Actress Melissa McCarthy recently made news when she came out advocating for better placement of clothing for larger women in stores and the unfairness of the "plus-size" label.
"Seventy percent of women in the United States are a size 14 or above, and that's technically 'plus size,' so you're taking your biggest category of people and telling them, 'You're not really worthy,'" the star told Refinery 29
in an interview to herald her new clothing line, Melissa McCarthy Seven7.
McCarthy isn't alone in her distaste for the term.
"All About That Bass" singer Meghan Trainor told "Today"
she doesn't love it either.
"I never loved that word," she said. "Because when I looked it up, like a 6 is apparently a plus size! I don't agree with that. Full-figured is better. I like loving your curves."
I would take it one step further than McCarthy and say that since so many women these days are a size 12 or larger, it raises the question of where exactly in the equation the "plus" comes in.
It's hardly news that Americans are getting bigger and bigger.
In 2014, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association
showed that waistlines grew from 2009 to 2012. The average man's waist increased from 38.9 inches to 39.7 inches while the average woman's belly went from 36.3 inches to 37.8 inches.
The clothing industry is cashing in. According to a 2014 report from market researchers IBISWorld
: "The growing obesity rate has supported revenue growth for the Plus-Size Women's Clothing Stores industry in the past five years ... demand is expected to increase in the five years to 2019."
Can we just call it "women's clothing"?
The reality is that more women now look like McCarthy than they do some of her thinner Hollywood counterparts -- and the "plus-size" label feels pejorative. That makes sense, given that the overweight are among the last groups the world is still OK with discriminating against.
Take for example the various examples of "fat shaming" that have cropped up recently: actress Amy Schumer is hardly obese, but a writer added her to Apatow's "funny-chubby" crew of actresses
with her latest film "Trainwreck." Australian feminine product SOFY BeFresh was criticized
for a commercial in which a woman is confronted by her larger self while she has her period.
And the Facebook page "Project Harpoon" digitally edited photos of larger women (including McCarthy and Trainor) to make them smaller and asked visitors to weigh in on what was more attractive.
Nick Baskins, a leader of the group of gamers who started the page, told People
the group's founders met in a Reddit forum for video gamers and lamented that they were bothered by the "transformations" of the game's heroines to more "realistic" body sizes, which he said "paved the way for many people to renounce exercise and personal health care."
"Our intention is not to harm, oppress, or 'trigger' anyone," Baskins said. "We get dozens of messages a day talking about how our photos have inspired them to go to the gym and maintain a better lifestyle."
After an outcry against it, the page appears to have been taken down from Facebook.
The insinuation is that bigger women don't care about their health or their appearance, but this ignores what larger women such as myself know all too well: It's hard as hell to lose weight and keep it off.
Such instances also underscore what McCarthy is aiming for with her new clothing line -- from size 4 to size 28 -- which she doesn't want to see pushed into a separate section in stores or labeled in such a way as it is "other."
All women deserve the right to feel good about themselves and to have a shopping experience that doesn't categorize them with a label that has long held a negative connotation.
I remember as a teen shopping with my grandmother and being told that "I was in the wrong section. The chubby girl items are over there." I still inwardly cringe whenever I'm out with friends and have to go to a different part of a shop to (sometimes in vain) find items for me.
Let's take a page from McCarthy and start referring to clothing for all women as what it simply is: fashion.