Deena Shoemaker had a bone to pick with clothing manufacturers.
She picked it, and now she’s gone viral, cheered on by thousands of people online, her words shared more than 87,000 times in the last week or so.
Her message to women: Clothing sizes are not important enough for us to obsess over.
“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,” wrote the Wichita woman. “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.”
It all began when a Facebook friend posted that a neighbor’s house had burned and that the neighbor needed women’s pants.
Shoemaker went into her own closet to find pants to donate. What she discovered during the purge shocked her.
Even though she’s been the same size for years, she could fit into the size 5, the size 6, the size 8 and the size 12 pants in her closet.
They all fit the same.
The discovery hit a deep nerve for Shoemaker, 27, who screens and trains mentors at the nonprofit Youth Horizons in Wichita, which provides Christian mentors to at-risk youths — all from single-parent homes — between the ages of 5 and 14.
“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,” she told The Huffington Post.
“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.”
Shoemaker wrote that she’s worked with teen and preteen girls as a leader and counselor for the last six years.
“I’ve listened to countless girls tell me about their new diets and weight loss fads. I’ve (had) 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,” she wrote.
“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.”
That was just her warmup.
“Let me explain why I’m not happy, America,” she continued. “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 pant size didn’t *actually* go up by seven digits?”
Shoemaker’s post has inspired more than 4,000 comments. A sampling:
“This is so true and it (ticks) me off. I have sizes 0 to 7 in jeans. I used to be nothing smaller than a 6 and even then some of my jeans were 12 ... Letting numbers rule your sanity and mental health is the most dangerous thing. Put your health and happiness first ...”
“Thank you for shining light on this. So many young women have a problem with their bodies and they needed to see this.”
“Thank you for this. I can show my daughter exactly what I am talking about. She is 14 and is doing exactly some of the things you mentioned. I can’t thank you enough for your words above.”
Shoemaker told the Today show that her point wasn’t about pants sizes.
“If sizes were true across the board, it might make shopping easier,” she said, “but really, l hope women realize that sizes aren’t as important as we have made them out to be.”