Big Women

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I just found out (by looking at the clothes that are being auctioned off at Clothes Off Our Back) that Meryl Streep wears a size 10. Now I would be thrilled if I wore a ten–I haven’t been that small since I was 15–but apparently that’s considered to be at the top of the acceptable size for women. (Think The Devil Wears Prada where Ann Hathaway is told that she’s too large at size 6!)

As further proof that size 10 is considered to be “large” see Scanner’s Top 10 Hottest Women Size 10 and Up. Apparently the people who made up this list had a hard time coming up with 10 women who are larger who are considered to be hot. Personally, I think there are a lot more out there (see the comments section for more candidates), but what really makes my blood boil is that some of the women are so thin, the compilers had to reassure us that they are indeed at least size 10s. If a woman looks slim, what difference does it make what size they wear?

I heard recently (I don’t know where) that designers have changed size designations so that women think that they are smaller than they really are. That would explain the explosion of 0s and 2s that have appeared on the scene in recent years. There is even a double zero! Such sizes didn’t even exist when I was younger. So either women have gotten a lot skinnier (which we know isn’t true) or the designers have indeed changed the sizes. The bad news is that if that’s true all across the board, I’m really wearing at least a size 18 instead of the 16 that I already haven’t been happy about.

American women are supposed to wear an average of size 14. I’m larger than that, but I’ve been told that I look good the way I am, even if I do need to lose some weight. The Learning Channel’s What Not to Wear has done a lot for heavier women by showing them that they can look great, too. The part I like best about the show is when the women who have been made over say how much this has changed their outlook about themselves. Just little things like the right makeup, hairstyle and clothes can make them feel more confident.

This is where I break ranks with some feminists who say that a woman shouldn’t be judged by the way she looks. Of course she shouldn’t be (neither should men) but that doesn’t mean that she has to devalue herself by not wearing makeup, never getting her hair done or wearing unflattering clothes. Externals do make a difference in how we feel about ourselves. This is a physical world, after all.

I think a woman’s personality should be what we base our opinions of her on, but sometimes we don’t have the opportunity to get to know her personality. So we go by what we see. If a woman is “big” but makes herself look as good as she can, she gives the impression that she feels good about herself. That makes us want to get to know her personally. Soon, the fact that she’s heavy is as unimportant as her shoe size. It’s just one thing about her.

I don’t mean to give the impression that a woman is valueless unless she becomes “eye candy.” It’s healthy to accept our imperfections, but it’s even healthier to see the good about ourselves. And anything we can do to emphasize our positive qualities–whether physical or psychological–is in our best interests. It sends a message to the world: if I think I’m worth it, you will, too.

Being big is not the problem. Not being good to yourself, not projecting the best image you can to the world–that’s the problem. We need to discover and display our strengths and the weaknesses will fade out of sight.

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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