Can We Please Stop Using The C-Word?

I’d just like to start things off by being perfectly up-front with where I fit into this whole issue, personally. I’m 5’6”, 139-144 pounds (depending on the day/ hour/ scale), and wear a size 6 on top and 8/10 on the bottom. There are blemishes and flaws on my body, but I’m healthy and comfortable. I’m very happy with it and so is the person that has to look at it naked, so that’s about the end of that conversation. And it would be so, so awesome if it could end there. But it can’t — it never can, not with what your body looks like.

The thing is, I’ve never thought too much about my body. I think we all have moments where we stand in front of a mirror and idly poke ourselves in the tummy pooch as we suck it back in and let it out–benign little movements that I’m sure apes would make if they had access to a mirror. And yes, there have been occasions (like the time I was at my heaviest, and couldn’t fit into my favorite dress) where I suddenly felt very conscious about how my body looked and felt. But looking back, I think a lot of that stemmed from the lazy, apathetic lifestyle that was letting the Oreos so wantonly stick to my thighs. With a normal amout of activity and relative sensibility with what I eat, I stay in pretty decent shape.

But I freely accept that there are people for whom the same amount of activity and attention to diet will yield a much thinner figure, and those for whom a lifetime of celery and pilates will never quite shake the lovehandles. I don’t take any credit for the fact that I’m thinner than some people are — I certainly don’t work that hard for what I have. This is just what my body looks like. We’re all just built a little differently. And yet society at large seems to have such a hard time grasping that, specifically that Temple of the Waif, the fashion industry. (You can’t see it now, but I’m shaking my fist and telling Marc Jacobs to get off my lawn before I spray him with the garden hose.)

And because of this, because of our insane obsession with people who happen to be thinner (or force themselves to be through a life of never knowing Nutella, God help them), we have somehow managed to concoct words that we can use to “address” the “interesting beauty” of a woman any bigger than, say, Adriana Lima. The women are “plus-sized” “ample” “heavy-set” or “plush.” The words that the fashion industry, popular culture, and even individuals use to gently describe a size-14, perfectly appealing woman are so dripping with patronizing disdain, I imagine an incredibly difficult mother receiving a sweater she particularly dislikes for Christmas: “Oh, well, isn’t this just lovely? It’s just darling.

And no word amongst these Hallmark-approved euphemisms for heavy so grates against my ears as “curvy,” possibly the most corrupted word in the English language. Frankly, I can’t remember what that word actually meant originally. (I think it was a line that’s not straight or something, have to Google.) In any case, it’s now become used to describe any woman between Angelina Jolie and that mother on the Discovery Channel that had to have the wall cut off of her apartment to be able to leave it. It just became a catch-all, I suppose, because it sounds nice and inoffensive, and we have to designate that anything in possession of small mounds of fat under its skin with special terms.

I don’t take offense to this personally, morally, or ethically. I take offense to it intellectually, because it’s condescending as shit. If we all have to imagine what “curvy” looks like in our minds, I think we’d come up with Sofia Vergara, Kim Kardashian, or Adele. Women with bigger busts, proportionally smaller waists, and wide hips. A curvy line. She can be any actual size or weight, but I’m pretty sure these are the proportions that designate “curvy.” Think “Coke-bottle.” But because, in a rush to make everyone feel good and put a band-aid on the bullet wound of no women over a size 2 in an advertisement, we needed a quick fix word — we settled on curvy. But there are tons of words for all different shapes and figures, figures that are all nice and have their ups and downs. Very thin women can be curvy, as well, but you’d never think to call them that. Now, curvy is almost a negative word — because we associate it with the “Eesh, yeah, well you can still be beautiful, I guess! Good try!” attitude of the fashion industry. Curvy is a word to placate, it’s a euphemism, and frankly it’s highly unnecessary.

Despite the fact that she represents, for me, several consecutive signs of the apocalypse — I have to hand it to Kim Kardashian. We praise models and actresses all the time for how hard it must be to stay so incredibly thin, even for that bikini photoshoot 48 hours after their C-section–that I get. Whatever. But forget how hard it is to just stay really thin, do we realize how unbelievably hard it is to have big boobs, a big butt, wide hips — AND a toned stomach and no cellulite?!?! How does KK do it?! I picture a Mr. Peanut-shaped pressure chamber that she sleeps in every night to get just the right smoothe, ample proportions — but I digress.

The point is, she and women much bigger than her have their own struggles to maintain pretty bodies and be attractive to their own personal standard. They work hard and keep healthy, and they find clothes that look good on them and style their hair in interesting ways and do all the stuff that skinny people do. And I assure you, plenty of people around the world — plenty of sexy, interesting, wonderful people — would totally have sex with said bigger women. There is no need to talk down to them — to us — with cheesy buzz words that only serve to further separate and distinguish the sexies from the fatties. I don’t need to be called curvy, Kelly Clarkson doesn’t need to be called curvy, Gabourey Sidibe doesn’t need to be called curvy.

