Tuesday, 19 June 2012

What's in a Name?

The following is a part-quote from the 'Usage' section of Wikipedia's entry on 'Big Beautiful Woman':  'Although "BBW" may have been first used in the context of BBW Magazine, the term's usage spread over the years, to the point that even women who had never heard of the magazine began to refer to themselves as "BBWs".

Some women may adopt the term as a personal preference over the term Rubenesque, or full-figured, because they may not necessarily have large breasts or hips. Such terms, and others such as "queen-sized", "plus-sized", or "fat" may lead to feelings of marginalization or non-inclusion for some women. However, some strongly prefer the term fat over other words which they consider unnecessary euphemisms.'

I can't remember where I saw it and whether it was an image or just text, but I recently read something that said something along the lines of don't say "you're not fat, you're _____". I initially agreed with this but then started to doubt my decision...the trouble is, the word 'fat' is associated with negativity - that being 'fat' is a bad (or terrible, rather) thing. Well, I'm taking back the word 'fat' and so are many other people. I AM FAT. Fact. You don't say someone isn't black because there's still racism in the world, so why say I'm not fat because there's still weightism (for want of a better word)? It is what it is, a descriptive term. It shouldn't have to mean 'pretty' or 'ugly' in the same way that 'slim' or 'petite' doesn't (well, I think).

I first came across the term 'plus size' when I first started modelling in 2008. Technically, or as far as the modelling industry is concerned, the term is meant to apply to size 12 and above (to a 16-18 really). There are two issues with this - firstly, this means that ALL sizes over a 12 are represented typically by size 12-14 models, which is a significant misrepresentation. Secondly, there are some people who dislike anyone outside of said category using the term 'plus size' - I have seen it said many a times that 'fat' or 'obese' models are not 'plus size'. It annoys me that, as a size 22-24 model, it would appear to some people that I should market myself an obese/fat model instead of as plus size. Slim models don't market themselves as slim, models under 5'8" don't market themselves as short....it seems pretty one-sided and 'anti' to me. Larger models get a lot more 'stick' for breaking the mould than non-conventional smaller models do. Until there is a legitimate non-discriminatory category to apply to my modelling, I shall continue to use 'plus size' as a category and descriptive term, particularly as 'plus size' in the fashion world in general is used in what I would consider to be an appropriate way.

Last but not least...'BBW' or 'big beautiful woman' is a relatively new term in my view. It is being used more frequently and more positively than before, however, it still seems to be predominantly used by the adult entertainment industry (you only need to use google or look at the BBW tag on Tumblr to evidence this). I didn't really refer to myself as a BBW until I attended Big Girls Paradise in May 2012, and I only tend to use it online. As a term in general though, I like it - it doesn't seem to carry any negativity but instead celebrates the beauty of big women.

Whilst we're on the subject of names and descriptors...I may as well include a little bit about 'name calling' - or rather, bullying. I was bullied throughout the entirety of my childhood and only really escaped it when I left my home town (finding that those who bullied me in school would now bully me in the streets, in town, college, etc). I was called a lot of things, including Miss Piggy and Kelly Osbourne. I was mostly bullied because of my size and lack of feminine figure (or lack of breasts, to be honest). I find I get verbal abuse on the odd occasion even now, but it rarely happens and now it doesn't really bother me - if anything I get a bit annoyed rather than upset. I love Miss Piggy and find the relation hilarious now (can't say the same about Kelly, but not for any particular reason)...and in short, you can call me what you like, as I will more than likely use the word(s) myself. I have come to accept and start to love who I am and that includes being fat, plus size, a BBW, obese, big, large, whatever. I just hope that one day we can drop the negativity associated with some of these terms and be happy to be the way we are.

Image © Lauren French (Model: Big Fat Betty).


  1. You make some really interesting points about the word 'fat' it's self and I think in a lot of ways your right. At first I react quite harshly to the word be only because of the negative associations with it, as a general when someone calls you 'fat' they're trying to hurt you in some way but the fact is that it's just a descriptive term the same way 'short' is.
    Personaly I would rather call my self 'fat' or cruvy then obese, plus size or overweight as a lot of those terms feel as if they're talking about a measurement of something or an object rather then a person....and last time I check I am a person.
    I shall join you in taking back the word 'fat'! :)

    1. Just coming back to this post & realised I replied but didn't hit 'reply', so sorry if you didn't see it! Here's what I said:

      Thanks for your comment :)

      It's a whole other kettle of fish but a similar thing happens with the word 'gay' - particularly as some younger generations have branded their own meaning of the word, but I won't get into a debate about that...there are many words that we need to take back!

      Yes, whatever we are...we are people. We are human. As such we should be treated as equal, regardless of [insert any descriptive here].

      I am glad you are joining ;) someone needs to start a campaign lol x

  2. I love your picture. The first time I ever heard of BBW was 2-3 years ago, and to be honest, I just do not have a good connotation of that term. Most of the time that I see that, it is in a filthy almost pornographic type of content if it is not outright pornographic, and I just cannot get down with that terminology-but that's only my personal experience with it.

    1. Thanks Cheriz :) it kind of has the same connotations for me too as it is used a lot in the adult industry, however I think being involved in events such as Big Girls Paradise who use the term 'bbw' in a more positive way has made me have two views of the word and I can see both sides of its usage if that makes sense.