When I started modelling I wasn’t concerned with the “plus size” label. I actually embraced it because I learned to be confident about my size and body. I was happy to model under any label and I think most “plus sized” models are just happy to be modelling. But deep down I felt there was something wrong with the label. Why were so many people shocked to find out that I was classified as a plus sized model? And people attempting to be mean would use it as a put down, “She’s a Plus Sized model”. Although this actually strengthened me, why did they consider it a derogatory term that could be used as an insult? It was only when I realised the effect it could be having on women outside of the modelling industry that I realised the real problem with the term. The “plus sized” models might be able to embrace the label but the general public struggles with it.
Labelling a model or a woman as “plus sized” perpetuates the idea that they are different and not fully accepted. This labelling leads to young girls and women questioning their own bodies, and puts them in danger of believing their bodies are not good enough, or not thin enough to be accepted by society. This is very damaging to the self perception of women and how they judge each other. This is the basic point that has been discussed in the media and online for years now and it ignited the #droptheplus movement.
Ajay Rochester had an outburst on her social media about the ‘plus’ label, but it was badly misinterpreted by the media as a direct attack on the actual “plus sized” model in the article that Ajay was referring to. This lead to Ajay being publicly bullied on social media without a skerrick of support. As cyber bullying was something I was subject to in college I didn’t want to stand by and let it happen. After reading Ajay’s comments closely and others opinions on the matter, I decided to come out in support of Ajay and the many others that have pointed out the dangers of the label. I wanted to stop the terrible bullying but also voice my concern with the “plus” label. After brainstorming a way to turn this into a wider discussion and shift the focus, I came up with the idea of the ‘I am a model’ photo and created the hashtag #droptheplus to accompany it, which unexpectedly took off.
Ajay’s original post:
Screengrab of Ajay’s original unedited post from the Daily Mail. This is the post that was badly misinterpreted and led to Ajay being bullied. This bullying prompted me to post the ‘I am a model’ photo and create the hashtag #droptheplus.
I believe the label is too broad to be of any actual use and just places women into a category that makes them considered an ‘other’ by society. We already have a useful number system for sizes so we don’t need a pointless ‘plus’ classification on top of this that spans across most sizes. I think the first step to a more inclusive future, where all sizes are represented and considered normal is to break down barriers. Modifiers like ‘plus size’ enforce the idea that only small sizes are accepted and normal. We don’t put up a big ‘Minus Size’ sign in stores for clothing under US size 14, and we don’t refer to US size 0-4 models as ‘Minus Size’ because that would be absurd, so why label models and most women as ‘Plus Size’? I’m not proud of the label because I think it does more harm than good.