Forever F*ckin Up
Earlier this week Forever 21 (F21) received backlash for their inclusion of Atkins diet bars in plus-size orders. This is yet another reminder that the world has bigger bodies f*cked up once again. To read more on the topic and the internet’s response click here
Fatphobia is not new to those who identify as plus-size, curvy, thick, fat, etc. We have dealt with discrimination, hatred, and mistreatment masked as “health concerns” for a while. Most of the time we hear about encounters surrounding this topic and it is never “new”. However, it does allow us to reflect about a point where we were unable to find supportive communities or voice our concerns without receiving mixed signals implying, we may be the ones in the wrong for being upset about fat-shaming. It is always presented to fat bodies that if we change our size (weight) we could end all the problematic messaging and finally fit into the “norm”.
When I first realized Forever 21 was snapping and bringing the necessary heat fat bodies deserved in fashion, I was all about shopping there. I remember dreading the mall because I knew I would either walk out with unnecessary Bath and Body Works products (because lotion covered all bodies and never discriminated based on size) or a bag with a shirt that my own grandmother would not wear. Let us not forget, Hot Topic could only make so many t-shirts that featured memories of my childhood. Nevertheless, once F21 expanded the plus size options from one hanger in the corner to an entire section, I was sold. In my 21+ years of living I was finally able to run to a store last minute to find a Friday night outfit with ease. I did not have to know months in advance in order to find something. I was finally normal…until F21 decided my body and other bigger bodies may need a change. Physically.
Recently, Atkins diet bars were being shipped with plus-size orders. F21 quickly responded with some rhetoric stating this would be solved and issued an apology. Problem is, F21 did not feel apologetic while the rest of the world and unknowing consumers were unaware of diet bars being included in their orders. In the world of marketing, there is always a need to push forward innovative ideas in the form of partnerships or even “free” products. But this merger with plus-sized clothing and the diet world was not an accident. I would like to see the orders that were not plus-sized and see what “health-hints” they received in their packages. I question who approved this? Who introduced the product placement in these orders? What was the reasoning behind it? These questions are not asked in a particular order, but these are a few of the thoughts that rushed to my mind.
But let us go beyond that, we can’t stay stuck in that space we must move forward WHILE STILL CALLING OUT THE BS! I think about the unsuspecting consumer. Follow me on this:
A person of size (fat, thick, curvy, etc.) logs onto Forever 21 and clicks the tab reading “Plus Size”. In a moment of fear and glee they find the perfect summer outfit. They look at the makeshift representation on the page with the models used (still waiting for larger stomachs, thighs, stretch marks, cellulite, etc. basically all the stuff that makes humans, you know…humans) and they select the dropdown menu to find their size is available. After taking deep breaths because they hope this is a fit for them, they pay for their items and wait. Frantically checking the shipping status, because soon as we hit “place order” we expect for it to ship 5 seconds later…reality right?, they finally see the order will arrive that evening around 8 pm.
6 pm and you hear the beeping of the tracking device followed by a knock at the door. You open the door, greet the delivery person, sign, close the door and run to open this package. You think of how fly you will be at the event, how everyone will compliment you (real or fake, don’t matter thanks for noticing!), then start thinking of a Instagram caption and the multitude of 90 degree angles you plan on having your photographer-esque friend to hit. But before you get there, your moment of hype is shattered. This package includes an Atkins meal-replacement diet bar.
In that moment you are reminded that your body needs to change. There are no medical records or information collected at checkout and your size is not a determinant of health. You don’t recall getting a t-shirt anywhere else with health tips or required health information so that you may receive your diet bar. You are now facing a question you have avoided “Should I just lose weight?”. In this box sits an outfit you know fits, you paid for, and were excited to wear because it came from a company that had no issue representing a part of you. Now, this same store was signaling that you should change, physically based on the size you selected for your order.
Imagine this was the first time someone placed an order and they stepped out their comfort zone to now wish they had never mustered up enough confidence in the first place. Not every everyone who received this “encouragement of health” ran to the internet to call F21 out. Not everyone made a joke of the situation. Someone closed that box and decided their worth was wrapped up in a diet bar.
This all boils down to physical appearance and the continued pushing and pulling between those who choose to love their bodies and the responses that tells them to shift their mindset. We get it, people act as if they want us to be healthy. We get it, your visual diagnosis is wrapped into one-sided thinking. We get it, some people like the way we look and some do not. We do not get, however, your need to place reminders about your positionality on fat bodies in our clothing.
To the fat bodies, curvy bodies, fluffy bodies, and others who identify as bigger bodies you need to live for you. Make sure you are living a quality of life that does not include people policing the way you look because they envision your body in a different form. You are not playdough and you do not have to be shaped by hands that cannot accept the beautiful flaws that comes with every…body. Once I recognized they photoshop celebrities, I was done with striving to be “perfect”. Hell, they aren’t.
As a final note, please shop with companies that speak to your identities. There are a plethora of online boutiques that support plus-size bodies, because the curators are fat bodies that understand. They may not be in your city, but shipping can get that outfit to you.
As always, continue to flourish in your +Plus Size Magic and take care!