“I Am Done Apologising For The Way I Look”
We’re celebrating Love Yourself Month all of February on Hauterfly. Apart from a fun series on cool things to do and buy to show yourself some love, we’ll have some of our favourite #GirlBosses tell you a little something about loving yourself a little more. How’s that for self-love and self-expression? #LoveYourself
When you spend more than half your life living in a fat body, you systematically get conditioned to seeing yourself the way the world views you. As much as you want to, there comes a time where you cannot disassociate yourself from the larger cultural narrative that is associated with plus size women.
Especially the way the Indian fashion industry perceives it. While the world has started to get vocal about body positivity and acceptance of various body types, India is still sitting on the sidelines, occasionally celebrating the ‘curvy’ or ‘chubby’ woman. As a country that is the third most obese in the world, it is extremely important to have regular dialogues about body diversity and body positivity. The need of the hour is to break age-old stereotypes and prejudices and educate people rather than body shame those who don’t fit people’s ideals of perfection. We cannot have yet another generation going to war with their own bodies and trying to conform in a world that worships being thin.
I am fat and I am OK with it.
For a little over two decades, I tried every trick in the book to not be me. Not that there was anything wrong with me per se. The problem was with me being a fat girl in a fat-hating world. You see, when I was growing up, there was no bigger insult that being called fat. There was always that occasional fat joke thrown my way. Or random remarks made about my size and weight. There were times when people would stop seeing me as Amena, a human being, and see me as an object that needs to be mocked solely because of her shape. If they had nothing to tell me, they would throw a fat slur my way. One that would cut me off at the knees and transform me from feisty to fragile.
Anyone who has been on the opposite side of being conventional thin has experienced fat-shaming in some way or another. They can tell you instances of being bullied, put in a corner, and made to feel like they don’t belong. There comes a point when the voices outside your body get so loud that you eventually start believing them. I let those voices control me for far too long until it became a matter of sink or swim. I chose to swim the tide of fat shaming and make it to the other side. And I am glad I did. Once you let go of self-shaming, you start seeing life from a new perspective.
Over the years, ‘fat’ has lost its negative connotations for me. Now, it is just another word, an adjective, that describes me. I see fat and thin purely as descriptive words. They are not an abomination nor an aspiration. I don’t get offended when someone calls me fat. Nor do I get happy when someone says, “You’re looking thin”. I’m done with body shaming.
Yes, a plus-size fashion blogger is a real thing.
In my rookie days as a fashion blogger, someone politely asked, “Are you a fashion blogger? You don’t look like a fashion blogger!” The blatant assumption that fashion bloggers are all the same size — aka thin — is a biassed generalisation that needs calling out.
Personal style blogging started as a way to express without necessarily using words. It gave women and men of all shapes, sizes, colour, and race a space to share their style and views. The bedrock of fashion blogging is diversity, and to exclude plus-size bloggers from having a point of view is unfair. For every fashion magazine that reinstates that style comes in only one size, blogging offers an alternative narrative. After years of believing that nothing will flatter my fat body expect tunic top and leggings, I was finally free to make sartorial choices as I pleased. Blogging empowered me to wear what every fashion magazine had denied me for years.
Can I have some clothes, please?
When I decided to make the switch from fashion designing to fashion blogging, I knew it would be different and difficult. During my early blogging days, I loved attending collection previews. Not only did you get to see the new collection before everyone else, you also got to try it. I was overjoyed with the idea. Soon enough though my enthusiasm turned into discomfort because most brands never had anything that would fit me. “Sorry, we just don’t keep anything in your size. Would you like someone else from your team to wear this instead?”
Earlier, I would say it’s all good and agree to just pose with the clothes rather than wear them. Today, I say a firm no. If I don’t get my size, then I don’t care to be a part of the promotion. On many occasions, I’ve asked brands why they aren’t plus-size inclusive; after all, there are women over size 14 in India. Most of then are polite and say “Good suggestion!” and move on. However, one brand manager was brutally honest with me and said, “No offense but we don’t want fat people to be seen in our clothes. That wouldn’t go down well with our core audience.”
This was a major wake-up call for me. I’d been indirectly promoting brands that choose to look at me and women like me as less than equal, unworthy even, of their clothes. To think that plus-size women wearing their clothes would bring down their brand’s value is not only discriminatory but also incredibly offensive.
Ever since then, I’ve stopped associating with brands like that. As a matter of principle, I cannot promote something that does not believe in diversity. One can look at their choice as a preference, not a prejudice. But imagine if they said the same thing for race or gender — that their clothes are only for white people or straight people? Would we still look at it as a preference?
As a blogger, I have the freedom to pick and choose who I want to work with. And I choose not to work with brands that are not democratic about size. I am hoping 2016 is the year the Indian fashion industry embraces body diversity and becomes body positive. I long for a time where it will be normal — and not ground-breaking — for brands and magazines to feature plus-size women and men.
The effort for equal representation of thin, regular and plus-size bodies is a must. The only way we can end body shaming is by normalising all kinds of bodies instead of glorifying a specific type. It has taken me a few years to undo years of self-shaming — to be able to look in the mirror and be okay with what I see. The journey has been tough, but the end result has been the best thing that has happened to me.
I am okay with being fat and a plus-size fashion blogger. I am proud of all that I have achieved with the limited options. I am done apologising for the way I look. I have made peace with who I am.
About time everyone else does the same.
Amena Azeez is a plus-size fashion blogger and you can find more of her writings on her blog Fashionopolis.