Ashley Graham has been celebrated as one of the world's most successful plus-size models, but she would never call herself that. Graham told CBS Sunday Morning that she doesn't like the word "plus-size" and she'd rather we not use it to describe her.
"I think the word 'plus-size' is so divisive to women," she said in the interview. "I think that when you use the word 'plus-size' you're putting all these women into a category: 'You don't eat well.' 'You don't work out.' 'You could care less about your body.' 'You're insecure.' 'You have no confidence.'
"And that is none of this," she said, pointing to her body.
"The fashion industry may persist to label me as 'plus-size,' but I like to think of it as 'my size,'" she said at the time. "Curvy models are becoming more and more vocal about the isolating nature of the term 'plus-size.' We are calling ourselves what we want to be called — women, with shapes that are our own."
While some people do find power in labels like plus-size, we understand Graham's point. Language is tricky and often the words we use to describe marginalized communities can be rooted in the very ideas that oppress them. Like the word "queer" for LGBTQ+ people, which literally means "strange" and was once a slur, the word "plus-size" implies that there's something not quite normal about the people who we describe that way.
It suggests that there's a normal size range these people fall outside of, rather than an incredibly vast diversity of body sizes. You could make the argument that "plus" simply means greater than the average, but that wouldn't even be true. Some estimates say that the average woman in the U.S. wears a size 16. In stores, plus-sizes start at a 14.
Still, there are plenty of people who do feel comfortable using "plus-size" to describe themselves. So there's nothing wrong with using that word for them. But since Graham has specifically said that she doesn't identify with the word, we suggest using other language to talk about her.
Earlier this year, she told InStyle that she prefers "curvy" or "curve" rather than plus-size. So just remember next time you're talking about Graham that she's not a plus-size model, she's a curvy model.
67% of U.S. women are plus-size. Join as Refinery29 gives these women their own megaphone, doubling down on our commitment as allies, and partnering with them to catapult their powerful conversations into a true historic movement. #WeAreThe67
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