“Normal human being who might want to buy some clothes at some point” would do just fine. TC mark

Chelsea Fagan

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.

Trace the scars life has left you. It will remind you that at one point, you fought for something. You believed.

“You are the only person who gets to decide if you are happy or not—do not put your happiness into the hands of other people. Do not make it contingent on their acceptance of you or their feelings for you. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if someone dislikes you or if someone doesn’t want to be with you. All that matters is that you are happy with the person you are becoming. All that matters is that you like yourself, that you are proud of what you are putting out into the world. You are in charge of your joy, of your worth. You get to be your own validation. Please don’t ever forget that.” — Bianca Sparacino

Excerpted from The Strength In Our Scars by Bianca Sparacino.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5WQXSSKAMOU4WCHKCWYMUKKKNU Aladin Sane

    I get it…but calling someone curvy is less likely to make them cry than calling them the OTHER C word (CHUNKY)

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=511929890 Nicole Mullins

      [cringe]

      • Mandatory

        or a cunt

      • Biffie

        I thought that is what “c” word she was referring to…until 1/2 way through the article.

      • Tiggy

        Cow. I thought cow. Not offering it as an alternative, though. See, curvy isn’t so bad

      • Biffie

        I thought that is what “c” word she was referring to…until 1/2 way through the article.

      • Biffie

        I thought that is what “c” word she was referring to…until 1/2 way through the article.

      • Biffie

        I thought that is what “c” word she was referring to…until 1/2 way through the article.

      • Biffie

        I thought that is what “c” word she was referring to…until 1/2 way through the article.

      • Anonymous

        That’s what I immediately thought when I read the title. LOL!

        We can joke about it; however, Americans are killing themselves with food. Obesity is now epidemic. Consequently, myriad resulting health issues are bleeding the medical care system dry.

        It’s unhealthy to obsess about it, but staying thin has so many rewards that it’s a crime not to push the idea.

      • http://twitter.com/mung_beans Mung Beans

        ALL THE FOOD PUT THE CRUNCHWRAP DOWN MY GULLET OH YEAHHHH AWWW THAT’S NICE

        I JUST CAN’T STOP EATING!!!!!!!!!

      • Anonymous
      • Catt

        See it’s funny, cause body size IS a health issue. The two go hand in hand.

      • a.

        Which is what I thought this article was going to be about..

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        Which is what I thought this article was going to be about..

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        Which is what I thought this article was going to be about..

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        Which is what I thought this article was going to be about..

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        Which is what I thought this article was going to be about..

      • a.

        Which is what I thought this article was going to be about..

      • a.

        Which is what I thought this article was going to be about..

      • a.

        Which is what I thought this article was going to be about..

      • a.

        Which is what I thought this article was going to be about..

      • Mandatory

        or a cunt

      • Mandatory

        or a cunt

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5WQXSSKAMOU4WCHKCWYMUKKKNU Aladin Sane

    I get it…but calling someone curvy is less likely to make them cry than calling them the OTHER C word (CHUNKY)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5WQXSSKAMOU4WCHKCWYMUKKKNU Aladin Sane

    I get it…but calling someone curvy is less likely to make them cry than calling them the OTHER C word (CHUNKY)

  • Caitsherly

    amen. 
    i’m a size 10-12. The C-word is a bit nicer to hear than the B word {big-boned} or the R-word “rubenesque” but come on! I don’t need anymore sugar-coating. I feel like i’m being compared to a drive through the countryside. “see, curvy can be nice” Am i supposed to be congratulated for being big but still being relatively attractive? 

  • Anonymous

    Truth.

    You’d think with this alleged obesity crisis (lolz), fashion designers would make clothes for people over a size 12 to make serious bank.

    • guesty guest

      clothing you see on runway models comes in ‘plus sizes’ for sale in stores.  it just doesn’t come plus-sized on the runway.  why? is a question for another day…

      • Anonymous

        No it doesn’t. I would know–I’m having the hardest time finding a winter coat right now.

  • Anonymous

    Truth.

    You’d think with this alleged obesity crisis (lolz), fashion designers would make clothes for people over a size 12 to make serious bank.

  • CL

    Ok, but what words should we use to describe someone’s appearance in terms of body shape and size?   A sincere question.  There are plentyof non-offensive situations where ordinary people (not necessarily in the fashion industry) want to give such descriptions (about people of any sex) and it would be nice to have some sort of vocabulary less unwieldy than “Normal human being who might want to buy some clothes at some point” or “not skinny — no, not fat either” or “similar to [celebrity with similar body]”. 
    (I for one have, after grasping for adjectives,  settled on “curvy” to describe a woman I found physically attractive.  Maybe I’m just uncreative.)  Do we need to resort to clothing sizes?  I could do that, but as someone who doesn’t routinely shop for women’s clothing (except for a few pairs of pants), I’d need to do some research, study some illustrated charts or something.

