I had every intention of writing a blog today about my wonderful weekend at the WLSFA Event. I have so many great things to share, but I am afraid that will have to wait, something more important to our community is on my mind this morning.
Yesterday Ellen Degeneres weighed in on the current controversy surrounding a public statement by Abercrombie and Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries that the brand was “Absolutely Exclusionary” and only “wants to market to cool, good-looking people.”
The original comment was made in 2006 interview with Robin Lewis, co-author of a new book, “The New Rules of Retail.” But let this be a lesson that they things we say can often times bite us in the butt later, right Mr. Jeffries? Because he’s now publicly apologizing for the comment nearly seven years later.
There are a few aspects of this issue that I want to address. First and foremost let me say that as a small business owner I believe all business have the right to target to their selected audience and target demographics and to choose who that audience is. There is a big difference between however between a positive message being sent to your selected demographic audience and a discriminatory message that tells other people they are not good enough to wear your clothes. What was inferred Mr. Jeffries comment was not, young beautiful people wear are clothing it was, people of size are not cool or good-looking. The error is in the delivery of the message, and it was a big error that bit him in the butt down the road.
Ellen’s monologue on the topic was great, and in true Ellen style, delivered the positive message that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and has very little to do with how you dress, what you wear or how much you weigh. Which, let’s face it, is a pretty important message to get to our younger generation in a society where weight bias, weight discrimination and bullying and name calling is an often accepted act.
I want to take a moment to say thank you to Ellen personally for standing up against this sort of discrimination and bullying and making sure to send a more positive message. While I may be able to fit into A&E clothes today if I wanted to, there was a time when I weighed 420 lb. and I couldn’t fit into the seat of airplane or a small car let alone some of Abercrombie and Fitch clothes. There was also a time, when I was that teenager getting called “Fatty,” listening to the fat jokes as I walked through the halls of my Southern California beach community high school, and pretty much being alienated from life because of my size. But more importantly, there was a time that my size 26 prom dress had me sitting in a bath tub trying to slit my wrists because of the hurtful, hateful, mean, and derogatory comments that people made to me made me feel helpless and worthless. I’m not telling you this for sympathy, I am telling you because I feel it’s important that we as a society understand how horrible comments and actions like these can be on a sixteen year old girl. The people who teased me had no idea WHY I was big. They had no clue how bad my home life was. They didn’t know that I had put on weight as a self-defense mechanism to the sexual abuse I had endured as a kid. They didn’t know me at all, all they knew was that I wasn’t “Normal Size” and so of course it must be ok to make fun of me and tease me.
Of course, now, with her joke about a size 0 and size 00 clothing, Ellen has upset a whole new audience. But hang on a minute folks, you’re missing the point. Ellen isn’t saying there is anything wrong with being small, being petite or being thin, what Ellen is saying is that the way that such things are marketed and labeled are unhealthy to our society. What would you think if I walked up to someone and said “Hey you’re not here, you are invisible, you have no value.” or “You’re nothing,” or “You’re the lowest point or degree on a scale of human beings.” – It’s not the people who wear these sizes that Ellen is speaking out against, it is the clothing industry for the way they are labeling it. You notice she wasn’t joking about size extra-small, size small, or anything of that sort, she is making a point that the clothing industry is taking this too far. Several years ago there was an episode of One Tree Hill where the model stood on stage wearing a shirt that said “Zero is not a size,” The message here is NOT “you are too skinny, there is something wrong with you.” The message here is, “It is not ok for society to pressure you into eating disorders with their marketing strategy because they think beautiful is defined by a big fat zero whether it’s a size, a body fat percentage or part of a number you see on the scale. The message here is NOT shame on you for wearing a size 0, the message is shame on the clothing manufactures for making a size zero.
Now you can defend a size 0 all you want, but let me ask you something, why did they need to make it? Why must there be a size 0 to begin with? Because what a size 1 or 2 wasn’t small enough? Have you been shopping lately? I have, a lot, and you know what, I have clothes that range anywhere between a size 6 and a size 12, and you know what? Because everyone makes their clothes differently, some run big, some run small, some use metric sizes, some use centimeters, some use inches. Then there is Misses, Juniors, Petite, the list is endless. So why do we need a size 0? Why do we need a size NOTHING? Why do we need a size “I Don’t Exist?” Why wouldn’t clothing manufactures just make their smallest size a size one or an XXS? And what is next? When size 0s aren’t good enough will we go into negative digits? Why would anyone want to be defined as a zero to begin with? And why doesn’t our society see how damaging this is to our sense of self-worth?
Obesity is a disease that over one-third of our nation is fighting. It is one of the top killers in our country right now. People are dying every day from obesity related conditions, like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, cardio respiratory disease, sleep apnea and instead of standing up and battling this disease our society thinks it is ok to call them names, make fun of them, exploit them, and treat them like they are less than deserving and when we allow companies to do things like tell us that zero is a feasible size, and if you aren’t a size 10 or lower you aren’t beautiful or worthy of shopping where the beautiful people do, we are tolerating weight biased, weight prejudice and weight discrimination. I’d like to know how many people would tolerate the sort of behavior that is accepted against people who are overweight towards people battling some of the very diseases that obesity causes. Just think about that one for a moment.
Ellen DeGeneres is an amazing example of a human being and I hope that if I am ever in a position one day to impact so many with my voice and my words, that I am strong enough and brave enough to stand up and send the same sort of message she sent with her monologue “Fitch, Please.” I would buy this shirt in a heart beat if Ellen produced one, and I will always support anyone that stands up in the fight against obesity and size discrimination.
- Abercrombie And Fitch’s Semi-Apology Didn’t Go Over Too Well Huffingtonpost.com
- Fitch, Please – Ellen.com
- Dictionary.com “Zero”
- One Tree Hill – “Zero is not a size” Episode
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