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Are you a sizeist?

Have you ever caught yourself looking at someone’s body and thinking, ‘that just won’t do?’ Have your eyes been so conditioned by what you are told is beautiful and acceptable that you only appreciate what you recognize? Have you ever noticed that after having spent even just a few minutes flipping through a fashion magazine your eyes are more judgmental and critical when they next glance upon a mirror?

Let’s face it, there’s a new form of discrimination around, ‘SIZEISM’ and the majority of us have got it…BAD.

Of late, we’ve developed a limited view of what beautiful bodies are and should look like. A mix of factors: consumerism, health, the fashion industry, diet industries and visual culture combine to create this exclusionary aesthetic. We seem to have found ourselves in a venus fly trap; hideously dangerous vicious cycle of self acceptance and self loathing.

As we struggle to resemble the stick thin air-brushed, digitally manipulated figurines staring back at us from the pages of our glossies we can forget how unreal these unattainable ideals of such kind of manufactured beauty are.

And unfortunately, so has the fashion industry.

As our struggle for thinness grows more aggressive and violent; as we lie under the knife or with our heads down the toilet bowls, as we are hospitalized from starvation, more and more of us will reach – for a time - that size 8 or 10. And as a result, the fashion industry in turn gains even more confidence in selling us sizeism.

Students in fashion schools are taught to cut patterns for only up to a size 10; designers cultivate a taste for celebrating a female body devoid of curves, stripped of fat.

While fashion brands that do venture the task of designing for a more inclusive range of body shapes and sizes can be tainted with the mark of being ‘fat brands’. Curves become for this era NOT sexy. We have developed a strictly defined visual vocabulary that permits us to judge whether someone should feel good about the way they look or not. We have come to assume that someone who is larger than size 10 or 12 is overweight (over whose weight?) or even slightly curvaceous SHOULD be ashamed and should be on a constant diet or at the gym.

Fashion is more than style, it is more than simply protecting the body.

Fashion and clothing permit us to create a relationship between our intimate selves and the rest of the world; it permits us the freedom of being able to select what aspects of our identities we choose to put on display, to mask an to hide. Fashion is a medium for expressing how we feel, for conveying messages as much as it is for comfort.

Consider the distress caused when a woman walks into a shop and cannot find a garment that fits her.

All the doubts or insecurities that she may have had are relentlessly confirmed. She leaves convinced that her body is wrong; that she needs to make some changes to her appearance.

As the fashion industry becomes ever more available with the rise of high street brands and affordable trendy ‘throw away clothes’, it has paradoxically made more women insecure about their appearances.

As styles change and young women in particular are tempted to renew their wardrobes every season, every month, even every week; we absorb the idea that we must constantly change in order to be ‘fashionable’. But this continual flexibility is not simply fun, it inevitably trips us up and the fashion industry simultaneously feeds off of and into our personal most intimate insecurities.

SIZEISM in the fashion industry works on many levels.

It defines certain guidelines for glamour and sexiness. It establishes the size distribution in shops. It influences the visual aesthetic zeitgeist of our times. More seriously though, it goes unquestioned. As we are visually overfed with image after image of air-brushed divas, how often is it that a voice dares to make a stance and challenge the norm?

Beauty doesn’t lie solely in uniformity! Beauty also lies in diversity!

How much more exciting it would be if fashion -and the media that surrounds it- catered to a rich myriad of different beautiful bodies?

If it celebrated curves as well as slenderness? If a cross-cultural vision really prevailed rather than simply being raided. And, can you imagine how wonderful it would be if every woman felt spoiled and celebrated whilst shopping? If all sizes and shapes were catered for?

It’s high time to move on darlings, SIZEISM is so last season.

 - Article by Karishma Chugani

 - Karishma is a fashion designer based in Morocco and member of AnyBody Ltd (copyright 2006)

Reader Comments (13)

Dear Ms. Chugani,

You came to my attention when I was browsing through Dove's campaign for real beauty website. My name is Elizabeth Diane and I am a president of a "New Paradigm For Women" gathering momentum in Canada called Listening With Heart.

Listening With Heart believes that there are so many good people and organizations "out" there doing great things for women but at the moment what we call the female consciousness still remains extremely fragmented. We really need to get together in "joined -up" thinking or sizeism will continue to always be in season.

Ms. Chugani you have a tremendous opportunity as a leader and a trailblazer to change the face of fashion for women worldwide. All it takes is a designer like yourself with a vision that sees women in 360 degree Technicolour. If you begin to plant the seeds think of how many girls and women will benefit. Think of fashion schools that will initiate new lines curriculum that focus on women's personal style and substance, rather than size and the bottom line.

What Listening With Heart is here to teach women is that our thinking makes up the female consciousness. And at the moment our thinking is resonating far too strongly with what we call
"Programming" Too many women continue to ask the question"WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?" when in fact, we should be asking "IS THERE ANYTHING RIGHT WITH THE PROGRAMMING" In particular is there anything right with all of the "Body Programming" that is continually floating around that we must battle on a daily basis.

It is really a paradox that we are asked by the fashion industry to keep up with the trends and change, but only in style, not in size. When you really stop and think about it, when is a young girl ever introduced to the idea that the female body should ever change? Dolls, manicans and models bodies never change, so logic tells a young girl's thinking hey her body shouldn't be changing either. We both know that nothing could be further from the truth. But before they can say "Kindergarten" this groove of thinking is firmly established and the fashion industries and media continue to play on it until it is as wide as it is deep.

The only way to combat the inertia created by the "Programming" is forward momentum. We need to begin to raise the female consciousness one women at a time. As more women begin to step outside of the "Programming" paradigms will shift, doors will swing open and we will resonate with references of our own rare design. Otherwise we risk suffucating midst the smokey rhythm of another's drum, and losing sight of the most valuable resource that you, I and all women possess: OURSELVES.

Keep up the great work! Please look Listening With Heart up. I think Listening With Heart and Any-Body could stir up many ideas together; one thought at a time!

Elizabeth Diane
Listening With Heart
September 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth Diane
Sizeism can be reversed as well, i am a natural size 6 and the looks and horrible comments i get from people, random strangers in the street are shocking, people wouldnt tell a larger person that they are disgusting, so why would it be ok to say that to a thin person? people dont seem to accept that there are naturally thin people out there, and unfortunately it comes across as jealousy on their part i feel everyones healthy shape should be celebrated, large or thin, but thin people are finding themselves vilified by people and press, being told they are disgusting and unattractive. i feel unwelcome at feminist events as i am tall and thin and work in fashion as it happens, i am not accepted because of the way i look in those circles, as i couldnt possibly know anything about the way a "real" womans life feels.
November 21, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnna
Nice post. This is a great information for me. Thanks for sharing.
March 17, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterhigh diet
Sizeism? This is the first time I have heard about it? Fortunately I have never doubt about myself....
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as companies acknowledge the realities of an ageing population, and the high levels of disposable income that middle-aged women now have searching the market for luxury goods. Women are sick of seeing 15-year old girls advertising anti-wrinkle creams it seems.
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This is a great article, and I nejoyed reading it.

It is time love themeslves exactly as they are, regardless of what the fashion industry or the media says.

It is so heartbreaking to see that women suffer because of their weight - yet they have many issues and responsibilities that they deal with in their life time: child bearing, raising a family, contributing to household income, keeping healthy etc.
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