There’s no denying that reality TV is fatphobic. I hardly need to tell you that.
In my 29 years, I’ve never seen anyone that’s looked like me on frivolous shows about sex, dating, and finding love (or trying to, anyway).
Though I’m a size 16 – the average size for a woman in the UK – I’m classed as plus-sized. The only place women like me can be found onscreen are on shows about food, dieting and weight loss. Stretchmarks and sex don’t go together, it seems.
It’s more ‘Made of Chelsea buns,’ and ‘Unloved Island’ for plus-sized people.
It doesn’t mean that reality shows aren’t a guilty pleasure of mine, though – with Love Is Blind being a firm favourite.
If you’re unfamiliar with the US Netflix show, a group of cis, heterosexual (there’s been one openly bi person on the show), able-bodied, conventionally attractive men and women sign up to prove if love is blind by dating the opposite sex in pods – with a wall between them.
The only way they get to see each other is by leaving the pods engaged, and moving in together, with their wedding in a few weeks. It’s wild.
The idea is that they look past size, race and appearance, falling in love with a personality, not a figure that is their usual ‘type’.
This would be a great concept, if there was ever any plus-sized storylines on the show, that is.
The social experiment was hardly challenging, as everyone looked the same. They were slim, and they were beautiful.
And the reason for focussing on exclusively skinny people? They’re not ‘insecure’ like plus-sized people are, according to the show’s (slim, beautiful, married) co-host Vanessa Lachey.
Though season one, released in 2020, passed by without a plus-sized person in the main cast in sight – season two’s first episode back in February promised not one but two bigger girls, Hope and Chassidy. Finally, I sighed to myself – deep in my family bag of Thai Sweet Chilli Sensations.
Yet, they… disappeared. Vanished – as if they never existed. Succumbing viewers to storylines exclusively between slim couples. They were side-lined.
When asked in an interview with Insider last week, Vanessa Lachey blamed this on their confidence.
‘Their whole life they’ve been so insecure about being themselves because of this crazy swipe generation that we are in and this catfishing world that we’re in, that they’re so afraid to be themselves,’ she said.
This ridiculous shunning of plus-size people rang true throughout the entire second season, with contestant (albeit the show’s self-inflicted villain) Abhishek ‘Shake’ Chatterjee asking women if he could put them on his shoulders at music festivals to get an idea of their body weight, and inferring that he preferred women who exercised.
Though Lachey plays no part in the casting process, claiming that those with ‘diverse’ bodies get a ‘fair shot’ she wondered aloud if plus-sized people ‘have enough time in those two weeks to find themselves […] and then be themselves to then find that spouse’.
Why are people who aren’t plus-sized so obsessed with people like me ‘finding themselves’? What have I got to find? A treadmill? Another book on fad dieting? A new body?
Plus-sized people are worthy of love, as they are. As ‘themselves’. Except, when slim people look at me, like Lachey, they assume I’m insecure. As if I couldn’t possibly *want* to be the size I am.
But I am not lost.
The reason plus-size people have any shred of doubt, or insecurities about their size is because people like Lachey hold us back.
We don’t see ourselves anywhere, no one represents us – slim, able-bodied, conventionally attractive people just stereotype us. They congratulate us for any weight loss, or punish us for looking different.
Thankfully, I adore my body – and I am adored. But in the past, I’ve felt vulnerable, pressured to change and ‘fit in’ to the too-tight mould cast for me by close-minded generations of the past. I have my off days where I actively despise my body – everyone does – but it’s people like Lachey that have caused this self-doubt.
She does not speak for me. Thankfully, now I am stronger, wiser – I can’t say the same for everyone, though.
What damage have these shows caused, and continue to cause, by side-lining bigger people and showing that only skinny people are worthy?
Love Is Blind – and other reality TV shows like Love Island – need to put body diversity front of screen. It’s nothing to do with a new ‘catfishing’ culture or a ‘swipe generation’ – this stereotyping and discrimination of plus-sized people has been relentless, for years.
I can’t see it changing anytime soon, though.
Lachey, we do not need you and other slim people to speak for us, and we certainly do not need your sympathy, or ill-informed assumptions. I am loved, I am wanted, and I am respected – regardless of my size, or how my body looks compared to the previous contestants of Love Is Blind that I follow on Instagram.
It’s not love that is blind, it’s Lachey that is blinded to reality.
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