Lane Bryant Debacle Response, and Fatshion Suggestions

So recently there has been quite a deserved hullabaloo over a very crude comment made by Lane Bryant’s twitterer about a shirt by the fat positive indie designer definatalie.

Some original posts, before the apology was issued by Definatalie, The Rotund, Lesley at Fatshionista, Fat Heffalump, Red3

The apology by Lane Bryant’s VP of Marketing, Jay Dunn

Some posts after the apology was issued by The Rotund, Not Blue at All

The following is the comment I left on the apology site (more properly formatted). Let me know if you have any other points for plus size retailers to add to my own! (or comments/critiques on the points I make) Also, what is your take on this issue? Do you accept LB’s apology?


Thank you for issuing this apology. I’m sorry to say, however, that I’m not entirely convinced it will make a difference in Lane Bryant’s selection, model choices, and prices, which are the three biggest problems I see with the company as it stands. There is a whole new world of fatshion — plus size fashion — opening up to fat people (especially fat women) right now. And Lane Bryant is going to have to make steps forward to correct problems like the aforementioned in order to stay ahead of the curve (no pun).

Here’s a short list of main points I hope LB addresses in the future, if they wish to retain my (and other fat, empowered women’s) business:

1. CONCEPT: Fat, empowered women do not necessarily want to look thinner, or to hide historically-determined ‘problem areas’ like stomach, arms, and thighs.

2. ENGINEERING: The ‘nested doll’ style of patterning does NOT work. It doesn’t matter if your fit model is a size 18W instead of a size 6. I’m a 24/26W and your necklines fall far too low, your armholes are way too big, the waists don’t fall right — and I know I’m not the only one. Women of larger sizes have many different kinds of fits relative to one another. A different kind of pattern-making needs to find a plus-size median fit, rather than relying on old fashioned-nesting.

3. MODELS: I want to see how my clothes will fit on a body like my own, not the body I ostensibly ‘want’ to be (thinner). Basically, you’re selling women a bait-and-switch, and fat women are getting tired of it. You’re riding the fading idea that fat women hate their bodies and don’t consider other fat bodies beautiful or attractive. Sure, you may have some marketing research saying that you’ll make X more if you have thinner rather than fatter models, but for how long? The tide is turning — more and more fat women I talk to (and certainly in the size acceptance community) will not buy clothing unless they have some idea how it will look on them. Why do you think fatshion blogs are so popular? Because fatshion bloggers are basically taking up the slack where the catalogs fall short — they are modeling the clothes in a body much more like ours. Don’t you think that having your own fatshion blog — i.e., using fatter models in your catalog — will have the same effect? If not, then don’t be surprised when you start losing more and more customers to places that do use fatter models.

4. POSITIVITY: No lip service, no mistakes. You should be LEADING the cause for size acceptance, not toeing the line of fat positivity and fat shaming. You want customers? Again, take a lesson from the fatshion blogs.

5. PRICE: Three years ago I could afford to buy clothing in your store. The clothing has not changed much in style and composition (aside from slapping fancy names on some sublines), but I can no longer afford to buy clothing in your store, aside from the occasional bra purchase and, once in a while, a pair of jeans. I used to spend a good $500/season at your store. I still spend that money on clothing, in fact, more (I get more items), but I am only spending perhaps $50/season in your store. Now multiply me times the percentage of voices in the comments that are expressing negativity towards your brand, and you get a pretty big hit to your company.

So why not listen to us, for a change? I understand that it’s difficult to institute such radical changes, particularly in a company with a lot of history of doing things a certain way, but something’s got to give here. Start by making small steps — use fatter models, for instance, as a start — and go from there. I guarantee you a positive response. Thanks for your attention to this issue, I hope it yields fruit.

Too Fat for Gloves?!

Just a short one. I recently got a shipment of clothes from Torrid, one of my favorite semi-goth-but-less-than-they-used-to-be-but-hey-I-don’t-have-any-better-options-since-I’m-larger-than-a-24US clothing stores. Included in this shipment were these gloves:

Apparently can only be worn by 90 - 160 lb individuals

Take a look at the text up at the top left of the packaging. Yes, you’re reading it correctly, your fattie eyes do no deceive you!—-there is indeed a weight rating for a pair of gloves. Only individuals 90 – 160 lbs are allowed to wear these babies. Nyah-nyah-nyah-faaaat-wriiiists!

But lo and behold! They fit these large, long, fatty hands perfectly, and I kill that weight rating by at least 100 lbs:

Big Liberty's fine be-gloved paw

Big Liberty's fine be-gloved paw

In conclusion, all I have to say to Leg Avenue (the manufacturers of the gloves) is — SUCK IT IM A FATTIE WEARIN UR GLOVES HA!

