On Friday, “Insatiable,” a drama about an overweight, bullied teenager who slims down after a punching incident leaves her with a jaw wired shut, becomes a cliched object of desire and proceeds to enact her revenge fantasies on the classmates and society who wronged her, had its premiere on Netflix.
This, despite a flurry of protests from people who feel it “perpetuates not only the toxicity of diet culture, but the objectification of women’s bodies.”
Or so said a petition on Change.org signed by more than 226,000 asking the streaming service not to air the show. There is also, in the way of these things, a petition to stop that petition, though as of Wednesday it had only nine signatures. The show, however, aired.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Lauren Gussis, the show’s creator, said she hoped people would watch the series because the message was actually the exact opposite of what was assumed, focusing on the need to feel comfortable in your own skin, no matter what.
We’ll see if viewers agree, but either way size-ism, and body positivity will be at the center of the conversation once again.
And with it, questions of what is valued in society, how women perceive their bodies (and how their bodies are perceived) and how fashion perpetuates the problem by engaging in seemingly illusory, inconsistent and exclusionary sizing that ignores an enormous part of the population, discombobulates the rest and fosters a negative culture of judgment.
It’s a fraught, intensely personal discussion. But one way to begin to address it may be to ask whether, as far as the size issue goes — the way bodies are numerically labeled — it’s time to rethink the whole thing. After all, as we all know, it long ago ceased to make any sense.
Janice Wang, the chief executive of Alvanon, a Hong Kong company that uses technology to update fit patterns to adapt to contemporary body types, said each size varies 1 to 2.5 inches depending on the brand.
“Women’s sizing is arbitrary,” she said.
Lots of articles have been written about the absurdity that any given person can be a size 0 in one brand, a 4 in another and an 8 in another (or a 32 or 38 or 40 if we’re being European, or a 6 or 10, say, if in England). Despite the silliness of that, the fact that the sizes can be anything at all is indicative of what Cora Harrington, the founder of the Lingerie Addict, recently called out in a viral tweet storm as “thin privilege.”
Because annoying as it is, that person is still able to find clothes that fit in pretty much any place they wander into, even if the sizes vary, which is not true of women size 14 and up.
Which is itself ridiculous given that the average American woman now wears clothing in size 16 to 20, according to a study in the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education.
Increasing numbers of brands are attempting to rectify the situation. Universal Standard, ModCloth and Wildfang, to name a few, offer the same styles in every size between “straight” or “missy” and “plus” to cater to as many women as possible.
As of next month, Good American, the contemporary fashion brand founded by Emma Grede and Khloe Kardashian, is going even further, adding a size 15 to its roster, which runs from 00 to 24.
The two most popular sizes are 00 and 18. Wait, 15? Yes. A size that until now did not exist.
“We discovered that between 14 and 16, we were seeing 50 percent more returns than in any other size range,” Grede said. “So we started to look at the data and realized that this was the tipping point between missy sizing and plus sizing, and that step change in patterns was too extreme.”
So, because there is no absolute in sizing, or has not been since World War II, the women were free to invent it. It took a full year, around eight prototypes and 200 sample women who were measured, tested and assessed.
Why not throw out the numerical size scale entirely and replace it with something else?
Not throw out the system — we do need different options. We have different bodies, after all. But jettison what has become poisonous, politicized and generally confusing terminology.
The #Droptheplus movement was a beginning, but what if we took the next step? The simplest may be to take another cue from math and replace the numbers with the alphabet. Render them variables. There isn’t baggage associated with that.
“I wear a K” sounds a lot more abstract than, say, “I wear a 10.” I’m a G? It sounds, as meaningless as it is. Yes, everyone would have to try things on to figure out what actually fits.
But we have to do that anyway. At least this way, we’d all know exactly how little we actually knew.