We live in a strange world-a world of contradictions. I am told that I should speak my mind and have opinions, but if those opinions are too strong, I am a “man-hating feminist”. I am told that I need to work hard and get an education, but when I try to use that degree I worked so hard to earn, I am told that I didn’t work hard enough. I am told that I am not small enough, but I’m also not big enough. All of these contradictions add up to me feeling like I’m wrong a lot of the time.
I am told I’m wrong by the jeans that I can’t pull over my hips, by the jeans that I could pull over my hips but then fall off my waist, by shirt buttons that exploded the second they greet my bosom, by the number of deep v dresses that I can’t wear for fear of a Janet Jackson Super Bowl situation, sans sparkly nipple pasties. I am told I’m wrong by the raised eyebrows I get when I go to the gym, by the cat calls I get walking down the street because I “look like the type of girl who would be into that”, by the men who, upon my rejection, tell me “You’re too fat anyways. I was just looking for an easy lay.”
When I found the plus size women’s movement, I felt myself breathe the word “right” ever so hesitantly. And then, as I tried to claim my new plus size title, I was cut short with a swift and solid “WRONG”. Some women would look at me with a furrowed brow and exclaim “You’re not plus size!” But what I heard was “Stop trying to step on my territory. You don’t belong here. You don’t understand my struggle.” Others would say, “Oh sweetie, you’re not plus size.” But what I would hear is, “It’s so sad that you think you’re unattractive.” What neither side of this battle seemed to understand was that I didn’t totally know if I was plus size, the sounds were still gaining strength on my tongue. But I desperately wanted to say that I was, with vigor and confidence. I didn’t crave the plus size title because I wanted to claim an understanding of something I knew nothing about, and I didn’t want it so people would tell me that I’m pretty. I wanted it because I needed to know what box I fit in. This is the struggle of the In-Betweenie. I don’t fit into either box, despite how much I might want to, and that means my body constantly feels wrong.
The women who tell me I’m not plus-size, that I don’t know what it feels like to truly be plus-size, are right in a way because I don’t understand their struggle. I don’t know what it feels like to have leering looks, hear whispers, and be beaten down by society in such a blatant way. For me, the abuse is quiet. It feels almost sneaky like something people carry in their back pocket to use against me when I get too confident or when they feel threatened. People know I don’t fit the norm of what beauty is, so, when they need to knock me down a peg, they have their weapon. The weapon of my body. Part of me hoped that if I were fully plus-sized, I’d have more confidence because I could proudly claim that title. Plus-Size and Proud. But the real struggle of the In-Betweenie is the struggle of every woman, wanting to find their group so that they can find themselves. Because when you have a group of other women supporting you, it seems a lot easier to have confidence, to have differing opinions, to be a “man-hating feminist”; because you have an army of strong women backing you, telling you that what you feel is right, that it’s okay. Your anger, your frustration, your pride, your joy, they are all okay; they are all accepted. So really, the struggle of the In-Betweenie isn’t just our struggle; it’s every woman’s struggle to find a safe place to grow.
The solution to this problem isn’t easy, which is why a lot of people do their best to ignore it. The solution means leaving behind toxic people that tell you you aren’t big enough or small enough; it means speaking your mind so you can find the people that cheer on your thoughts or that challenge them in a way that harbours conversation, rather than self-doubt. It means that you have to recognize that finding a group that you fit into doesn’t mean that you’ve had exactly the same experience as the person beside you. It means not making your hardships a competition. The struggle of the In-Betweenie is learning that being an In-Betweenie and Proud is no more or less powerful than being Plus-Sized and Proud, because at the end of the day, we are all just finding a way to say, “I am me, and I am proud”.