The Dieters’ Clusterfuck

It’s 11:52 a.m. You hear your tummy growling and, with satisfaction, remember that you brought your lunch today. Tuna salad sandwich with muenster cheese, sea-salt-and-cracked-pepper kettle-cooked potato chips, a couple homemade chocolate chip cookies, and Honest Tea. You decide to shoot off a few more emails before heading down to the shared office kitchen to retrieve your carefully-packed lunchbag, currently chilling in the refrigerator.

But, like sitting next to a cougher on the subway, your small bubble of contentment is suddenly violently and irreparably popped. All it took was a colleague loudly proclaiming to his open-office-concept compatriots that he “brought [his] low-fat lunch today because [he’s] trying to lose weight!” The implication is, of course, that he believes being fat and either enjoying one’s food or not dieting is poor behavior he’s attempting to best by taking the dieter’s moral high-road. And he’s going to let you—well, everyone—know about it.

Then another employee chimes in. “Yeah, after Holiday X my pants are totally tight and I was like, time to switch to yogurt for lunch for a while! It’s great, I’m not hungry at all.”

Yet another member of the chorus: “Nah, you just need to start running. It’s more sustainable, and just look at my calves!”

And the (nonfat, sugar-free) icing on the cake: “I’ve got a couple free passes to my gym, a group of us should work out together. It’s better in a group anyway so we can keep each other honest!” (and what is worse—that you know they aren’t mentally including you in the group that could potentially get together to work out at the gym, or that it’s being used as a tool of employee bonding in the first place?)

Everyone starts pulling out their lunches. And commenting on them. And praising each other for only finishing half, or for being ‘better’ than their own selves by having a nonfat fiber-stocked twig salad or heavily processed frankendairy sugarfree nonfat yogurt substitute. You, prisoner of the open-office-space concept have nowhere to go, though your pointed absence would have been conspicuous, anyway. Of course the fatty isn’t joining in! Does she even know what a calorie is? Silly fatties. You pick at your tuna sandwich and barely touch your chips. Every crackle of the chip bag is a loud reminder that you’re not a part of their world, that you either don’t agree or are not privy to the Mystic Vision of Food Restriction and/or Sacred Treadmill of Redemption.

But that’s not the whole reason your appetite has fled. Frankly, you’re pissed off. You’re mad as hell, and you don’t want to take it anymore. And, dammit, you’re hungry and want to eat your fucking sandwich and chips in peace!

Welcome to the Dieters’ Clusterfuck.

It’s not just work, it’s parties, family reunions, holidays, anywhere there’s food. Like a timid mouse in the face of the jackal the Dieter glares fearfully at the food table, occasionally darting in to take a single plum tomato or grape or (gasp, “I’m being so bad!”) cube of cheese. Those who share the anxiety of the Dieter—other Dieters—quickly discover each other and coalesce near enough to the food table to feed their starvation ideation and far enough away not to be ‘tempted’ to actually take anything.

If you are the non-Dieting thin your presence in the group, whether you’re eating something full-fat or not, is likely to be received with a level of awe and disbelief. You are Neo, The One. How Do You Eat That and Stay So Thin? they ask, voices trembling in appreciation and envy.

If you are the non-Dieting fat your presence in the group, whether you’re eating something full-fat or not, is likely to be received with a sharp cessation of diet talk (since you don’t belong or they think it might offend you, a silly fatty), or an assumption of inclusion—“oh, I was afraid I was going to be ‘bad’ today and brought my baby carrots with me!” they exclaim as you savor a bite of homemade carrot cake. You see, baby carrots, carrot cake, it’s all the same thing, right? Healthy Alternatives! Why can’t you be as smart as Baby Carrots Lady, who knows that baby carrots and carrot cake are in fact the same thing?!

After becoming thoroughly bored with the Clusterfuck (which takes about 0.68 seconds in my experience) you wander elsewhere. Once you’ve left there’s general agreement among the Dieters—usually unspoken—that you didn’t belong, anyway, and isn’t great they can now get back to their circle-jerk and painstakingly show off to each other how much of the diet culture they’ve absorbed? Their cake and cookies, as it were, is the approval and admiration from their fellow dieters as they detail their regime, or empathy as they verbally flog themselves for not being ‘good’ enough by way of an extra snack or missed workout.

