Ebony’s March 2016 cover features beautiful plus-size women.
Ebony magazine

“You probably shouldn’t call yourself ‘an amazon’ in your profile,” he messages me.

“Oh, really? And why is that?” I respond. After all, at a smooth and stacked 5 feet 10 inches—with a penchant for heels—I find that most men I match with online aren’t even at my eye level, let alone taller. I figure it’s best to brief them on this possibility upfront.

“Well, it might lead men to believe that you’re … bigger,” he replies.

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“Hmm. Interesting. Well, I do make my living as a plus model, so … ”

Yeah. He swiped right on the wrong one today.

Now, I can see how he might’ve missed that fact, despite my array of pictures—which, yes, included a recent body shot. As a tall, proportioned and fairly fit size 12 with both dangerous curves and a rapier wit, I consider myself quite well-rounded—mentally and physically. But the fact is, by most conventional standards, I am indeed “bigger” than your average woman. And I’m fine with that.

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Yet, here I am, being advised by a perfect stranger on how to describe myself.

And I’m not alone. A casual poll of some of my fellow “thick snacks” revealed that the online dating arena is rife with critics, trolls, outright body-shamers and otherwise decent and well-meaning guys who reveal themselves to be deeply “fat-phobic.” Sadly, we’ve all had at least one not-so-body-positive exchange online, not to mention on actual dates. You know, because we love a side of body-shaming with our steak.

People, it is 2016. As I write this, my home girl Ashley Graham is killing the game as the first plus-size woman ever to land a cover of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue, and Ebony has blessed its March cover with a bevy of beautiful, buxom and bomb-ass brown celebs.

Hallelujah. Thick is finally in.

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Now, before you argue that black men have always embraced bigger bodies (mostly true, and thank you), I’m sorry to inform you that our men can be as guilty of body-shaming as any others (and ladies, we have to stop body-shaming ourselves, too). It needs to stop—now—because it’s not OK. It’s never OK. Here’s why:

1. Because it’s just an opinion—and nobody asked for it.

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OK, sir, so you like your women petite and pick-up-able? You’re entitled to that—and good luck with it. But that doesn’t make me—or any other woman—somehow inferior for not being your type. Who made you the arbiter of all that is deemed beautiful?

I can tell you from firsthand experience that the plus-size industry is booming, not only because of the many women in the world who happen to be over a size 10, but also because of many, many men who like their women that way. But if it’s not for you, that’s fine, too. Repeat after me: If you don’t like, don’t swipe right.

2. Because it’s not “constructive criticism,” it’s cruel.

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To all you men who think women don’t know the difference between “thick” and “fat”: Trust me, we do. We spend far more time with our naked bodies than you could ever hope to, and know every jiggly bit, stretch mark and sag. You’re not telling us anything we don’t already know, and if you wouldn’t say it in person, then you’re a coward for saying it behind a keyboard. And if insulting women is your idea of a good time, you’re officially a misogynist in need of a hobby. Do better.

And girlfriends, if or when you continue to engage with men who critique you this way, you’re encouraging it. Cease and desist. Block. Delete.

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3. Because in case you didn’t know, healthy is the new skinny.

Here’s why I’m a satisfied size 12, cellulite and all: Because I’m in the gym five to seven days a week, tracking what I eat and eating clean. With rare exceptions (Hi, holidays), I do the best I can for my body and am confident that it wants to be a size 12.

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Despite the fact that many men request a woman who is “active” and “takes care of herself” (code for “no fat chicks”), those terms aren’t synonymous with skinniness. It’s just semantics and, often, no indication of someone’s fitness or self-care. I know full-figured women who run marathons and slim women who scoff at working out. And so do you; you just can’t see past your preconceived notions of what “fit” and “fat” are.

4. Because believe it or not, women’s bodies do not exist for male approval.

Hey guys, we get it: Men are super visual. Your days are filled with stimuli, from Instagram models to strip clubs, to porn, to a casual stroll down any busy street. Hard to believe all of this feminine loveliness wasn’t curated exclusively for your entertainment and delight!

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But the not-so-sexy truth is, we’re out here, living our lives in these skin suits, just like you. And those skin suits don’t always come courtesy of plastic surgery, Facetune or Instagram filters. So, let’s get real about what female bodies look like, and stop projecting our fantasies onto unsuspecting—and unretouched—single women.

Frankly, it’s funny how a vast majority of men expecting their women to be tight and toned aren’t toting six-packs of their own. Maybe you should check yourself before you disrespect someone else, and get your body right before you start critiquing mine?

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5. Because that woman—whatever size she is—has as much right to love and sex as anyone else.

And guess what? She’ll get it. Because what turns one man off will turn another man all the way on.

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No, everything ain’t for everybody—nor should it be. But every body deserves love. If you can’t consider a woman lovable unless she comes wrapped in a so-called perfect package, you may have a void in your self-esteem that no woman will ever fill.

And ladies, if you’re waiting until you’re a perfect package to consider yourselves worthy of love, you’re likely wasting precious time and energy on men who reinforce that nonsense. To quote the Biebs (for hopefully the only time, ever): “Maybe you should go and love yourself.”

So fellas, please stop policing our bodies. And by the way, being open to a “bigger girl” doesn’t make you worthy of a humanitarian award; it just makes you a man willing to explore all of his attractive options. Besides, if you tried it, you might actually like it. Fun fact: I’ve made many a man reconsider his “type.” That pretty girl who’s thicker-than-your-average? She might, too. 

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Maiysha Kai is a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter, fashion model, devoted auntie and Brooklyn, N.Y.-based, single black bombshell who recently strutted into her 40s. She is also an expert at oversharing who chronicles her attempts at dating—and adulting—on 40onFleek.