Oh, just call us “husky”…or maybe, Your Highness

By Caitlin Kelly

According to Urban Dictionary, that’s what moms tells their overweight sons to soothe them — “You’re just husky.”

20131009091610                      OMG. I wear an XL….in this brand.

Here’s a recent blog post about what fat larger women prefer to be called:

For the survey, Sonsi questioned 1,000 women. Among the most interesting findings: While the vast majority of plus-size women (85 percent) say they believe that beautiful bodies come in all shapes and sizes, fewer than half (49 percent) say that they embrace their own curves. That, Mongello added, signals “a confidence gap among plus-size women.”

Angela O’Riley, a longtime plus-size Ford model, stylist and fashion consultant, told Yahoo Shine that she wasn’t surprised. “It’s deeply ingrained, this fashion thing. We’re all socialized from a very young age to look at fashion magazines, but nobody looks like us, so it’s exclusionary, and it sets up a vicious cycle of ‘I’m no good,’” she said. “It’s a psychological study when you make clothes.”

Regarding terminologies, 28 percent of those surveyed said they most liked the term “curvy,” mainly because their curves help define who they are. “I actually prefer ‘curvy,’” O’Riley said. “It has such a positive connotation. If you used it to describe a friend, no matter what her size, you’d think, ‘Oh, she’s delicious!’ It’s empowering instead of diminishing.”

Still, 25 percent liked “plus size,” while another 25 percent went with “full figured,” with some great write-in choices including “normal,” “average” and “beautiful.”

I think a much better idea would be to stop obsessing about the size or shape of women’s bodies.

It’s really only a matter of concern between a woman and her physician(s.)

Calling a woman who is larger than a size 12 “plus-size” is really fairly bizarre — do we (yes, I’m one of them) call leaner women “minus” size?

How weird would that be?

Enough already with the normative shaming and labeling.

Some of us are bigger than others, whether temporarily, (post-pregnancy, injury, medication side effects,) or permanently. Some of us are leaner.

And thinner doesn’t equal better/braver/bolder/kinder, a quick default way to claim superior status.

It just means your clothing labels are a lower figure than those of us on the dark side of size 12.

In my world, the size and consistent use of a woman’s heart and brain (i.e. her compassion and intelligence) far outweigh the girth of her upper arms or the jiggle of her belly.

I’ve met way too many skinny bitches to be persuaded that the most important element of our value to the wider world lies in the size of our thighs.

Here’s one of my writing pals, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, a mother of two in L.A., writing in Ladies Home Journal:

So I’ve reached some uncomfortable conclusions: There is no future in which I lose weight and it stays lost. As that realization sinks in, I put my head on my desk. It stays there for an hour.

But why am I so despondent? Over the time wasted? The money thrown away? Yes, and more. I’m crying for the shame I’ve felt, the sins I’ve committed when I imagined my life to be a blinking light, on hold indefinitely until I looked the way I wanted to.

Here’s a smart post by one of my favorite bloggers — another Caitlin! — at Fit and Feminist, a woman I doubt is anywhere near overweight, and yet…

If you tallied up all of the time and energy I’ve spent thinking about my negative body image over the course of my teens and twenties, I probably would have been able to use it to earn myself a graduate degree.  And I have to be honest with you – my body’s “flaws” are just not that interesting.  In fact, those fake “flaws” are probably one of the least interesting things i can think of.  There are so many books to read and essays to write and conversations to have and things to try and skills to learn and social justice battles to wage and adventures upon which to embark!  This world is full of fascinating and miraculous things!

The cellulite on the back of my thighs – who cares about that in the grand scheme of things?  If I care at all about my thighs, it’s because I want them to be strong enough to do things like pedal me across Europe or help me run the Keys 50 ultramarathon next year.  I really cannot be bothered at all to care about anything else.

Here’s a recent New York magazine profile of Australian actress Rebel Wilson, whose new television show Super Fun Night, recently premiered, and whose lead character, Kimmie Boubier, is one of the few heavy actresses actually allowed on TV:

Between the creation of the pilot in 2011 and today, Wilson appeared in seven films, including Pitch Perfect, in which she played Fat Amy. Pitch Perfect made Wilson an emerging star: Her character, who may be the first woman in films to acknowledge her excess weight without complaint or unhappiness, is riveting. Fat Amy sings in a big, anthem-worthy voice, she invents her own mermaid style of dancing, and she is a glorious role model without being, as Amy would say, “a twig.” “Rebel is revolutionary,” O’Brien continued.

“Her weight is vastly overshadowed by her talent.”

As it should be.

