Thursday, March 1, 2012

We're Normal Too!

I love seeing my fellow plus size sisters on TV. When Big Sexy premiered on TLC last year, I was so excited that there was a show that would be showing plus size girls who live in the city and **gasps** actually live their lives like their skinny counterparts. However, despite this great change, I am still left to feel like I want more. I feel like while we are moving in the right direction, we are not there yet. While Big Sexy was a great show, the girls cast in that show don’t represent all plus size women. I didn’t identify with anyone on that show at all.

I often wonder, why is it that lately every show that has a plus size woman in it features her as one of the following:
  • Unhappy with her size, has low self-esteem and spends the TV show trying to lose weight or being depressed about her life.
  • Overeating and making jokes about her size where the show is centered around her as the butt of jokes.
  • A plus size model or stylist
Now while I have no problem with plus models, not all of us plus size women are models. Some of us are teachers, writers, lawyers, housewives, even activists. As a matter of fact, I would LOVE to see a reality show featuring some size acceptance folks and what they go through with actively protesting and speaking publicly about size-related issues. But I digress…

I just feel like we are being labeled and put in this box as far as TV is concerned. We’re normal too! It’s as if we’ve gone backwards in relation to plus size women on TV because of the rising popularity of reality shows. Remember Camryn Manheim on The Practice? It was a great show where she was playing the role of an attorney. She was the only plus size woman on the show but she was still treated just like everyone else and her size was not something that was emphasized.

Drop Dead Diva is another show that has a plus size female character in the lead role. What’s great about Drop Dead Diva is that it does not shy away from the real issue that we, as plus size women, face daily…the stereotyping and loathing from society. For those of you that have not seen Drop Dead Diva, the premise of the show is inner beauty. An inspiring thin model dies in a car crash and comes back to life in the body of a plus size lawyer. Being in this new body teaches the model that outer beauty isn’t everything.

I remember looking so forward to when Living Single aired because seeing Queen Latifah and Kim Coles on a sitcom was wonderful. I can see myself in those characters and they were normal women, living life. It was empowering and inspiring to see these characters on TV.

However, TV is now overloaded with reality shows. I will admit that I am guilty of watching some of them. And I will also admit that when I see a plus size woman on a reality show, I get happy. I root for them. Especially when she is on a show that does not cast many plus size people or she is doing something that is deemed impossible for a plus size woman. One of my faves is Cirie Fields, who was on the show Survivor three times. Yes, three times. Homegirl played one of the best social games ever. And it’s not just me saying that – many viewers and fellow castmates felt that way also. She represented an average woman who had a real body that was not rail thin. She was not obese but she was not super thin. The first time she was on Survivor, she was underestimated because of her being overweight and not athletic. However, she proved them wrong and became a fan favorite. Despite making it far in the game and not winning, she won a car due to her popularity via an online poll from viewers.

While I loved Cirie on Survivor, I have to admit I was not a fan of Dance Your Ass Off on the Oxygen network. It was nice to see plus size people dancing and being active, which goes against the stereotype of us sitting the couch, eating a gallon of ice cream and not moving whatsoever. However, that premise was ruined by the fact that these people were not just dancing because they loved to; their main goal was to lose weight and they even stood on a huge scale on national TV for the world to see their weight and progress. I don’t know about you but that did not make me feel compelled to support those people or that show. Yes, I think it was a great thing to help them become healthy but the show was set up in such a way where it was sending the message that you have to lose weight to be normal and dance well.

I just think that these shows are so humiliating for the people on them. Instead of trying to convey a message of loving yourself as you are and that you are normal no matter what your size, it is giving off the message that you should not like yourself this way. That you need to lose weight. You’re lazy and you won’t be happy until you lose weight. These people are put on display and don’t realize the message they are sending.

I do have hope. I look forward to seeing the new show with Stacy London on TLC where she gives plus size women makeovers and helps them feel better about themselves. The show is being filmed within a plus size boutique in Brooklyn and seems to be a show that is headed in the right direction. I’m so done with shows where the focus is on a plus size woman who feels so crappy about herself that she thinks if she loses weight, everything will be amazing.

I want to see shows where a plus size woman actually is confident and is living a normal everyday life. Sure, she may want to lose weight but that doesn’t mean she hates herself now. She just wants to improve her already beautiful self. That is the message that needs to conveyed.

That will spark a self-love revolution that will empower all women to be healthy. Shaming and putting low self-esteem on display will not. It will just continue to validate the very stereotypes we are trying to fight against and make some plus size viewers who already feel low about themselves feel even lower. And on that note, I am going to put my Adele CD on and look at the latest issue of Vogue where she is on the cover. Adele is someone I admire and see myself in because she makes no apologies for her size and loves herself regardless. And I think we all need a little Adele in our lives at this point.

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