The Invisible Majority

I am part of the invisible majority.

You see, 67 percent of US women are a size 14 or larger.

This fact is especially interesting since this isn’t represented in mainstream media.

The unbalance is kind of horrifying and I’ve known this for a while now. So horrifying that when it came time pick a topic for my master’s thesis I automatically chose this topic. It was  relevant, and something no one really wanted to talk about, so naturally I gravitated towards it.

I wanted to study this topic in search of cold hard facts, but also for myself. As kid I was obsessed with magazines, I signed up for every teen fashion magazine subscription. I was a chubby child fashionista who was quite aware that no one in these magazines looked like me. This did a number on my self-esteem, I was unrepresented which made me feel like I wasn’t good enough. I was already self-deflating myself at 10 years old, and I find that very problematic. Why? Because of that 67%. Women come is all shapes and sizes and that should be reflected in the media. Point. Blank. Period.

“Women come is all shapes and sizes and that should be reflected in the media. Point. Blank. Period.”

As a covenant to my young self I decided to examine the “The Framing of Plus Size Women,” specifically in comparison to women who were not plus size in fashion magazines. I wanted to know how these magazines were affecting a woman’s body image. It’s a lot to process but I promise it makes sense!

Before I began my research I had an idea of what I would find, more sample size models than plus size models. But I found so much more than that, so much that my head started spinning. Thankfully I had the support and guidance from my thesis professor.

I found many statistics and similar studies on the topic. All my research although interesting was very upsetting.

Here is the major takeaway from my research.

“More women in the U.S. wear a size 16 than a size 0 and 2 combined. One-third of women wears a mix of what is considered standard and plus size. Lastly, 72 percent of women in the U.S wears a size 12 or above” (Silliman, 2013).

“According to a study conducted by Yale University, the percentage of discrimination against plus size women has increased 66% in the last decade” (Dreisbach, 2012).

The constant bombardment of one type of body inevitably leads to comparison, “comparing yourself to such standards can lead to self-deflation” because women most look nothing like the models (Richins, 1991)

Soooooo the typical size of a female in the U.S is not a sample size; yet, these are the images of the “ideal woman” that we see on a day to day basis. Why is that? Studies say that brands suffer in the marketplace when they show women of various sizes, but I don’t buy it. What’s the issue with realistically depicting the public?

I decided to do a content analysis as well, but like a fun one. A content analysis is  a research tool used to determine the presence of certain words or concepts within texts or sets of texts. In this case, images. I decided to analyze the top fashion (Elle, Glamour, Marie Claire and Vogue) and lifestyle (Oprah and Essence) magazines of the month of March 2016. I included lifestyle magazines to spice it up a little bit and of course these magazine titles were randomly chosen from a list. 

In each magazine every image that contained a female model on an editorial page or advertisement I examined. Was she visibly a sample size model or not? What was she wearing? Was she alone? etc. Each answer to these and many more questions were recorded in a MASSIVE excel document. 

The magazine analyzing cost me many Friday nights out but I’m definitely more fashionable because of it! Vogue’s March edition was so big that it took me an entire week to analyze and I don’t mean a work week…

source huffingtonpost.com

Here are the details of my findings

  • The combined total of advertisement and editorial images in the category of fashion was 1,156, only 134 of those images contained non-sample size models. UM WHAT?
  • 94% of the non sample size models in the fashion magazines were in darker clothing. WE LIKE COLOR TOO!
  • Marie Claire was the ONLY magazine within the fashion sample to have any editorial material about dressing as a plus size woman. WE CAN DO BETTER.

Not only are these numbers alarming but it doesn’t add up. Women have been demanding for decades to be accurately depicted, yet years later we’re still having the same conversation. Why are people automatically assuming that we only like to wear dark colors? Why are people assuming that we don’t like to be fashionable? Why are we always in the back?! No one puts baby in the back! 

Women deserve better than this. So. Much. Better.

We deserve more than one column.

We deserve more than a few images.

We deserve to be in the front.

We deserve to be seen.

Let’s start seeing the 67 Percent. Okay? Okay.

Shoutout to Refinery 29 for asking the tough questions and taking a big step to make sure women are accurately depicted. You guys are the real MVP’s.

For information on the 67 percent Project.

If you’d like more information about my study shoot me an email!

 

Truthfully Yours, Dahlia