It’s no secret that diversity has been a pressing issue lately. With the Oscars nominating strictly white performers for the second year in a row making headlines, the pursuit of equal representation in media is beginning to become more and more of a priority. The fashion realm, especially, has faced criticism for being notoriously exclusive when it comes to representation. Inch by inch, the industry has made improvements in diversification: More diverse models are landing campaigns, and designers are embracing gender fluidity by hiring models who identify as transgender or androgynous. A more diverse fashion industry means representing people of all shapes and sizes, which is where the term “plus size” comes into play. Supermodels like Ashley Graham and Tess Holliday are changing the discussion by redefining what the media portrays as beautiful. Graham, who was the first ever plus-size model to land the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, strongly advocates for diversity in media and argues that the current profile of models who work in fashion don’t accurately reflect the average woman. She, along with other women of the same mindset, are pushing for inclusion so that fashion can serve as more of a global unifier.
Change is slow, but it’s happening. However, there is an elephant in the room that has yet to be addressed seriously: Why isn’t the same change happening in men’s fashion?
It’s true that the female fashion industry is more expansive; almost all the shows at New York Fashion Week are dedicated to women’s collections, and we almost always associate the term “supermodel” to a female name. The female industry, in an effort to become more inclusive, has offered a wider range of sizes to women for years. This isn’t the case for men for a number of reasons. For one, due to market size, there isn’t enough money behind the industry for it to be able to support more sizes. In addition, men’s high fashion has maintained a much stronger rigidity in requiring a lean body due to a double standard that holds men to the idea of masculinity and athleticism. Women of size, in contrast, are associated with curviness, a quality that is often pegged as “unattractive” when found in the opposite gender.
Regardless of market size and stereotype, the fact of the matter is that men’s fashion isn’t making the same progress as its female counterpart. According to journalist Mark Simpson, one of the main reasons for a lack of representation in male fashion is that there are no politics behind it.
“Men are objectified all the time in the media, but it’s not called ‘objectification.’” Simpson said. “There’s no male equivalent of feminist ideology.”
The Huffington Post also had the opportunity to interview Zach Miko, who made headlines last year after becoming Target’s first plus size male model. Miko argues that men suffer from insecurity just as women do, but the double standard in which they are raised teach them to hide it. Men are conditioned to suppress their feelings and consequently are at risk to develop serious self esteem issues. The effects of muscle dysphoria, an eating disorder that causes men to think that they are too small and work out excessively, are comparable to the effects of anorexia on the body and mind. During a time where diversity is in demand, it just might be in the industry’s best interest to consider change, as the self esteem and mental health of younger generations depend on it.
Why do you think there’s no such thing as a male plus size model? Let’s have a discussion about it in the comments.