I'm not sure how much this post will mesh with the rest of the fat-o-sphere and, who knows, I may look back on this post in a couple of years and ask, "what was I thinking?", but here goes anyway. It started with all of the buzz around the Vogue Italia issue which featured three "plus size" models on the cover. While I was with everyone in applauding their efforts in portraying a more average body type, the fact that anyone was calling these women "plus" size was puzzling to me. I have always known that "plus" size started at a 12 or, in some cases, a size 10US, but the intellectual knowledge doesn't stop it from being shocking when you actually see it.
When I ranted about this a bit on facebook a friend replied that she had been browsing online clothing stores with larger (ie, average sized) models. She had been doing it long enough that when she went to a site with normal (ie, very thin) models she was shocked at just how thin they were. Normalization is important here because it's the basis for the anti photoshopping and the body image campaigns in regards to model thinness. When we're constantly exposed to one body as a certain idea it becomes so normal that anything outside of it seems odd. In this case the thinness of the models became very clear when my friend exposed herself to average sized models. But we don't see the thinness that way when it's the only thing we see in general.
So, in the same way, if we're touting average sized models as "plus" sized then we're still essentially saying that an average body is a very thin one because plus implies larger than average. So if average sized people are "plus sized" then what are actual "plus" sized people? It's still just another way of skewing perception of body types.
More so, these publicity stunts are just that- stunts. Gimmicks. Freak shows. A way to boost sales by saying "look! We can totally be aware and sensitive to needs of women!". Unfortunately the magazines go right back to displaying rail thin models cover to back- thus ensuring that we don't forget where the normalization is really supposed to stay.
I hope, I really really hope, that more realistic sized models become the norm. I have zero problem with featuring women who are a size 8 or 10 or 14 and I think that if these became the normal sizes for models that it would do a hell of a lot of good in our culture. But can we please just stop calling them "plus size"? If a size 12 model is a "plus" sized person then what the hell am I? What the hell do you call actual fat models like Beth Ditto (a size 28) or Velvet d'Amor (who is 5'8" and about 275lbs)? This doesn't seem like real progress. What it seems like is a glittery circus act designed to distract and placate us.