated by the promotion of women like Christina Hendricks as the model for curvy beauty."

The only difference I see between the famous thin women and the famous "curvy" women are that the "curvy" women have larger breasts and butts. They still have a small waist. I don't see why they're celebrated so much for their being curvy.

Fuck yes. I wholeheartedly

Fuck yes. I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said here. I have many friends and sisters who don't fit the ideal, and I love that you come out and say these things. When I tell them that, it's hard because they know how much I love them, so they're like "oh, you'd say that no matter what." It's great to hear it from another source. And it's not just for fat people, either-- I'm a size two and still catch myself berating myself for eating that cupcake, or staring too hard in the mirror. It's disgusting how colonized our brains are by this garbage that makes everyone under the sun feel inadequate.

"Pants and jeans are usually

"Pants and jeans are usually made with the pear or hourglass figure in mind..."

Datapoint: I don't actually find this to be true for me, and I would describe myself as an hourglass with a little more sand in the bottom. My usual experience of trying on pants or jeans is that if it fits me in the thighs and butt, it's WAY too large in the waist, to the point where I could be pregnant in them. In fact, right now I'm wearing a pair of size 18 jeans -- the Lane Bryant Right Fit curvy-style, even -- and I *am* 5 months pregnant in them, with a little more room to spare! But before the curvy-cut pants became more widely available, I was always having to cinch extra fabric around my waist with a belt.

My point: The fashion industry sucks for women, regardless of size and/or body shape. And I've said before that the hourglass ideal for fat women is the equivalent of "high yellow" skin for black women. Fuck that divide-and-conquer noise.

This. I have actually stopped

This. I have actually stopped wearing pants entirely because they don't make pants for hourglass figures. None of them fit. (Skirts, how I adore thee.) I could probably get pants that fit if I shelled out an obscene amount of money for bespoke jeans, but I have no desire to blow $300 on one article of clothing.

wow. i'm a "pear shape" with

wow. i'm a "pear shape" with a waist that is smaller than my big ol' booty, and i don't have this same experience with clothing that you are writing about. i really can't see how you could say that the clothing is made with pear shapes in mind, because that is not my experience at all. i feel alienated here. most of the feedback i get is that i am unacceptable because i am not "in proportion". i also have never seen any true "pears" as models, though i have to admit i haven't seen any "apples". i do not feel i am represented. i guess i can sort-of see what you are saying about my shape being more acceptable at times, though, because sometimes after the initial criticism of my shape i have heard the comment "but at least you have a small waist". also, i am white, and let's not forget about that subject. other white women seem offended and horrified that i am shaped like this, and i have gotten many outright comments that from black women, such as the recent passerby saying loudly. "mmm. some white girls broke the mold!", as if i am just not supposed to be shaped like this.

another pear

yes to everything!

Pear Shaped "Ideal"

I, too, have rarely ever found pants that fit me because I have a round butt/thick thighs and a small waist. So, I can go around with a huge gap showing my panties, and/or crack, to the world or be irritated by bunched up fabric at my waistline all day if I wear a belt. Couple that with broad shoulders, it's difficult to find a shirt to fit my shoulders that my waist isn't lost in. And forget finding underwear that truly fit me, I've tried every brand and style imaginable. I love my curves and wouldn't want to be thinner any day, however, it would be nice if affordable clothing was available that truly did fit a "pear".

Forget fat

I agree that we should reject the narrow-mindedness of media representation of acceptable beauty but you could take the word fat out of your piece & it would stil be as true. We shouldn't pitch skinny against curvy; it plays into the hands of those who would divide to conquer. All women are made to feel inadequate by unrealistic 'ideals' presented as desirable & attainable just to sell more & more ridiculous 'beauty' products. We should challenge body fascism wherever we find it.

As a pear-shaped fat girl,

As a pear-shaped fat girl, I've often looked at apple-shaped friends and thanked my rhetorical God for making me a pear. The more of these blogs I read, the more I learn how much I've bought into the social hatred of fatness. I'm also noticing how much the parts of my appearance I like are similar or passably close to skinny ideals -- my breasts are well-rounded, but I can't stand the fat on my arms; I love my shapely calves but hate my cottage cheese thighs. It's making me wonder how I can even conceive of a personal beauty standard. It seems like everything I find attractive I find on skinny people. It doesn't mean I'm not attracted to fat people, but even there I notice myself making concessions -- I find tall fat men who can do the linebacker thing more attractive than short fat men, I do like pear-shaped girls more than I like apple-shaped ones, and like you say, the placement of the fat seems important to me.