  • Caroline T

    as a design professional allow me to enlighten you to a fact that I’m sure you’ve heard before: society’s collective idea of the physical perfection wouldn’t be what it is without photo retouching.
    Q. How does KK have a big butt with no cellulite?
    A. She almost certainly does. Not in photos though!

    I did enjoy this article though. I’m a size 4/6 and even I am made to feel “curvy” by the world of women’s magazines and advertising and fashion. Little by little we just have to remind ourselves to not obsess about which body-type category we currently belong under. It’s all a delusional mess!

    • http://BlueShame.com Lady Blue

      She may or not may not have cellulite. It has more to do with genes that what kind of weight you are carrying.

      • https://twitter.com/iamthepuddles Jordana Bevan

        SHE HAS CELLULITE AND SHE TALKS ABOUT IT IN MAGAZINE ARTICLES. DERP.

        jk. but no, she really does have it. but that’s the thing about the celebrity culture, they’re there to look perfect and we just keep misinterpreting what is shown to us as reality.

      • http://BlueShame.com Lady Blue

        Oh! Well if she’s admitted to it, then duh. I’ve never read a Kardashian article, so color me clueless.

      • Caroline T

        The point is that it doesn’t matter if Kimmy has cellulite or not, you’re not going to see it in photos! The perfect body we see in magazines is in fact an unattainable illusion. I know this from constantly seeing photos before and after retouching. It’s amazing what a good photo retoucher can do to an image. I realize this was sort of not the point of this article though. Honestly though, who doesn’t have at least a little cellulite?

  • Caroline T

    as a design professional allow me to enlighten you to a fact that I’m sure you’ve heard before: society’s collective idea of the physical perfection wouldn’t be what it is without photo retouching.
    Q. How does KK have a big butt with no cellulite?
    A. She almost certainly does. Not in photos though!

    I did enjoy this article though. I’m a size 4/6 and even I am made to feel “curvy” by the world of women’s magazines and advertising and fashion. Little by little we just have to remind ourselves to not obsess about which body-type category we currently belong under. It’s all a delusional mess!

  • Caroline T

    as a design professional allow me to enlighten you to a fact that I’m sure you’ve heard before: society’s collective idea of the physical perfection wouldn’t be what it is without photo retouching.
    Q. How does KK have a big butt with no cellulite?
    A. She almost certainly does. Not in photos though!

    I did enjoy this article though. I’m a size 4/6 and even I am made to feel “curvy” by the world of women’s magazines and advertising and fashion. Little by little we just have to remind ourselves to not obsess about which body-type category we currently belong under. It’s all a delusional mess!

  • Caroline T

    as a design professional allow me to enlighten you to a fact that I’m sure you’ve heard before: society’s collective idea of the physical perfection wouldn’t be what it is without photo retouching.
    Q. How does KK have a big butt with no cellulite?
    A. She almost certainly does. Not in photos though!

    I did enjoy this article though. I’m a size 4/6 and even I am made to feel “curvy” by the world of women’s magazines and advertising and fashion. Little by little we just have to remind ourselves to not obsess about which body-type category we currently belong under. It’s all a delusional mess!

  • Sophia

    I love this article profusely.
    My boyfriend once, out of nowhere, told me, “I like that you’re curvy.” And I had absolutely no idea how to take it.

  • Sophia

    I love this article profusely.
    My boyfriend once, out of nowhere, told me, “I like that you’re curvy.” And I had absolutely no idea how to take it.

  • Sophia

    I love this article profusely.
    My boyfriend once, out of nowhere, told me, “I like that you’re curvy.” And I had absolutely no idea how to take it.

  • Sophia

    I love this article profusely.
    My boyfriend once, out of nowhere, told me, “I like that you’re curvy.” And I had absolutely no idea how to take it.

  • Sophia

    I love this article profusely.
    My boyfriend once, out of nowhere, told me, “I like that you’re curvy.” And I had absolutely no idea how to take it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

      “curves in the right places” 

      compliment or no? discuss. 

      • Curious

        Does a FUPA count?

      • Curious

        Does a FUPA count?

  • Nicholas Cox

    i thought it was going to be “cellulite”

  • Nicholas Cox

    i thought it was going to be “cellulite”

  • Nicholas Cox

    i thought it was going to be “cellulite”

  • Nicholas Cox

    i thought it was going to be “cellulite”

  • Nicholas Cox

    i thought it was going to be “cellulite”

  • Nicholas Cox

    i thought it was going to be “cellulite”

  • Nicholas Cox

    i thought it was going to be “cellulite”

  • Nicholas Cox

    i thought it was going to be “cellulite”

  • Nicholas Cox

    i thought it was going to be “cellulite”

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