Thursday, November 6, 2008

Wise: Jill Andrew

In this column in which women share their dreams, challenges, and thoughts about the issues and trends related to being a BBW and/or a woman of color, author Jill Andrew discusses how every woman should be made to feel beautiful, regardless of size.

Last month I was on the train heading into CastleFrank station when I saw an ad campaign from Jenny Craig promoting none other than weight loss.

The Ad stated, “Do you want to change your underwear this year?” Pictured was an image of the quintessential cotton, moo-moo, “granny”, full-coverage underwear number that appeared to be able to fit myself and everyone else on the train in it.

And of course this was juxtaposed with the tres sexy, lacey, racy thong. Go figure, right? Another social reminder pushing the message that my “gluteus maximus” is not sexy. No. I do not want to change my underwear this year! “Stop force feeding me these ideas”, I thought. “I’m not buying”.

At the same time I happened to notice a young woman, about twenty-five, just about to occupy a seat between two gentlemen (Gentlemen? That’s arguable).

This girl was a plus-size beautiful vision. With great taste in stilettos, I might add.

The look these two idiots gave her was astonishing.Like a student in an OSAP repayment line, they looked at her with sheer disgust. It was as if she was invading their space, their world by simply sitting next to them. You would have thought She must have had anchovies and onions stuck to her coat!

The men kept shifting and turning, making sure everyone knew just how uncomfortable they were and more importantly, just how “out of her place” she must have been to think for a moment that she had a right to a seat on their thrown.Her face turning red, and her legs squeezed so tight as though a winning lottery was hiding there, the embarrassment was clear.

Gosh, my heart rate was racing!

She graciously stood up and held a pole until her stop arrived. The men with a look of relief, looked around to find an “audience” for their pathetic behaviour. That was my moment to say something, to take a stand.

And you know what? I choked.

The lady was at the pole, I’m looking around--my disgust about the situation painfully clear, and I could not find the words.

By the time I had come to my senses, we were at Yonge. It was time to get off, time to turn my head and go on with the day as if nothing had happened.

Would you believe it if I told you that I met the same woman on my way home? Okay, I didn’t. But the experience coupled with the Jenny Craig underwear ad was on my mind for the entire day.

Of course I am not here to say that nothing has changed. Sure, we are possibly more alert now maybe more than any other decade about the manipulations of the beauty ideal, but nonetheless we are still buyers of the raw deal.

Ps. To the lady on the bus…I apologize for my silence because in that moment, I was no better than those 2 ‘gentlemen’ were.

____________________________________________________________________ Taken from the in-progress manuscript of “Phat Girls in Search of a Pretty World: Hot Lil’ Fat Chicks Speakin’ Out"—a qualitative anthology of women’s experiences with size and identity in a real twiggy-obsessed kinda world. For more information contact Jill Andrew at or

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