50 thoughts on “Oh, just call us “husky”…or maybe, Your Highness

  1. I think I may actually know what the real problem is. There is an “ideal” size out there which is entirely illusory–it doesn’t exist in the real world. If you are on the larger side of “ideal,” you feel too big. If you are on the smaller side of “ideal,” you feel too small. Indeed, as a “lean woman” I feel decidedly minus-sized. (It is shocking to me how much people feel they can simply move me out of the way in crowded areas or, when I need to get by, think I can squeeze myself into a 1-inch space.). In a theoretical sense, there is some portion of those BMI charts where you should be able to minimize the probability of developing a variety of health problems. So, there should be an health-based “ideal.” However, I don’t think there is an “ideal”. In a real sense, I think no one actually is the “ideal” size of fashion–not even the models who display it–because “ideal” is whatever you aren’t. I don’t think it’s about shame about being “too big.” I really think it’s about making every last one of us worry about the size and shape of our bodies. And while I do think a concern for our health is positive, all of us are both beautiful and odd looking.

      1. Well, maybe I just fail to appreciate my own species, but I do think this whole bipedal thing is kind of odd. And what’s up with our noses? Only the proboscis monkey has a weirder looking nose.

  2. Renée Camus

    I really admire Rebel Wilson, so I gave “Super Fun Night” a chance, even though the previews didn’t look that good. I was pleasantly surprised, it was much better than I expected, but it was still largely (heh) made up of fat jokes. I’m torn about it. Yes, she certainly acknowledges her weight and not necessarily in a sad or complaining way, but the fact that there are so many fat jokes doesn’t give the vibe that she’s proud of her size either.

  3. Third world nations did not have eating disorders, such as bulemia and anorexia, until television came to their villages.
    Ummmm, yeah. Media makes body image… shapes the “ideal”. In earlier era’s (I want to say Victorian eras), the curvy and heavy woman was considered beautiful. It was a status sign of health and wealth.
    I flux from 12 to 14 and am basically okay with it …. BUT this is a new behavior. I formerly bemoaned my forever gone size 6 to 8. My plump thighs elicited cries and gasps of despair. Then I hit middle age and re-evaluated my whole world.
    I like me most of the time now. It’s a new place for me to be. I think I shall stay.

  4. I think when I had to go to the “husky” department of Eaton’s when I was twelve and my friends got to buy normal clothes, I was on the road to being self-conscious about my weight. Maybe it even started earlier when my mom had to squeeze me into a tight skirt at age 9. Now, many, many years later, I really appreciate the variety of women’s bodies although, to be honest, I do consider the health consequences of obesity in my family members. It almost seems the better off economically they become, the bigger they become.

  5. I’m happy to say my friends of the female persuasion are chosen by personality and not by size. I see models on TV all the time who may have ‘perfect’ figures but who aren,’t pretty and who from reading about them often don’t seem to be nice people or great role models. Some who seem to think their shape makes them ‘Special’ should be more like the plus sized Sophie Dahl who always appeared pleasant.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

  6. Holy crap – haven’t heard the term “husky” since visiting a JC Penny store in the U.S. years ago and stumbling upon it in the children’s clothing section. Husky is a dog where I come from – children go through awkward stages around puberty, and labels like that or the bat shit crazy “plus size” (referring to any woman over a size 10) makes my blood boil.

  7. Sad that there is a discussion over what to call people who are larger or heavier than some “norm” which as has been pointed out really doesn’t exist anywhere. It’s sort of like trying to come up with the proper term for African-Americans–to whom we seem to be saying, “I don’t care what I call you–you decide–just as long as I can somehow identify you.” (-The first time someone calls me a “senior,” and I don’t get a discount on my scrambled eggs and bacon, I’m going to get angry.) But I think the truth, and the hurtful thing, is, once we attach a label to someone, we are pretty much finished thinking about them.

    1. So true.

      I live in a building filled with people with canes, walkers and white hair — aka “seniors.” I don’t see them as an amorphous mass, but distinct individuals. But it’s much easier to deny/dismiss one another’s humanity with a snotty label.

  8. I am naturally thin. Some of my friends are naturally thin, and some are curvy. Does anyone really choose one’s friends based on weight? Really? I don’t think you can assume anything about someone’s personality by his/her weight or based on a photograph. I for one would like to see people stop assuming models are “bitches” or “not nice people” because they are skinny and most likely misrepresented by the media. As a former model, I can assure you that that image is just a two-dimensional representation of someone with lots of makeup on. One hundred shots were taken to get the one that looked really good. Every one of those models ate lunch in between shots, complained her feet hurt in the ridiculous heals she was wearing, and went home tired and crashed. Just like you did yesterday. Yes, as Roy says above, let’s stop labeling everyone.

