In the clip above, Ellen quickly wins my heart by boggling, "You're considered plus-size models. All of you are? Really? Really?" Lemons then explains that in the modeling industry, the cut-off for "plus size" is "anything over a 6," and we don't see Ellen's reaction, but I like to think it was, "Are you fucking kidding me right now?" (I didn't even know that! I thought 8 was bad enough!)
Unfortunately, throughout the rest of the interview, Ellen kept flunking body acceptance 101. When asking Kate Dillon about her days as a straight size model with an eating disorder (Renn's not the only one), she says, "I assume, I mean anyone that's a 0, that's an eating disorder, in my opinion." Oh, Ellen! I love you so much, but no. People actually do come in all shapes and sizes, and naturally thin girls and women are just as sick of hearing they must have eating disorders as I am of hearing I'm one Big Mac away from heart failure.
Dillon, bless her, acknowledges that — and also refuses to offer up numbers when Ellen asks, lest she contribute to women's obsession with the scale. I knew there was a reason I loved Kate Dillon! (OK, I didn't write that post I just linked to, but I fully co-sign Sweet Machine's Kate Dillon love.) That's how it's done, Ellen.
Renn again makes the point that sample sizes are a huge part of the problem in the industry — when designers refuse to send over clothes larger than size 0, models larger than size 0 don't get work. And here, Ellen makes my heart flutter again when she tells me something I didn't know (but probably should have guessed) about Hollywood: "If you fit into a sample size, you get to wear somebody's dress. And if you don't fit into a sample size, they don't loan you clothes... So of course most actresses in this town starve themselves to fit into these free clothes."
Then she goes and fumbles again when she tries to head off the inevitable criticism directed at anyone who dares to say that dieting shouldn't be mandatory for all American women. "I don't think it means" [makes "I'm clueless" gesture] "'Hey, I'm a big girl, and this is just who I am' if it's unhealthy. We're not talking about unhealthy.We're just talking about somebody that is a healthy person, that's beautiful." Oh, Ellen. I get where you're going, but you know what? I'm a big girl, and this is just who I am. And though I'm pretty healthy, as far as I can tell, people keep telling me that the number on the scale means I couldn't possibly be. There's that. Also, what if I were unhealthy? Would I not deserve pretty clothes then? What if I'm not beautiful, for that matter?
Truly accepting and supporting body diversity doesn't mean making assumptions about the health of size 0s or size 18s, 24s, 30s, what-have-you, and it definitely doesn't mean saying that women of some sizes shouldn't get clothes. (She also said earlier that "they shouldn't even make clothes" as small as size 0.) I understand that you don't want to be seen as supporting unhealthy or self-destructive behavior, but you can be against self-harm and pro-health without reinforcing the ideas that A) those who fail to maximize their own health potential to the greatest possible extent are less deserving than others, and B) there is a set range of "healthy" sizes — even if the one you would set is more generous than that of, say, most women's magazines — and anyone who falls outside it is suspect (see A).
Don't get me wrong: I still love Ellen. (Ellen would have to do a lot wrong to make me not love her.) And I know too well that when she makes statements and asks questions like that, she's speaking for a lot of her audience, a lot of America. But it's still disappointing to see things like that go mostly unchallenged in the context of promoting body acceptance and size diversity. Much as it's disappointing to see that the only models who appeared on the show (and this very well might be a simple matter of scheduling, so I'm not blaming anyone, just pointing it out) were white and on the thinner side. You can see a preview of Glamour's November issue here, featuring Anansa Sims — daughter of Beverly Johnson — and Ashley Graham, who might even wear a plus size by store standards, not just modeling ones. But the Naked Fat Girl Extravaganza itself is still far from diverse by any reasonable standard. One woman of color, one maybe size 16, and a bunch of women who are conventionally beautiful and traditionally feminine-looking, despite being, you know, somewhere around the size of the average American woman (only much taller). As I said before, it's a good effort, and I'm going to go buy the issue to show my support. But let's not kid ourselves — this isn't a revolution. Yet.
Supermodels Who Aren't Superthin: Meet the Women Who Proudly Bared it All [Glamour]
Relatd: Becoming Visible [Shapely Prose]
Once More With Feeling: We Already Know We're Fat [Shapely Prose]