Pakistan is home to a diverse group of people – so many ethnicities, languages, religions and communities. And yet, Pakistan just isn’t inclusive. There, I said it. Sometimes it seems that as Pakistanis we can only emphasize the good things about Pakistan – to promote a peaceful image of the country – but the truth is what is. Pakistan is just not an inclusive country. Not it’s media, not it’s movies and certainly not it’s fashion industry.
Inclusion talks about a lot of things – and I wish I had the time to get into every single topic because I have thoughts – but the thing that frustrates me the most is the lack of plus-size inclusivity in this country. And I’m well aware that isn’t just a Pakistan-related issue; this a global problem. The lack of plus-size representation and the unrealistic standards of beauty that we’ve been seeing for so many years are all products of an extremely patriarchal society. But – and it’s a good but – people have had enough. I have had enough.
I have felt defined by one thing my entire life – my weight. I have just always been and always felt fat. And logically, I know that others probably don’t see me that way. Probably. But I still think that’s all people see or say about me. Growing up in an environment where you feel like you’re abnormal and you’re an outsider is such a horrible feeling that I can’t even find words to describe it. Even in a group of my best friends, I used to feel like the ‘other’.
My friends love going shopping – who doesn’t? I like it too, but I always prefer shopping for makeup or accessories or books – never clothes. And the sole reason is that I just cannot have the same experience that other girls have when they go shopping. I cannot go into every single store and try stuff on and experiment with my style. There is maybe one store that I can go to and even then, the selection is limited. I have to try everything on because I don’t have the luxury of picking things up and making them work. These clothes are not made keeping women like me in mind. Our bodies are not taken into consideration. As far as they’re concerned, we simply don’t exist.
The problem isn’t just about fashion though. It’s so much deeper than that. When you don’t see someone who looks like you in the mainstream media that you consume, it really distorts your perception of beauty and what is desirable. Curvy women have never been shown as the object of a man’s desire; they’ve never shown as sought after; they’re never shown as the perfect bahu.
Things are changing, though. Much slower than they need to but they are. There’s a lot more awareness and willingness to talk about this. There’s now an understanding that irrespective of why someone is the way they are, they still deserve to be catered to. And at the end of the day, it all boils down to demand and supply. There is a demand so why is there no supply? Why don’t brands understand that there is an entire market of women that they are just completely ignoring, who will actually pay good money to buy clothes that properly fit them? Why, then, are they not being catered to? It’s simple economics.
That’s when we need to make some noise and I’m glad we are. Instagrammer Bihamaal Zurqa, popularly known as ‘Baemisaal,’ has recently started a campaign where she’s encouraging her followers to directly question clothing brands and comment on the posts saying ‘WHERE ARE THE PLUS SIZES?’ Because it’s high time someone said it. A popular Bangladeshi-American YouTuber, Nabela Noor, just launched her brand, Zeba, which focuses on body-positivity and self-love. Zeba introduced a new sizing system, which disregards numbers and focuses on celebrating you. Then there’s Xera, a community and ready-to-wear clothing brand for plus size Pakistanis founded by Zehra Husain, that focus on size inclusivity and body activism.
We need more of this. A lot more of this. And we need bigger companies, brands, designers, celebrities, films and TV shows to follow suit. Our media is the biggest influencer in this country and they need to start influencing for the good. They have the power to change the way people think. To make people feel better for themselves. Because young kids, girls or boys, really shouldn’t feel like they’re not worthy of anything unless they’re thin. That their achievements don’t matter, unless they’re thin. We need to do better.