This, as I’m sure you know, can go on for hours. Hours. Despite having been a part of the culture in my memoried past I cannot currently fathom how in the deep dark Hades they don’t fall dead asleep after fifteen minutes. Perhaps it’s a way of keeping busy so that they are distracted from their foggied intellect and gnawing hunger, I’m not sure.

And then, by Jove, there’s the Internet. Whole forums dedicated to continuing the Clusterfuck and cultivating the circle-jerk. Not only hours but days, weeks, years are spent basically talking about the same thing over, and over, and over, and over again. “Holiday X came and my jeans are tight, eek!” “Weight Loss X Plan Pill Bar has worked for me!” “In a perfect world beauty’s on the inside but we live in practical reality, am I right? So how many cals in one Arby’s french fry, again?”And still, they keep coming back for more flogging, for more sympathy, for more emotional cookies. If you are extremely lucky you can escape—as many here have!—but most people unfortunately never, ever escape.

Because the Dieters’ Clusterfuck is, by its very nature, unending and infinitely repetitive. Because if you “keep the weight off” you remain as an Enforcer, a Top Dog, an After Picture. This elite status makes you stay on your Lifestyle Plan Change New Lease on Superior Existence and gives you the moral rectitude to keep Active Members and Dietn00bs in line.

If you are in the process of losing weight you are an Active Member of the Dieters’ Clusterfuck. You are likely between your Before Picture and After Picture, a self-righteous Pilgrim on a journey to Enlightenment. You’ve probably lost and regained weight many times before but This Time It’s Going To Work. Most in the Dieters’ Clusterfuck are Active Members. In truth, though they are widely touted, there are really only a rare few After Pictures. They are often diet forum moderators, family members which get trotted out in food-related conversations whether or not they happen to be present, or celebrities endorsing the Diet That’s Going To Work This Time.

Lastly there are the Dietn00bs, those only just opening their eyes in childlike wonder to the vast promises of the Clusterfuck, How It Will Change Your Life and It’s Just Calories In, Calories Out and Anyone With Half a Brain Can Do it! Dietn00bs also include people who don’t currently diet but believe in the verity of the dieting culture. They can include health reporters, anti-obesity researchers, and a plethora of other ‘concerneds.’

The reason I decided to write this somewhat satirical take on diet culture is that I want to reinforce how lucky we are to be out of it. It’s a sticky thing, the diet culture. It pulls you back in with its snake-oil promises of a better life—even vocal fat activists have fallen prey to it, abandoning fat acceptance out of fear of Eating the World or hope that This Time it Will Work. Even some so-called body image promoters and internal beauty enthusiasts adhere to or otherwise believe in the dieting culture. Even people who are otherwise liberally minded believe in or adhere to the dieting or anti-fat culture.

You—the activists reading this post—are brave. I appreciate you. I know what you’re doing is hard. I know it’s sometimes thankless. I know what you’re up against. And I know it sometimes can be hard to stick to your guns in the face of so much distraction and disgust. I applaud you for plowing ahead, regardless. I celebrate your joy in throwing off the chains of the diet culture and I support you as you weather the backlash from those still immersed in it.

And here’s to seeing the diet culture for what it really is—a giant, self-righteous Clusterfuck.

BMI of Every US Citizen to be Tracked

Obesity Rating for Every American Must Be Included in Stimulus-Mandated Electronic Health Records, Says HHS

New federal regulations issued this week stipulate that the electronic health records–that all Americans are supposed to have by 2014 under the terms of the stimulus law that President Barack Obama signed last year–must record not only the traditional measures of height and weight, but also the Body Mass Index: a measure of obesity.

Obviously this is both an affront to freedom in general and the liberty of those with ‘unacceptable’ BMIs (mostly fat people, though some very thin people) more specifically. This isn’t about releasing any more information than would have been released before — heights and weights were already set to be included in the electronic health records — but rather being specifically classified by some health index number that can be used as a justification to grant you different treatment than others.

A couple things are clear to me here:

  1. When others believe they have the power to make health decisions for you (for instance, they control your access to healthcare) then you lose your body autonomy. Full stop.
  2. A government is going to act like any other self-interested body with a lot of power—it will exert its political will on the populace in order to remain in power. Right now it is popular to blame certain groups of people (including fat people) for willfully using more scarce health resources than ‘normal’ people. So classifying people into groups that would allow such a body to ‘punish’ those groups in the name of the ‘normal’ people is politically expedient (in that it will likely do no political harm and might even scrape together a few extra votes).

What do you think of this? Do you think it will happen? Besides refusing to be weighed, how can you personally combat the threat of potential classification based on BMI? What do you think the implications including BMIs on everyone’s electronic health records will be?