What’s the measure of size zero?

tape measure

At 5’10”, I, Imogen Stark, stand tall and proud in saying that I have a ‘size zero’ waist. Defined by the fashion modelling industry as being between 22 and 24 inches, my waist is smaller than the circumference of my head. Whilst this may sound absurd, I can assure you it is 100% true. Is it wrong of me to be so proud of my measurements? How does this incredibly small size define me?

Recently, fellow linguist Jade posted about her opinions on the term ‘plus size’. For me, it raises issues at the opposing end of the spectrum: To what extent do measurements matter? How do terms such as ‘size zero’ and ‘skinny’ project certain ideas?

The term size zero in itself simply doesn’t compute with some people; how can a size be nothing? Is it even a real size? If not, when are you considered a ‘size’, or perhaps more interestingly, a ‘plus size’?  If we feel the need to use the term plus size, then does it call for an opposing term? What about “negative size” or “minus size”? Are the connotations which follow from these latter terms any better than those which follow from plus size? Consider victims of eating disorders and those who, like myself, are naturally slim.

It’s important to remember that these are of course, gendered terms and are hardly ever used to refer to men. Would defining a woman by her size as they do for men by using S, M, or L be better, or should we follow the common tendency for plus size women to refer to themselves as ‘real’ or ‘natural’ women? I quite clearly don’t fit into the category of being ‘plus size’ so does that mean that I’m not a ‘real’ woman? Should I not embrace my naturally slim figure? Should I be shunned for feeling confident about my size? I understand that there’s an audience who feel a stigma confronted by labels presented to them when shopping for clothes, but I can’t help but feel that there’s an ever growing judgement on those at the ‘skinny’ end of the spectrum. Take a Victoria’s Secret model, for example. Are they ‘real’ women? Should they be confident in their size? They’re not holograms; of course they’re real women. Of course they should be confident.

Whilst the terms ‘real’/’natural’ women aim to show respect and that size doesn’t matter, think about what you’re doing to those women like me at the opposing end. If you’re not happy to use the term ‘plus size’, would you be happy in using the term ‘negative size’ to refer to me? Am I to be considered a ‘real’ woman? What’s the measure of a so-called ‘size zero’ woman like me?

photo credit: Day 22/365 via photopin (license)