If you’ve been on TikTok recently, you’ve probably been met with countless women referring to themselves as ‘midsized’. The #midsize hashtag has amassed over 4 billion views — including ‘get ready with me’ videos, fit checks and OOTD content. There’s a clear point to be made — the people in these videos are not fat and they’re not thin. But is the term ‘midsize’ beneficial — or is it actually doing more harm than good?
A quick Google search reveals that there isn’t a clear size for who is defined as midsize. Some websites say that to be classified as midsized, you have to be an Australian size 10-16. Others say the term should be reserved for people who are a size 14-18 or even a size 16-20. It’s clear that despite the term’s popularity, there are still some basics that are yet to be fleshed out.
But with so many differing opinions about what midsize looks like, I don’t think we can expect this label to provide anyone with a sense of clarity or belonging. In my opinion (and that of countless others) the term feels like a big “fuck you” to fat people.
Let me explain.
As someone who has worn every number in the midsize spectrum, I believe that a person who is a size 10 and a person who is a size 20 navigates the world very differently.
Throughout my teen years, I wore a size 8-10. I was completely burnt out thanks to a combination of anxiety, depression and hypervigilance. My body physically could not put on weight. But while my life was hard, shopping for clothes wasn’t. I knew I could walk into nearly any shop and find something that fit me.
But as I went into my twenties, I was put on antidepressants. Like many, my body changed and I was soon a size 10-12, occasionally a 14. By today’s standards, I was technically midsize. Yet, I had the luxury of shopping in physical, brick-and-mortar, straight-sized stores. I didn’t dread going to the doctor for fear of being asked to get on the scales. I never worried if my body was taking up too much space on public transport. I benefited from thin privilege.
But at the same time, I still felt the isolation that came with existing in a size 14 body. I experienced very intense body dysmorphia and would often feel anxious about wearing anything tight or skimpy. I couldn’t help but be aware of the differences between myself and my friends — them with their thin, column-shaped bodies, and me with my pendulous boobs and a wobbly bum. I couldn’t see my body in the people surrounding me or in the pages of magazines.
Because of this, I understand the appeal of seeking a community of people that look like you. I understand the solace that can come with seeing people who look like you on the screen. I empathise with people who find the term ‘midsize’ as healing.
But as I inhabit my body as it is now — a size 16 on the top and a size 20 in bottoms — I find the term ‘midsize’ really troubling.
The modern body acceptance movement owes a lot to the fat liberation movement of the 1960s, which kicked off after 500 people met in New York's Central Park to protest against anti-fat bias. Like feminism, fat liberation has gone in waves. Nowadays, it is continued by online creators such as Tess Holliday and Alex Light, who preach body positivity and body neutrality. While the fat liberation movement has empowered fat people and broken medical and social stigmas surrounding a person’s weight, I’m not sure the same can be said about the midsize movement.
In fact, many people would argue that it only marginalises fat people even further.
To be clear, my issue isn’t with semantics. I’d even say that the term makes sense when it’s applied to people who are sizes 14-16 as they’re statistically the average size of an Australian woman. When you’re this size, you gamble on stores stocking your size — and if they do, the styles often aren’t made for our body shapes. Trust me, I’ve been there.
But when the label is applied to people in the size 10-12 range, it feels far more problematic. And I'm not the only one who feels this way. In a TikTok video, one creator addressed a criticism that has long been held against the term midsize.
@gaydoodlebear There’s a lot more here #fatliberation #fatpositive #lgbtq #queer #bopo #midsize ♬ original sound - Sarah
“I understand there’s a need to want to find be able to find other folks who share a similar experience because of what your body type or size is, but there is already language that exists to talk about the fatness of your body that are linked to fat liberation.”
The language they refer to is the fatness spectrum, with terms such as small fat (size 18 and lower), mid fat (20-24), superfat (26-32) and infinifat (34 and higher). Each of these terms was created to address the type of lived experience you have based on your body size.
But many have critiqued the midsize movement for purposefully distancing themselves from the word ‘small fat’ — a word that would, in all likelihood, encapsulate their bodily experience. For them, midsize is inherently fatphobic.
“When someone says ‘midsize’, all I hear from them is that they’re trying their best to distance themselves from fatness.”
With definitions of midsize ranging from a size 12-20, it’s safe to say the majority of people fall into this midsize category. But the need for people to have their own dedicated size label simply feels like another way to stigmatise and exclude fat people. It says that they need a label to purposefully distance themselves from fat bodies. “Don’t lump me in with them,” it reads. If you exist in a fat body like I do, you now lament that not only are you not thin, but you’re also not average now either.
Though the term midsize makes me wince, I don’t know what the solution is. It’s human nature to want to belong to a group — it’s quite literally wired into us for survival. As humans, we crave a sense of community and need to feel like we’re understood. If a label helps provide that for people, then I support it to some degree. But I believe that we need to use the term thoughtfully, especially with the term’s meaning rapidly evolving and expanding.
It’s not my favourite descriptor but I’m not sure if I have any better alternatives. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need labels to differentiate ourselves from one another but that’s an absurd, laughable idea. Maybe in another lifetime.