“Strength can look like anything and women need to know it’s not reserved for a certain type of person, just like fashion isn’t reserved for a certain set of people. It’s for everybody and everyone’s deserving of it.” ~ Candice Huffine

I was reading a recent interview on Allure.com with plus model Candice Huffine, who has successfully carved quite a career for herself where she is walking in straight size runway shows and booking jobs with straight size designers, all at a size 16.

I admire her hustle greatly and have been following her career since the beginning, which is inspiring and so empowering to see a woman succeed in an industry where your body and size are heavily scrutinized.

While I agree with her sentiment that all women are worthy of acceptance on a whole, she said something that made me pause.

When asked on her thoughts on the term “plus size”, she said:

“I think that the word itself is hanging people up. We’re never going to celebrate all of the accomplishments and the progress we’ve made—the girls walking in fashion week or gracing the covers of magazines—if we just keep going back to this four-letter word. I don’t think it’s a bad word at all, but because of its existence, it’s divisive. We’re going to stay divided so long as we keep putting so much power into this word, and if we don’t give it so much weight, we can bridge the gap and blur the lines. We need to make it so that everyone has the same experiences in life. Women shouldn’t have to be ostracized to a whole other floor or have to shop online because she doesn’t have a store to go to. We should ignore the word right now and celebrate the awesome stuff that’s happening, where all women are visible, recognized, and celebrated.”

I get where she is coming from. However, her experience is very different than the average “non-model” woman living in a world where she does not have accessible fashion available to her and is above a size 16.

She has no idea what I, a size 26/28 woman, goes through on a daily basis. I’m often out-sized of plus size clothing departments and my struggle is extremely different than someone who is a size 16 and not visibly plus.

We cannot lump everyone into the same group until you know all the struggles. Yes, it sucks to have that division but I think it cannot be erased immediately. She cannot speak for me and my issues in the fashion world and life in general.

A size 16 woman can still shop in straight size stores. However, if you’re above a size 18 or have a body shape that makes it a challenge to shop, your only option is to shop plus sizes.

For me personally, the term “plus size” is something I hold close to my heart. When you feel like you don’t belong to any group and that you don’t have something that is “yours”, when a term like “plus size” is created and it describes who you are, it’s a beautiful thing. I know where to shop and I can be a part of a community where I connect with women who get me. I can see women who look like me and also see the different sizes and shapes that embody the plus size community.FFFWEEK_celebratemysize-16IMG_6265

Us fat girls have been ostracized for so long and not allowed to be a part of so many groups or cliques. Now we have a community we can belong to. And I can walk into a store and find my section with ease, shopping alongside women who are plus size, like me. That is what the term represents for me.12032093_10153627155273245_7390394864254160813_n

Yes, the term is viewed as negative to some but that’s simply because of the personal emotions behind it, including self-loathing and also the belief that accepting the term means we are promoting obesity.

Montgomery College Professor and Female Body-Image Expert Stacey Peterson, Ph.D. told the New York Post:

“The popular culture is reflecting what you see every day. It’s important for women — we’re primarily talking about women here — to see images of people who look like us. It’s very positive for a young girl to see a model of her femaleness, someone who’s full-figured, whatever the politically correct term is. We’re seeing it depicted more regularly and positively, and that’s new.”

This means reinforcing the idea to be healthy at any size and love yourself unconditionally. We’re not promoting obesity but instead promoting that all bodies deserve to be seen and accepted because it can enforce a better body image for all.

So, instead of putting all the blame on two words, how about we focus on the important issue at hand? The issue of confidence and empowering women to love themselves as they are. Because I believe if you are confident, love yourself unconditionally and accept your body as it is, there is no term in the world that will make you feel any less.

Let’s all come together and think of ways we can uplift and empower women to be happy in the skin they’re in.

I, for one, love to shop because almost every time I am in a store, a woman will come up to me and ask my opinion on an outfit, to which I seize the opportunity to style her and make her feel good in the process. I use my in-store shopping visits as a way to offer a compliment or two to other women because you never know what that one kind comment can do for her day and for her life.

Let’s stop wasting our time debating a term when it’s obvious the problem lies in our own community and how we engage with each other. Just because someone’s struggle is different than yours and you may not understand, does not mean you can’t be empathetic to her situation and recognize that her feelings are valid and worthy of being heard. Don’t assume that experience is one that is felt on a whole by every woman because it is not.

I still love Candice and admire her greatly. I will forever be cheering her on from the sidelines. But I do hope that in her mission to help all women be accepted in society, that she genuinely takes the time to see all the struggles and not just her own, from her own perspective.

Labels will always exist but we can make a major change in the world if we start within our own community first.

We need to be there for each other, uplifting each other. The future is female, right? So let’s prove that.