#DropThePlus. #PlusIsEqual. #IAmSizeSexy.
Somehow over the past 90 years, from the time that retailers like Lane Bryant and Evans were getting started until today, the term "plus size" became a hotly contested term, the source of hashtags and a symbol of our culture's uneasy relationship with bigger bodies. Now advocates, models and celebrities debate whether it is offensive, empowering or should be dropped altogether.
For some, "plus size" is a marginalizing term that embodies society's fat-shaming tendencies. As Melissa McCarthy put it to Refinery29, "You're taking your biggest category of people and telling them, 'You're not really worthy.'" That's the sentiment behind the #DropThePlus campaign, which argues that modifiers like "plus" alienate bigger shoppers and reinforce skinny-as-norm. It's also why ModCloth recently dropped its plus-size category.
On the other hand, as Lane Bryant's #PlusIsEqual campaign implies, "plus" can also be reclaimed in empowering ways. Size 22 model Tess Holliday says she takes no offense to the term "fat," and model Candice Huffine told a crowd at a big Lane Bryant event in Times Square that they're "redefining" the label.
But those are models, who are the ones most often asked to sound off on the term. What do noncelebrity shoppers, the ones who regularly wear plus-size clothing, really feel about it? To find out, Mic asked our Tumblr followers what they think about the term "plus size."
Here's what they had to say.
On the simplest level, stripped of its implications, "plus size" could be just a useful way to organize clothing.
"I think the term is okay when it comes to finding clothing sizes (coming from someone who is plus size), but I think plus-size models should just be considered models." — tesfaye-renae
"I prefer the term 'plus size' over 'large.' Though I did see a great sign one time that said, 'We carry sizes pixie to goddess,' which I thought was pretty fantastic." — howfetching
"I don't mind it; it makes finding my clothes easier. But it's not the reality of American (especially women's) sizes." — deletethiswhenimdead
But given society's body standards, the term is often a euphemism for judgments about size.
"I personally think the term 'plus size' simply means the size of clothing is larger than the usual sizes a store may carry. But there is an underlying stigma about someone who wears 'plus-size' clothing is also linked to the negative connotations of terms such as 'fat,' 'obese' or 'unhealthy.'" — obviously-my-evil-twin
"The term 'plus size' is used as a categorizing term, in the terms of identifying fashion sizes, but could be seen as a marginalizing term when it comes to the exception for average sizes in the industry." — vdeolikes
"I think plus-sized is used by clothing stores to segregate the 'pretty' girls and clothes from the large, 'ugly' ones. I think the media uses it in a similar way." — dont-know-what-im-doing-anymore
Separating out people of certain sizes marginalizes and shames them.
"I don't like that word. 'Plus size' ... makes me wanna put a bag over my head whenever I go clothes shopping." — blueeegirl19
"It's a segregationist tool to keep the 'cute, skinny' girls from having to shop next to the chubby girls. And you know what? IT'S SO UNCOOL. Everyone should do like Maurices and offer a ton of sizes already IN STORE, not online only." — notstandingstillsdisease
"As a target of 'plus' sizes, I often get the feeling that it's a bit of alienating like, there are the regular size[s] and there are the 'plus' size[s] [because] fat [people] are something else, of course! I think we should change the word or just not use it anymore." — showtimebanana
"I find it unnecessary. If we can get rid of gendered sections for toys and clothes, we can get rid of the 'plus size' section. I mean, sizes already go up on the rack itself, do we need to be separated? Like, 'Oh, the fatty corner is over there. Fetch.'" — wolfy-nixus
It's also kinda sexist.
"Plus size seem[s] to be only used for women; men get "big and tall" instead. As a clothing retail worker, it seems to me that 'plus sizes' are the additional sizes that [are] several standard deviation[s] out of the mean. I don't like it." — phatedeath
"I think size should just stay in universal numbers, whether 'male' or 'female' clothes. Those measures should be regulated to be the same accross brands. Like shoe size in parts of Asia being the actual length of your foot in millimeters." — comicula
"Terrible, awful, the worst, othering and only applies to women. Fuck that term." — losertakesall
After all, does anyone even know what "plus size" means?
"Who decides where the cut off point is? How do you decide what size is normal? Clothes should be available in every size without the suggestion that if you're bigger, you're different." — personnumber4
"Where is the line drawn between plus size and other sizes? More importantly, why is that distinction so enigmatic, and who makes it so? Some people might consider a size 8 'plus size,' others may say a 22. Why do we need to establish an 'other'?" — bunrobot
"'Plus' compared to what? Why do we need to call anything 'plus' sizes? Can't we just let the size labels talk? 'Plus size' should mean larger than average; it's not accurate if the average person falls into that size range. Do we have 'minus' sizes?" — still-rachel
"TBH I wonder what size they are thinking is being plussed. Is it just 'above average'? Is it a synonym for 'extra large'?" — mirabellehunter
If "plus size" is supposed to be above average, then we're ignoring the reality.
"So many women are 'plus-sized' now that the media and stores need to evolve. Expand your thinking and your selection, so maybe one day there might be more than one physical store in my area where I can buy clothes my size. Women don't stop at size 12." — princessasskicker
"Plus size is separated as to those who are considered normal as opposed to the actual average. Not everyone is a 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10, yet fashion has loved those sizes for a long time." — bunbi3
Why do we need to create categories at all? Why can't we just have sizes?
"Why can't we just have the larger sizes along with the REST of the sizes? Most stores don't have a petite section." — wrecklyss
"There is no sign in the store section 'normal size.' Just keep all sizes on the same rack, and let me find one that fits without labeling it 'plus' or not." — maja-ela
"Measurement in science is without value judgement. It's accounting in the physical world. A kilometer is not sexier than a meter. A gram is not hunkier than a ton. Why should the size of people be classified subjectively instead of objectively?" — 9bnog
"No distinction needs to be made. Put the clothes on the rack in order of size. It really is that simple." — myactivism