    1. I modeled two years ago for the cover of a magazine — and had five professionals in our small apartment to make me fab: hair/makeup/wardrobe/photographer and assistant and art director. It took us four sweaty tiring hours to get the final shot, which I loved. But it was a fascinating insight into what bloody hard work it is to be “up” and smiley and high-energy for hours at a time.

      Here’s the photo…http://caitlinkelly.com/zines/zineart22.htm

      The sad truth is that you know this and I know this, but many young girls and women assume they need to look like that to be loved or valuable. Scary.

  9. All those terms and labels seem to go flat, and probably what’s good for one person is horrible for another…husky? curvy even? Ick! Do not like any of them. Love all the quotes you brought to this, although I think for Taffy to give up on maintaining weight, it’s a shame, because it can be done if she wants, it’s just a skill you have to learn like anything, and it takes discipline, like writing…. I do agree with Caitlin, obsessing over being perfect is boring. And unattainable. And even if you get there, to perfect, it doesn’t solve the rest of your problems. And you have to figure out how to stay at perfect. Bodies seem to change and fitness levels seem to go in cycles. If we snap a photo today, we may look different tomorrow…and the constant comparing is what seems to bring out the bad obsessing.. Thanks again for another interesting post!

    1. Taffy is a pal and I know she hasn’t given up entirely.

      “it’s just a skill you have to learn like anything, and it takes discipline, like writing…”

      Here’s my take on that — We all have **limited** reserves of self-discipline, some perhaps (much) deeper than others. But it’s not an unlimited resource! While it’s unwise to “let yourself go” to health-threatening obesity, I also know that we can’t all, every day, eat kale and count calories and run for 45 minutes. People are busy, tired, attending professional meetings and classes (to get or keep a job) and enduring time-sucking commutes that reduce their free time, (for kids, exercise, anything personal.)

      I lost some weight over the summer by cutting out liquor Mon-Friday and upping my exercise. Two weeks’ vacation — not going to the gym and enjoying my meals fully — put it back on. Whatever.

      But I’m not willing or able to spend every day (as I have in the past) with measuring cups and spoons eking out my calories. It makes me angry and unhappy. I know what is calorie-laden and what is not. I also know that my number one priority right now (as is Taffy’s) is to boost and keep our freelance writing incomes as high as possible. That alone takes a tremendous amount of energy as it is.

      We need to be honest with ourselves as to what we can do and what is ideal…:-)

  10. I’ve met way too many skinny bitches to be persuaded that the most important element of our value to the wider world lies in the size of our thighs.

    This is my quote of the week! This post is fabulous, and I’m so glad I found you via Caitlin’s post. 🙂

  11. Thanks for this reminder- I am still challenged w/ not feeling like I need to be an “ideal” weight or I’ve dropped the ball. I know it’s cultural conditioning- and it is so challenging to overcome- so knowing we are all in this together makes it easier and inspiring!

    1. Thanks for weighing in — pun intended! 🙂

      In other cultures and other eras, women with curves and boobs and hips were valued for their lush shapes, proof of their family wealth and excess of food and drink. Too ironic now that skinny and ropy is seen as beautiful and desirable.

      1. themodernidiot

        and its origin is so sensual. i love it. gonna have to file that one away for later. i always forget about it. thanks for the refresh 🙂

      2. themodernidiot

        aw thank you so much. hard to blog and study. funny, sometimes i feel like i learn more by reading everyone’s blogs than i do these silly textbooks.

      3. themodernidiot

        oddly, i actually am fond, and support wholeheartedly formal education. but i also see its flaws, and boy howdy has it gone down the crapper

  12. Denis

    I really have no problem with “full-figured” women. I find them quite attractive actually. I hate women that are too skinny; nothing to’em. Always on a diet. For what? I’ll take a big woman any day.

  13. Rachel

    It’s a balancing act for sure, especially for those of us who turn to food to relieve stress or low energy. (Yes, I know that exercise is a better solution, but I’m not always logistically or mentally able to engage in physical activity.) I’m grateful to be battling minor rather than extreme levels of being overweight or in poor health, and to be free of eating disorders…thanks for the reminder to resume some exercise; it always helps me cope better with life’s other aggravations!

  14. “In my world, the size and consistent use of a woman’s heart and brain (i.e. her compassion and intelligence) far outweigh the girth of her upper arms or the jiggle of her belly.”


    Now let me go and ingest this and remember that it applies to me too.

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