After a friend posted on Facebook that their neighbor had lost her home in a fire and needed clothes, Deena Shoemaker went on a mission in her closet.
What started as an effort to find some pants for a woman in need, quickly turned into an unsettling realization about the fashion industry.
In her “closet cleanse,” Shoemaker realized that her pants ranged in various sizes from a 5 to a 12.
The 27-year-old from Wichita, Kansas, has spent many years counseling and leading youth girls—preteens and teens who know all-too-well the pressures of America’s body-image standards.
“I remembered all the times I’ve heard girls say they’re ‘fat’ because they went up a pant size, or talked about all the diets they’ve been on,” Shoemaker said. “I’ve tried telling them it’s not true but they never really seemed to believe me. All the pieces fell into place for me when I saw my own pants. The lies they were believing were coming from something so commonplace that they didn’t even recognize it as the source of their hurt.”
It wasn’t long before the 27-year-old from Wichita, Kansas, took to Facebook with a photo of her closet discovery. The heartfelt rant quickly went viral, and has inspired women and girls all over the Internet.
“No I’m not selling my pants; I’ve just got a bone to pick.
I’ve worked with teen & pre-teen girls as a leader and counselor in various places for the last 6 years. I’ve listened to countless girls tell me about their new diets and weight loss fads. I’ve have girls sob in my arms and ask me, “if I were skinnier, would he have stayed?” I’ve counseled girls who were skipping meals. I’ve caught some throwing up everything they’ve just eaten.
But as I was going through my clothes tonight I started to notice how dramatically different the size of all my pants were. And I have a real problem with the fact that my size 5 pants fit me THE EXACT SAME WAY that my size 12 pants do.
Let me explain why I’m not happy, America. You photoshop models and actresses and slap them on the front of beauty magazines. At this point it’s a pretty universally known truth that you’re lying to us and those aren’t accurate portrayals of the human body. I can prove it to girls pretty easily by simply showing them how photoshop works.
But when you resize a girl’s pants from a 9 to a 16 and label it “plus size,” how am I supposed to fight that? Photo manipulation is one thing but how do you expect me to convince her that the number printed inside her clothes is a lie too? How do you expect me to convince her that she doesn’t need to skip dinner for the next month because her pants size didn’t *actually* go up by seven digits?
STOP telling my girls that a size 4 is the “ideal body size” and the “epitome of beauty” if you’re going to change a size 4 into an 8 or a 12 or whatever number you feel like on any given day.
And to you; my dear beautiful girls, my size 2 girls or my size 18 girls, your size doesn’t determine your beauty; your life does. The size printed inside your clothes is subjective to the fashion industry’s personal taste and it fluctuates rapidly. Stop believing the social normatives about who and what you should be.
You are lovely and you are loved.
Just exactly the way you are.”
This isn’t the first time Shoemaker has found a way to send a positive message.
As a mentor and coach for the nonprofit organization Youth Horizons, Shoemaker trains volunteers who provide their time and love to children from single-parent homes. The Christian organization empowers kids and their families to become healthy, productive members of the community, while creating nationwide awareness of the needs of at-risk youth.
Her now-viral post has been shared more than 87,000 times. But the meaning behind it goes far beyond a simple fashion statement. “What I wrote wasn’t really about pants size,” Shoemaker explained. “Good health is more important than anything. Smaller sizes don’t always mean a healthier person, and bigger doesn’t mean unhealthy.”
Ultimately, Shoemaker just hopes that women realize sizes aren’t nearly as important as society has made them out to be.