Editor’s Note: The surname of the subject in this article has been omitted to protect her the identity.
20-year-old Rebecca had many struggles regarding her size. Due to her weight, she experienced bullying growing up at the hands of her classmates in person and online. This had a serious effect on her self-esteem.
“Its affected me a lot,” Rebecca said. “Being an overweight kid when I was younger it was hard. I remember I was at lunch, I’d get bullied. Once, I was at lunch and this girl who was my friend at the time she kicked the bench and she told everyone that it was my fat butt that pushed it over.”
When Rebecca posted a photo of herself online, her followers were anything but kind. People would make mean comments by insulting her and telling her she was a fat horse. The negative attention she got online made her feel worse about herself.
“On Facebook, this one kid, he actually commented that he showed his dog my picture and his dog threw up every time he showed him my picture,” Rebecca said.
The torment got so bad that Rebecca nearly resorted to self-harm. Therapy and music helped her feel better and get some of her confidence back.
“I think that’s why I am so attached to Nick Jonas and the Jonas Brothers because they helped me get through one of the darkest times of my life and I will forever be grateful for that,” Rebecca said.
Doing normal tasks can be especially difficult or embarrassing for Rebecca because of her size. She is afraid she is not going to fit into the seats at places such as amusement rides and airplanes.
“Especially on airplanes, I get so scared because it’s embarrassing when you have to have a [seat belt] extender,” Rebecca said.
Rebecca recalled when she and her family went to Universal Studios in Florida. She went onto the Harry Potter ride and stood in the two-hour wait only to be kicked off when she got to the front of the line by the employees. They pulled her aside and had her sit in a demo seat. Since she couldn’t fit, she had to leave the ride and could not go on, even though she fit in the demo seat out front of the ride entrance.
“Going on rides scares me sometimes because I am either afraid I can’t fit or I’m afraid I’ll get stuck. One time, we went on the Star Wars ride and I remember I couldn’t buckle myself and I kind of let it go and bypassed it,” Rebecca said.
Relationships are a struggle for most people. Rebecca has an added fear when trying to find a relationship with a man. She fears that she is not pretty enough for a man to like her.
“Towards a guy, no guys would like me because I’m overweight,” Rebecca said. “They want they skinny girl or curvy girl, not the plus-size girl. I want a guy that likes me for me and I don’t want a creepy guy. There are guys out there that have fetishes [for] fat girls.”
There are some common misconceptions about plus-sized women. Rebecca has experienced a few of them. People think she is mean and intimidating because of her size. She also experienced people believing that she is incompetent and thinks she uses her weight as an excuse to not do things.
“People think I’m a lesbian,” Rebecca said. “They think ‘Oh You’re fat. You’re not going to get a guy, so I’m guessing you’re a lesbian.’”
Through all of her ups and downs, Rebecca is remaining confident in herself. Through inspirations such as Demi Lovato, Kelly Clarkson and Tess Holliday, she knows her self-worth.
“I’ve changed so I know my weight doesn’t define me and I am beautiful just the way I am,” Rebecca said
Rebecca struggles finding clothes in stores that are flattering. The stores she shops at are either really pricey or do not have clothes that make her feel good in her own skin. Other stores lack a plus-size section in general.
Rebecca said, “It’s not fair that people who aren’t plus-size have all these options and basically the whole store, while people who are plus-size only have a small little indent in the store and not enough choices and cheap clothes.”
Clothing stores and sizes
“Some of the struggles I’ve had regarding my size are trying to find the right shirt or pants that fit,” Rebecca said.
According to Statista, in 2015, plus-size clothing was one of the top five fastest-growing fashion segments in the United States.
“Plus-size sections in stores are so little or they don’t exist,” senior gender and body studies major Lauren Stohler said.
Victoria’s Secret and Pink brand does not have a plus-size section at all online or in stores. In their size chart, the largest bra size Victoria’s Secret has available is a 40 DDD, meanwhile Pink’s largest bra size is 36 DDD.
Charlotte Russe in the King of Prussia mall has a tiny corner in the back of the store for their plus-size section. Their sizes run from 00 to 17, extra small to extra-large. Their plus sizes run from 16 to 24 and 1XL to 4XL.
“The major brands that most people shop at are trying to expand on a plus-size section,” said Vanessa Lawrence-Fulton, senior international business major and president of Body Image Coalition.
Abercrombie and Fitch was under hot water in 2013 because former CEO Mike Jeffries told The Salon in 2006 the kind of shoppers they want in their stores and why they don’t have plus-size clothing.
“That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores, because good-looking people attract other good-looking people and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that,” Jefferies said.
Abercrombie and Fitch has since expanded their sizes to include more plus-size sections and hired a new CEO, Fran Horowitz.
“They need to have sizing made and incorporated into each fixture, size zero to 20,” Stohler said.
“I have heard both sides to the argument where it makes plus-size people feel empowered,” Lawrence-Fulton said.
The effect sizes have on women
“The most common [issues people have] are their stomachs. They say they are too fat or not toned enough there,” Vice President of Body Image Coalition Paige Wagner said. “Another one would be their legs and saying they are not toned enough there or their arms.”
Women often see the models in ads and commercials that represent popular brands. This can have a negative effect on women’s body image, especially on girls, teens and young adults. According to Do Something, 58 percent of college-aged girls feel pressured to maintain a certain weight.
“I think models do affect [the way people see themselves],” Rebecca said. “If you look at Victoria’s Secret angels, that’s what people look up to and it sucks because that’s not what the normal person is supposed to look like.”
“Models are 5 feet 9 inches and up so they appear super tall and super slim and beautiful,” Lawrence-Fulton said. “It can make people feel like they should have lighter skin [and] they should be prettier— not necessarily what it means to be beautiful.”
There is not a universal size chart for all clothing, therefore stores and brands come up with their own size charts that will always vary from store to store. If a woman is a smaller size in one store but bigger in another, this can have an effect on her self-confidence.
“It’s very unhealthy that certain brands have qualified sizing differently,” Stohler said. “I could go into one store and I could be a size eight then I could go into another store and be a size 10.”
“They make people alter how they think of their weight and their body image,” Wagner said.