May 17, 2013
Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Fat
You, faithful reader, are getting to know a lot about me lately, so here’s your newest tidbit of information. I’m fat, obese, overweight, plus sized. I’m a “big girl.”
Does that change your opinion of my writing? Or my ability to do my job? Or what clothes I should wear, or who I should date, or even what I should read?
It does for some people. I started thinking about this post because of a recent H&M ad campaign that was being praised for being “inclusive.” Time Style reported that H&M had asked “plus sized model” Jennie Runk to be the spokesperson for its new plus sized swimwear this season. If you haven’t seen Jennie, you should go look her up. She is beautiful. She has curves in all the right places, a sweet smile, beautiful all the way around. But she isn’t plus sized. The article tells you in the first sentence that Jennie is a size 12. The average American woman is a size 14. AVERAGE!
That means, Jennie Runk is one size SMALLER than the median size for every woman in the US. Personally, I’m five sizes larger than Jennie, so I know exactly what plus-sized looks like, I see her in the mirror every morning. This ad campaign is being praised for promoting a healthy body image, and in a way, I suppose it does. She is certainly more healthy looking than the Twiggy-esque models we are used to seeing.
My question, though, is telling every woman in America that someone who is one size smaller than average is “plus sized” really healthy? Seems to me it’s just one more disguised dig at making big girls hate themselves.
Let’s look at another example. This week, there has been a huge backlash against Abercrombie + Fitch CEO Mike Jefferies for laying out his “anti-fat” retail marketing scheme. It isn’t new news, he made most of the statements in 2006 in an interview with Salon. So I’m not entirely sure why the backlash waited seven years, but it is well warranted in my opinion. Let me let you judge.
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” Jeffries says. “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”
He goes on, of course, to talk about how only “good looking people” are allowed to work there, and only good looking skinny people should be allowed to shop there. A+F clothes for women only go to size Large, no XL or XXL, even though his men’s wear lines go up that far.
A very brave and beautiful woman has addressed this issue much better than I can. Amy Taylor wrote Jeffries an open letter on the internet, asking where exactly he gets off and telling him how disappointed she is in his behavior.
Even better than the letter though, is this statement: “Mean-spiritedness aside, Mr. Jeffries’ comments raise a flag about a bigger, more troubling cultural issue. Pretend, for one moment, that instead of fat chicks, unattractive people or “not-so-cool” kids Mr. Jeffries had said “African Americans” or “homosexuals” or “single moms.” As a society, we would rise up and crucify any brand that flaunted that kind of exclusionary business plan.”
So, I started looking for businesses, other than A+F, who were discriminating against people for being fat. And I found them. I found stories of people’s job offers being withdrawn because of their size, being fired because of it, having higher insurance rates imposed because of it, being paid less because of it. Why is this okay? Isn’t this just systemic hate?
There are companies and people and celebrities leading the way to show us this isn’t the way to be, but honestly, talking about those wonderful people in the same post as Jeffries would sicken me, so I’ll save that for another day.
Image Credit: Flashon Studio / Shutterstock