I was shopping with some birthday money a couple of weeks ago and came across something new. I knew sizes were getting smaller in UK shops from shopping online, but it wasn’t until I saw a nice sparkly top in Primark that I had a closer look and realised that instead of 8 being the smallest size, lots of little tiny 6s were at the front of the rack.
Now, hear me out. I’m not hating on anyone who is just naturally very small. At all. I’d love for everyone to feel validated in their own body and not judged by the beauty industry or pop culture or other people. For being curvy or slim.
But the very thin people I know have been able to dress in size 8 for years. Just as I can’t buy Zara trousers, some fits are better than others. All in all though, it hasn’t been a problem.
Rather, I think high street stores making size 6 (and smaller?) mainstream is a symbol of, again, the thin ideal making its way into much more than our haute couture catwalks.
WIth songs like All About That Bass hitting the waves, I know that some smaller people feel that their lack of curves is now being ridiculed. I understand the frustration at that, but would argue that the balance is still in the favour of small people. There is still a bias against people who are not model-skinny in print, film, (most) songs and that pollutes society as well, and because that has been the case for decades now (and has caused a lot of harm), we need to be sensitive in discussing any change. I don’t think small people should experience body-shaming either, though. We need to move past any form of body-shaming and quit objectifying people, submitting them to ridiculous standards designed to make people unhappy (remember, that is the plan: most industries are built on the lie that you do not have/are not enough and therefore need them to be better…as you are hooked in, you chase goods they promise but will never deliver, in order to keep business going!)
To be honest with you, I got sucked into that when I was shopping. I felt threatened when I saw that I was no longer the smallest size Primark had on offer. I thought about the high I would get if I tried the size 6 top on and fit into it; or what I needed to do to be able to breeze past the rails and collect tiny 6s for my wardrobe. That is ridiculous for someone smaller than the national average, and quite literate in the healthy body image narrative. I’m vulnerable, and I don’t like that.
I want to be small. I want to buy the smallest size. Is that desire, that thin…or small ideal, all down to the fat v skinny game?
I don’t think so. In fact, I think we need to move past that to looking at something much less polarising and much more nuanced than that.
It doesn’t just concern big women or small women. It involves all women. We are being reduced.
When it comes to our body shapes, we must slim, tone down, lose fat, get lean, be lighter, shrink, make everything smaller – except for breasts or derrieres – but then that would be for the enjoyment of other people, of course.
We must use bronzer to make our noses look narrower, our cheeks sharper and thus our faces slimmer, our jaws darker to get rid of those potential (often invisible) chins.
We must shave, bleach wax, laser, pluck all of our hair off – regardless of personal preference.
We must not be our age – we must fade, reduce, turn back the clock, pay big money for creams with impressive-sounding ingredients that are fancy ways of saying nothing, go under the knife to halt our bodies’ natural progress.
We are called ‘girls’, way past our 12th birthdays.
We are encouraged to be mouse-like, ‘quiet’ and ‘gentle’, praised for our accommodating ‘sweetness’, scorned if we refuse to smile at total strangers.
We sit in crumpled-up positions on public transport while (some) men spread out their legs. We must lie rigidly, in tiny straight lines, under the arms of the sprawled-out male partners we all have in bed (ever noticed those images?!)
Sometimes, it isn’t even about small and big anymore. We grow up idolising fairies, magical, ethereal, light, sparkly…not real. Our life-giving cycles are taboo, it is expected that we will suffer pain to be ‘beautiful’, we must suppress our humanity – we should not be real, not be human at all.
We are here to enchant, to be beheld, to seduce, to please.
(All of those verbs rely on other people to exist, and indeed only benefit them.) We are here only for others.
We must take up less space.
We must be lighter, smaller, quieter…
…until we disappear?
No. No more.
I have every right to be here. To take up space. To be seen, and to be heard. To get out of the hamster wheel of feeling not-good-enough. To be untrapped. To be healthy. To be my size. To do what I want with my face and body and hair and voice and interests and opinions and dreams and goals…and to enjoy them. To be me, a woman, a human.
So whether you are a size 6 or a size 26, don’t be small. Use your space. Make yourself heard. Be known. Nail that presentation. Express that opinion. Expand your interests. Grow. Discover. Risk. Lead. Develop.
Occupy your space, your voice, your time, your body…
(Unfortunately this does still have to be said – women occupying their space will not mean that men will have less space, or that they should feel intimidated, or that women being all they can be is an attack on them. There is room for everyone, and we are all better off when we, man or woman, are fully ‘us’ and others, men or women, are fully ‘them’.)