Edinburgh based plus size style and fat positive blogger AmandaApparel dissects the phrase “I feel fat” in response to plus size supermodel Ashley Graham’s recent interview with People Magazine.
Ashley Graham 101
I highly doubt any of you babes aren’t familiar with Ashley Graham buuuuut, just in case here’s a wee crash course. She’s been on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Self, Cosmopolitan, Vogue, Glamour, and more. She has a load of hustles like her judge gig on America’s Next Top Model, a lingerie line with Addition Elle, a clothing line with Dressbarn, a collab with Swimsuits for All (***AHEM*** Swimsuits up to size 24, ***rolls eyes***), her own Barbie doll, and her recently released book: A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty, and Power Really Look Like (Morris, 2016; Abel, 2017).
So how did Ashley reach international supermodel status? With hard work, dedication, perseverance, and a considerably large dose of privilege. “As a plus size woman, Ashley Graham has a huge amount of privilege. She is a small fat, she is hourglass shaped, she has a flat stomach, she is white, she is conventionally attractive, she is straight. And she doesn’t tend to acknowledge any of this. Many of her interviews focus on how hard her modelling career has been because she is curvy, yet she has been in Vogue and is a darling of the catwalk” (Morris, 2016).
Ashley In The Press
What I aim to examine in this post is the culture that assumes fat is bad, and what it means to feel fat versus actually being fat. I want to be perfectly clear that this is not a personal attack on Ashley’s character. However, because she is heralded as a body positive pioneer and role model, it’s important to hold her accountable for her words. This is particularly necessary when her words can have a negative impact on, harm, or trivialise marginalised groups. Before diving into the “I feel fat” situation, let’s look at a few other instances where Ashley made statements that were problematic at best.
“I believe you can be healthy at any size as long as you’re getting off the couch and moving your body” (Thomason, 2016).
In my previous post ,Regarding Dr. Lush, I discuss health concern trolls and the fact that health is not a moral obligation. To paraphrase, suggesting that everyone is required to pursue this image of perfect health is incredibly ableist. Being healthy is literally impossible for some people. This type of ableist rhetoric can be wildly alienating for people with disabilities. In this quote I believe Ashley is actually referring to fitness rather than health. Sure, promoting fitness can be beneficial, but using the cliched couch potato terminology isn’t helpful for anybody.
“At the end of the day. I just want to be recognized as a model. Yes, I got curves. Yes, I got things that I like to flaunt and talk about and be called curvy, sexilicious, but at the end of the day I don’t want a label.” (Ashley Graham as quoted in Talarico, 2016).
“Now, the fashion industry may persist to label me as “plus size”, but I like to think of it as ‘my size’. In fact, did you know that the plus size fashion industry actually starts at a US size 8? And it goes up to a US size 16. So basically what I’m saying is that the majority of this room right now is considered plus size” (Ashley Graham as quoted in her TedxTalk, 2015).
It’s pretty obvious that Ashley wants to #DropThePlus. Ultimately if every single clothing store catered to all, and I mean ALL sizes, we wouldn’t need the term “plus size.” Until then, I need to know where the heck I can shop. If a store doesn’t have a plus size section, then I can’t shop there. But Ashley wouldn’t really know what that’s like since she’s been modelling H&M’s standard size clothing.
Also, here’s a WILD suggestion I’d like to offer: If you don’t want to be called a plus size model, then don’t accept work from plus size brands. End of.
“I never told my grandparents that the man I was bringing home was black,” writes Graham. “I naively hoped everyone would be color-blind — which is not what happened” (Olya, 2017).
Okay, so I’ll give you the Cliff’s Notes version of this story. Ashley’s spouse Justin Ervin is a black man. Ashley’s racist grandmother was NOT impressed when she first met him, and she perpetually snubbed him at family gatherings. She changed her mind about Justin when he rang up to wish her a happy wedding anniversary. Thank goodness for that, otherwise Ashley’s family would’ve had to have a serious, adult conversation about racism, privilege, and prejudice. This is just a gigantic mess.
“There are some days I feel fat.”