How did you design a personal beauty standard for yourself, one that didn't incorporate traditional images of beauty? I don't feel like I can just pick and choose a part of my body or even my whole body to arbitrarily celebrate, mostly because I wouldn't feel the actual celebration. I'd love to read an article on teaching fat girls not just TO love their bodies, but really HOW -- how you come to terms with an entirely new standard?

shopping sucks

I recently had the unfortunate experience of shopping for clothes appropriate for an interview with my girlfriend. When I say unfortunate, it wasn't because I'm that impatient piggish boyfriend, it's because women's clothes marketers are stupid.

My girlfriend is 6'1". Her size is somewhere between 16 and 20, but none of the clothes are held to the same standard, it's hard to say what she really is. There were literally one pair of tall jeans amongst the three stores that we visted, and they were size 12. Any pants that fit her legs could be used to catch pies in a circus act when it came to her waist. Why doesn't a clothes company come up with the idea of using inseam and waist inches for their women's clothes. They do it for men. Plus, women wouldn't have to "aim" for a number, they would have the allowance to be inseam 34 but waist 32 or 30/34, like men do.

The fashion industry is dumb if it holds a functional standard for one sex and then just wings it for the other.

Well most women's bodies are

Well most women's bodies are built differently than men's. Men's pants typically have more legroom, while women's pants are tight, making it difficult to find pants that fit when you have thick thighs and a large butt (like me). And most women's pants fit around the hips and not the waist like in traditional men's slacks and jeans.

And I think part of the reason why different brands have different fits is because women's bodies vary so much. Men's bodies don't typically vary as much as women's (I know I'm generalizing here). And it's also styles too that are poplar among women.

I'm not exactly thrilled by the way women's clothes fit. And the thing is, we could demand that clothiers start making their pants (specifically) better, but since women have such different shapes and sizes, it would be impossible to make it more consistent.

It's actually very difficult for most women to find pants and clothes that fit, including women who are a size 0-4 and women who are a size 14-18, and women in between. I used to work in women's retail and it was just as difficult for a woman who was a size 0 to find something that fit her properly as it was for a woman who was a size 20 to find something that fit her properly, same with a woman who was a size 8.

@shoppingsucks

There are pants sized by length vs. width, but you have to search hard in a major city to find them. I live in NYC and am tall for my waist ratio, and it still took me two months to find straight size (not even plus!) jeans that were for someone who is tall with hips but not heavy. I was looking for 28 x 34 pants, I would hate to be looking for ones that are for someone above 6'. Old Navy/gap/Banana republic only make tall sizes online, but they do make them. H&M only does it for jeans in certain stores. There's a jeans chain called Vanity that makes pants in lengths with smaller waists. Dress pants are harder to find in tall sizes, which is why I wear a skirt or dress to work almost every day (in winter that just means one or two pairs of tights and boots to go with it).

Plus Size Stores

Maybe you want specific brands, but there are stores that carry tall sizes 12-28/32. Avenue, Fashion Bug, sometimes Torrid. There are also some new online plus stores, some of which actually have some lovely clothes. OneStopPlus tends to have just about every brand. Ulla Popken has some lovely clothes. There's also Kiyonna (also at OSP). I've had good luck with Denim 24/7 jeans. If you use OSP, be sure to look for coupons online. I have the shipping subscription ($2.99/order) and a $20 off $50 nets me nearly 34% off everything I buy, after shipping. Even Catherine's now has slacks that fit different body types, and all come in tall sizes I believe.

The last few years, some plus size stores have gone from matronly, ill-fitting clothing to clothing that actually looks good when you wear it. But I think a lot of women are very upset just by the idea of going into a plus size store, as if it's better to squeeze into non-plus brands that don't fit properly. Personally, I never understood the desire to wear labels, and am all the better for it, IMO. I live in Dallas, and there's an Avenue, Fashion Bug, Catherine's, Torrid, Lane Bryant and a few other random plus size stores within a 20-mile distance. 'Course, we sprawl down here and I live kinda out in the boonies.

Agreed

Life *would* be so much more sensible if they used inch measurements. Functional standards would make shopping faster (IMO) and it would be much easier for me to find my size in men's pants when I want to buy them (their pockets are so superior to women's pants it's ridiculous).

Thank you so much for putting

Thank you so much for putting up this article! I'm actually crying reading this article because I swear I often feel like I'm the only one having trouble finding clothing that fits me properly because I am so not pear-shaped or hourglass shaped.

