As a plus size woman who's dated several thin women over my lifetime, I've found some comfort with the "mixed-weight relationship" label. But not everyone feels the same way.
A mixed-weight relationship is exactly what it sounds like: It's a relationship in which there's a noticeable difference in body size between partners. While the term is often used to describe couples with one partner who's plus size and one who's straight size (meaning that they wouldn't be considered overweight), a mixed-weight relationship can be between two plus size people or two straight size people — what matters is the overall difference between their respective sizes.
For me, the term "mixed-weight" is simply a descriptor. But for some, it's a loaded term. In fact, activists like plus size blogger Georgina Horne and plus size fashion vlogger Alexandra Airene see labelling love between a larger person and a smaller person as just another way the world tells plus people that they don't belong.
"People who feel the need to say that a fat person who's with a thin person is in a whole separate category to people in relationships period... I think that's just stupid. We're in a relationship and that's that," body-positive fashion blogger Gloria Shuri Henry says in a video about mixed-weight relationships.
Henry is in a relationship that many people would consider mixed-weight, and while it's important for people to see relationships like hers, creating a separate category for those relationships could add to fetishisation, says Sarah Sapora, a body-positive activist who once did a sensual photoshoot to empower plus size women in their sexuality. Sapora would rather drop the label and help people see relationships between people of different sizes as normal relationships. "If we accept things as normal, we remove the fetish aspect and we just see people as people who love each other," she says.
Yet there's sometimes power in labels. For me, categorising my relationship as mixed-weight was one way to acknowledge that the differences between my ex and me informed how each of us experienced our relationship. It also gave me something to google when I felt that my ex was subtly fat shaming me, and I didn't know if other people felt the same way.
While labels create categories, they also create opportunities for conversation, and conversation is sorely needed when only one person in a relationship is experiencing discrimination. Mixed-race couples have to consider privilege and oppression as it concerns their respective races. Mixed-faith couples will have cultural differences they'll have to work through in their relationships. And mixed-weight couples, especially when one person is plus size and one is not, have to acknowledge microaggressions that plus size people experience.
Henry says in her video that people assume her husband is making her stay big or would no longer love her if she were to lose weight. All of that points to fetish. People assume that he loves her only because of her size, and not for her personality. That's just one of the issues mixed-weight couples will have to acknowledge and combat.
So, yes, it's important for people in these kinds of partnerships to recognise that their different experiences with weight will play a part in their relationship. But it's important for people in any relationship to recognise their differences, Sapora says, whether the difference is that one person is plus size or that one person makes significantly more money. "We bring our own stories to the table in any partnership," she says. "When we have differences of any kind, they’ll come up in the context of a relationship developing. Being able to talk about any kind of difference without shame can only help two people grow closer and find common ground."
Some couples might still find comfort in calling themselves mixed-weight, because it gives them a starting point to talk about their differences. Others might avoid labelling their relationship mixed-weight because it feels like another layer of stigma. Ultimately, it's up to the people in the relationship to decide.
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