Labels are stitched into the social fabric of our world, but especially so in the microcosm of fashion. Whilst it is damaging to reduce women to sample sizes, abolishing all categorisation is equally problematic. Admittedly, the former sentence might appear problematic in itself, but empowerment is not necessarily bound up in eradication, hence I am not an advocate of the #DropthePlus campaign.
In short, #DropthePlus is a social media campaign that seeks to eliminate the term plus-size, due to its harmful connotations. The campaign is headed by Australian lingerie model Stefania Ferrario and is also keenly backed by author and actress Ajay Rochester. Both women hope to motivate universal reform with an aim to annihilate size apartheid, but I ask why should such differences equate to segregation?
Ferrario encourages women to be your own kind of beautiful – a sentiment that I certainly do not contest. However, I do contest dropping the plus. What we really need to focus on is dropping the slandering of such a label and instead, introducing and sustaining a celebration of it. If we deny our cultural variances, which is what #DropthePlus asks us to do, then we cannot consider how the plus-size label is perceived in society and cannot strive towards treating it in a more prolific and positive manner.
Essentially, #DropthePlus is a masquerade – a masquerade that women are not smaller or larger than one another. Rather than obliterating the boundaries between the mainstream range and the plus size range, we should call for a cultural movement that embodies a diverse and eclectic plus-size fashion industry. We must learn to respect all bodies – inclusive of shapes, skin tone and ages.
#DropthePlus is part of a social and cultural issue and so dropping the plus is not a solution, but rather, a catalyst for the problem of aesthetic discrimination. It is also worth noting that this campaign seeks to challenge the social stigma of being seen as fat (predominantly through an Instagram lens) rather than challenging the stigma of being fat. This is unsurprising, as we live in an age where it is the norm to modify your body with the tap of an app.
Instagram is nothing more than a vacuous cyber world preoccupied with presentation: how people and places look and how they can be enhanced, rather than projecting an accurate depiction of how and what they actually are. I cannot help but arrive at the conclusion that #DropthePlus is not entirely removed from a sense of narcissism.
A model spearheads the campaign: an individual, then, who is deemed beautiful enough by society to make money by simply being. Ferrario captions one of her countless Insta snaps “I am a model FULL STOP. Unfortunately in the modelling industry if you’re above a US size 4 you are considered plus size, and so I’m often labelled a ‘plus size’ model. I do NOT find this empowering… I’m NOT proud to be called ‘plus’, but I AM proud to be called a ‘model’.” Here, she poses in a pair of pants with the words I AM A MODEL scrawled across her toned tummy.
Naturally, I question whether her campaign isn’t totally removed from a bruised ego – a bruising that stems from being associated with the f word. Should we seek to drop the plus in order to make conventionally beautiful women, like Ferrario, feel better about their already culturally approved appearances? There is not a problem with plus, but rather with the cultural panic of being seen and documented as fat. It is this panic that needs to dissipate. Dropping the plus is a futile endeavour.