But, I can honestly say that it's not all the fashion industry's fault. I've come across so many women (in my case, Black women) who hold being pear-shaped and hourglass-shaped as being the ideal. I have met some people who didn't see the point in Lane Bryant putting in right fit jeans because "only skinny Caucasian women have no shape." I've literally had other women laugh at me, and tell me that I'm really not a Black woman because I don't have the "curves." Whether they're doing it due to the fashion industries influence is besides the point for me because these people/these women are adults.

The fashion industry, in my experience, just adds fuel to the fire: It magnifies what's already circling around society...Western society.

I H8 buying jeans! >:(

It is my belief there is no crueler way to make a woman hate herself than to have her try on jeans. I have a long torso (which I didn't know I had until I had a corset custom made for me), I am tall, and while I do have large breasts and long, defined legs in spite of being overweight, I have mommy hips, a tummy that never goes away, a flat ass and broad shoulders. All of that put together makes clothes shopping completely dreadful. I've tried figuring out my body shape for buying clothes, but none of them directly apply to me (perhaps a Vase, but not quite - a Cello? I don't know!), so I just have to wing it.

The only jeans that *kind of* work for me are Tall boot cuts that sit at the hips. They look good on my legs, and for the most part, they have that happy medium in the tummy and crotch (no camel toe, but no kangaroo pouch, either). I'm not *that* tall though, so if I don't wear boots, the jeans are a touch too long and end up dragging. Rare is it that even the nearly perfect ones help with the butt - it's like diving off a cliff back there! The few times I get lucky, in jeans I can actually afford no less, I wear them until they're literally falling apart.

I just lost a pair I've had for a couple years, so now I'm down to only two pairs of jeans. And with jeans being the only things I really wear in winter... yeah... lots of laundry getting done. I'd go out and buy more, but like I said, buying jeans that even somewhat fit and are affordable can be downright cruel. I can go into five stores and not find anything!

- Floods (primary problem!)
- Camel toes
- Kangaroo pouches
- "Too Blues" (I hate dark denim)
- Thong grippers (mega low risers)
- Muffin tops
- Mommy jeans
- Waist constrictors
- Gauchos (I hate, hate, hate completely straight-legged pants!)
- Credit card swipers (the ones that are way too tight in the rear)

Ugh. And guys wonder why when women find a pair of jeans that actually fit correctly, they want to throw a party for them! I actually came *that close* to giving it up and ordering the Pajama Jeans in the middle of the night, even though I can't stand dark denim (being made fun of in school for wearing standard Wranglers won't go away). Fortunately, my common sense took hold, knowing full well they're crap, and too because jeans, bras and shoes must always be tried on. (Don't get me started on finding affordable 40D bras not made for Grandma or cute size 11 shoes in stores.)

I swear, sometimes I just want to hang it all up and be a guy. :P~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For the past 5 years or so

For the past 5 years or so during graduate school, I've been working as a plus-sized model for well-known international modeling agency. My work is primarily for major plus-sized retailers or plus-sized fashion lines. My proportions are almost spot-on for an hour-glass ratio. I am sure that along with being tall, these proportions allow me to get the handful of gigs that I get... because I am a size 22 or 24 (although, like so many I find myself wearing anything from 14/16 to 22/24). I am, by far, the largest plus-sized model at my agency's local office.

My friends and colleagues who are plus-sized models (at my agency and at others) wear sizes 8 to 14. One of my friends who is a size 8 or 10 gets hired for plus-sized modeling, and her clothes are stuffed by the stylist. That fashion-line and others prefer to be able to shape her body as they want. They won't hire a woman with the body the clothes are sized to fit. This practice explains why so many models wearing plus-sized clothing don't look "fat"-- because they aren't.

As a model, sometimes gigs are humiliating. Try arriving at a photoshoot where the stylist was given your measurements, and you find that all the clothes are at least two sizes too small. She thought they would work anyway. And, "no," you tell the stylist, "squeezing into them isn't a possibility." Instead, they cut the jeans and top up the back, and the stylist masking tapes them to your body. You pose in them, trying not to move too much so the clothes don't fall off of you in front of the room full of (thin) strangers.

Yeah, the modeling world is fake. What is deemed curvy is limited. We all know that. But are who are we holding accountable for perpetuating these practices? I get that we have to hold ourselves accountable for buying into these practices, but I'm curious how often we are just being frustrated at not finding clothes that fit or for not being considered 'curvy' rather than taking substantial, political action against those who produce these images. (And, yeah, I'm saying this as someone who is part of that production.) When was the last time you (whoever reads this) protested in front of a store or modeling agency? When did you decide NOT to use your consumer-power by not purchasing items from a corporation? I realize feeling confident about one's body is a complicated issue and one that is not always connected to mainstream ideals, but sometimes it is.