“There are some days I feel fat,” she revealed. “I’m not convinced there’s going to be a moment where every woman in the world wakes up and feels like a million dollars. So, what I want to do is give women the tools that will help when those moments come up. Sometimes it can be as easy as telling yourself that you are beautiful” (Ashley Graham as quoted in Abel, 2017).
I think what Ashley really means is that some days she feels insecure. Maybe some days she feels bloated. Maybe some days she doesn’t feel as confident as other days. These are all feelings that most people can relate to. What makes this statement so infuriating is that fat does not equal insecure. That is a VERY irritating assumption, and it’s wildly irresponsible on Ashley’s part. Your Fat Friend (2016) says “Being fat is never as simple as a feeling. And feeling fat is rarely about the shape or size of a body. Feeling fat is a shorthand. You say it when you feel unattractive, slovenly, lazy, dissatisfied and unsatisfying. My body becomes your shorthand for your shortcomings.”
Ashley refers to herself as a “body activist,” (TedxTalks, 2015) yet she is still making the fat = bad assumption? Okay, so maybe change that label to “socially acceptable body activist” because you’re obviously not here for us fats.
Ashley, if for some bizarre reason you actually read this, PLEASE just keep the words “fat” and “plus size” out of your mouth. I genuinely want to give you the benefit of the doubt. I want to assume your heart is in the right place and that ignorance is the source of your problematic nature. But sis, please LISTEN when people call you out on this stuff. You have to stop just brushing us off as “haters” and playing the victim.
So, who is fat?
“KC: I feel like we’ve got a lot of talking about those lines between where fat starts and like who is fat and the external definition I’m just not with. Like, I can’t. I can’t.
Ariel: No, that’s actually a really good point about who is fat, where does fat start? Maybe where the shape of your body alters how you are received” (Bad Fat Broads, 2016).
When I started drafting this post, I had a clear conclusion in mind. However, this is a much deeper issue than I previously thought. I’ve been doing a lot more reading, and now I think I need a separate blog post dedicated the discussion of who is fat. So instead of my original plan, I’ll leave you with this teaser quote:
“The plight of, say, the plus size model, and the plight of the plus size person are two different things,” (Ariel Woodson as quoted in Richards, 2016).
I don’t feel fat some days, I feel fat every day - Marie Southard Ospina for Bustle
I don’t feel fat; I am fat - Alysse Dalessandro for On The Plus Side
Stop using fat as a synonym for bad - Kerry of Ruby Thunder
Bad Fat Broads Episode Two (AKA return to curvysexylicious mountain)
Your Fat Friend Doesn't Feel Fat - Your Fat Friend for Medium
ABEL, A., 2017. Ashley Graham opens up about confidence: ‘There are some days I feel fat.’ People [online]. [Viewed 07 June 2017]. Available from: People.com
BAD FAT BROADS, 2016. Episode one (AKA your faves are fatphobic). [Viewed 09 June 2017]. Available from: Badfatbroads.com
MORRIS, K., 2017. Ashley Graham is no role model of mine. She Might Be [online]. [Viewed 09 June 2017]. Available from: Shemightbe.co.uk
OLYA, G., 2017. Ashley Graham reveals her family didn’t always accept her interracial relationship. People [online]. [Viewed 11 June 2017]. Available from: People.com
RICHARDS, A., 2016. Bad Fat Broads is a radical body positivity podcast you need to listen to. Bustle [online]. [Viewed 09 June 2017]. Available from: Bustle.com
TALARICO, B., 2016. Ashley Graham: My Sports Illustrated cover is not retouched. People [online]. [Viewed 09 June 2017]. Available from: People.com
TEDXTALKS, 2015. Plus-size? More like my size. [online video]. TEDxBerkleeValencia. [Viewed 09 June 2017]. Available from: YouTube. Transcript available here
THOMASON, K., 2016. 5 Rules for loving your body with model Ashley Graham. Health [online]. [Viewed 09 June 2017]. Available from: health.com
YOUR FAT FRIEND, 2016. Your fat friend doesn't feel fat. Medium [online]. [Viewed 03 August 2017]. Available from: Medium.com