By FAITH PONTI
This past week, Refinery29 officially launched their project to give more visibility to women who are size 14 and up – who make up 67 percent of the U.S. population – called “Project 67.” With this campaign, Refinery29 hopes to address the lack of representation of these women in fashion who, though they comprise the majority of women in our country, are only present in two percent of images in the industry. Simultaneously, they want to raise awareness of plus-size discrimination, including the fact that plus-size women earn less every year than thinner women. Their method of doing so is by incorporating women size 14 and up into 67 percent of every image seen on their website, catalogs, newsletters and social media profiles. Refinery29’s end goal is to inspire other outlets to become equally plus-size inclusive and permanently affect the fashion industry. In partnership with Getty Images, they are even granting anyone interested, whether large fashion magazines or small-scale writers, access to license to any and all images from Project 67 photo shoots in an effort to more easily spread this message. Should these images begin to circulate among other companies, this movement has the potential to create great change in an industry that desperately needs it.
As a high school student, I had subscriptions to several fashion magazines. I craved the articles that gave me any information about sex (I had never even kissed a boy), or how to get boys to think I was sexy (it didn’t work), or which eye makeup would make me look playful, yet refined (dear god, eye roll). I wanted more, though. I wanted to look like the women on the covers. I wanted to feel confident enough to win any boy’s heart. I wanted to feel empowered and beautiful; however, I eventually sensed that those centerfolds of flawless women were making me feel neither. I eventually realized how much more conscious I was of my belly fat while reading those magazines. Every page, whether editorial or advertisement, was slathered with beautiful, tan, flat-tummied young women who couldn’t have been larger than size two. They looked happy. I wanted to look that happy, too, so I took measures — ones that were extremely unhealthy — to attempt to do so.
My story does not stand alone in the sea of those from young women who have tortured themselves in order to better fit society’s standards. This beauty ideal that has been perpetuated by every form of media has been completely fabricated by the fashion industry, which — though advertised largely towards women — does absolutely nothing to cater to our health or self-worth. It does not encourage young girls to grow up and see themselves as independent, successful and beautiful. It does not value the actual essence of what makes a woman who she is. Rather, it feeds on our every insecurity in order to maximize its profits. It tells us that we aren’t good enough so that we feel compelled to buy their products. Our faces need makeup, our natural hair needs to be tamed and our bodies need to only be decorated with clothing that flatters our bodies (e.g., makes us look slimmer). And as we judge ourselves in their mirrors, their pockets grow fuller with our attempt to spend away our self-hatred.
This is why Refinery29’s movement is so damn important; it’s helping women who have been consistently told throughout their lives that they are worthless or not enough because of their size. It’s listening to the dejection of those who never felt beautiful because the tag on the back of their jeans had two digits. It’s standing up for every woman who has ever cried inside of a fitting room. Project 67 looks to the majority of women in the United States and tells them, “you are enough.”
Refinery29: Rock. On. You, along with companies like Aerie and Lane Bryant, are creating waves in a narrow-minded, discriminatory, dangerous ocean that affects millions of women, young and old, every day. You are choosing to rebel against a beauty ideal that has seeped into each of our lives so thoroughly that it has negatively affected our sisters’, mothers’ and daughters’ mental and physical health. You’re risking your prestige as a fashion corporation so that more women can learn to love and accept themselves, and so that society can learn to do the same. You are doing wonderful, groundbreaking things. As a young woman who has struggled daily with body image, I have nothing but gratitude and appreciation for everything you stand for. Thank you.
For more information on Project 67, visit http://www.refinery29.com.
Faith Ponti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org