Like many of you, I’ve long had a love/hate relationship with Forever 21. Sure, they have cute clothes at suspiciously low prices, but the stores are a nightmare, and everything falls apart the second time you wash it. I usually go a few times a year out of desperation, which almost inevitably leads to a panic attack while waiting in the checkout line. It’s super fun. But it turns out that the floor isn’t the only thing that’s messy about Forever 21. They’re now facing controversy over behavior that’s seen as fat-shaming toward their plus-sized customers.
For retailers, it’s not super uncommon to send free samples of products along with online orders. These are usually sponsored samples, so it makes sense that they’re targeted based on the typical people ordering the products. For example, when I rented my textbooks in college, they almost always came with a free can of Redbull. I appreciated it. But when you’re targeting people with products, you have to be mindful that you’re not being offensive. This is where Forever 21 made a big mistake.
Last week, people started posting photos on Twitter of their Forever 21 orders, which had come with Atkins Diet bars. I wouldn’t eat these in the first place, but to make matters worse, all of the customers who shared their photos had ordered from Forever 21’s plus-size collection. Yikes. Customers were surprised by the samples, and offended at the idea that they may have been targeted with diet products because of their size.
— Katya (@wisekatya) July 22, 2019
In a statement to Glamour, Forever 21 provided the following explanation for the samples:
“From time to time, Forever 21 surprises our customers with free test products from third parties in their e-commerce orders. The freebie items in question were included in all online orders, across all sizes and categories, for a limited time and have since been removed. This was an oversight on our part and we sincerely apologize for any offense this may have caused to our customers, as this was not our intention in any way.”
Okay, so if we take this at face value, maybe Forever 21 really did send the diet bar samples to all customers, not just the plus-size ones. At least then they’re not discriminating, but it’s still pretty messed up to be pushing weight loss products on people who haven’t asked for them. We have enough problems with body image and disordered eating in our society, so no one needs a crappy clothing brand shoving weight loss products in their face.
I went from a size 24 to 18, still a plus size girl, so I ordered jeans from @Forever21 Opened the package, when I looked inside I see this Atkins bar. What are you trying to Tell me Forever 21, I’m FAT, LOSE WEIGHT? do you give these to NON-PLUS SIZE WOMEN as well? pic.twitter.com/ds8kUTs7T7
— MissGG?️? (@MissGirlGames) July 19, 2019
And that’s not even considering that the Atkins diet itself is fairly controversial, with some reports claiming that it can increase your risk for heart disease. It’s pretty troubling if Forever 21 is shilling for Atkins to their customers, plus-size or not.
It’s good to know that Forever 21 has removed the diet bars from all orders, but that’s not to say they won’t do something similar again in the future. Brands tend to have short-term memory loss when it comes to things like this (hi, Urban Outfitters), so if another problematic company offers them money to include samples, they might just go for it. Just let me buy my crappy clothes in peace, and figure out my diet issues separately—is that too much to ask?
Images: Shutterstock; wisekatya, missgirlgames / Twitter
Another day, another unnecessary opinion getting posted on the internet. I can say that, as someone whose unnecessary opinions get posted on the internet all the time. In my case, they tend to trend towards things like the pivotal Best Kiss Award at the 2005 VMAs or why Love Island is the most important show in the history of television. You know, harmless stuff. But in the case of English journalist Tanya Gold, unnecessary opinions tend to include things like campaigning against a sports brand for having the audacity to show some love to a criminally neglected audience: plus-size women.
In an piece for The Telegraph titled “Obese mannequins are selling women a dangerous lie,” Tanya Gold rails against Nike for the inclusion of plus-size mannequins in their flagship London store. Except, according to Gold, these human-shaped crimes against humanity are not just plus-size: “the new Nike mannequin is not size 12, which is healthy, or even 16 – a hefty weight, yes, but not one to kill a woman. She is immense, gargantuan, vast. She heaves with fat.”
“She heaves with fat” is the kind of thing I whisper while I watch my cat try to climb onto the windowsill in my bedroom, but yes it’s also a totally acceptable thing for a grown woman to say about an inanimate object built to showcase clothing.
Hey @Telegraph #tanyagold this plus size athlete has run 5 marathons, an Olympic triathlon, 2 tough mudders, a 42 mile ultramarathon and hundreds of other races and ALL in this Fat size 18 body!! If you are ever in need of some coaching to help you with your worthyness call me!!! pic.twitter.com/RWZBW1B1Vj
— Too Fat to Run? (@Fattymustrun) June 10, 2019
Before diving into this mess of bigotry masquerading as concern, let’s get something straight really quick. The plus-size mannequin, while an inclusive and realistic representation of many women and a progressive step in the fashion industry, is first and foremost a savvy business decision. Nike launched a plus-size collection in 2017. Since the addition of these mannequins, searches of “Nike” and “plus size” have sky-rocketed. As a brand that is no stranger to using controversial statements to boost sales, a move like this shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Does any of that negate the positive effect these mannequins have had on women who finally feel like they’re being catered to by one of the world’s biggest brands? That’s a conversation for another day. (But the answer is no, it doesn’t.)
After insulting the plastic person that has apparently ruined her life, Gold pivots to her apparent hatred of the advertising industry, complete with a quote from Don Draper. You know an argument is about to be relevant when it’s building its foundation on a TV show that ended four years ago.
“Advertising has always bullied women, but this is something more insidious.” As someone who works in advertising, I find this line of attack equal parts tired and one-dimensional. But we don’t even have time to focus on that argument before Gold starts listing all of the different body-ideals foisted upon women by the media, ranging from “the spindly, starved creature” to “the Kim Kardashian.”
It’s no secret that women are held to an unrealistic beauty standard, one that has a tendency to drastically impact our entire lives. But using that idea as a basis to justify fat-shaming is both hilarious and misguided. This woman got so turned around in her own logic that she stumble onto a trail leading towards actual rational thought.
You see, somehow, on the way to her argument as to why overweight mannequins shouldn’t be allowed in public, Gold has outlined the very reason that they serve as a beacon of hope to so many: because they’ve never been featured there before. That plus-size mannequin is standing proudly (or as proudly as she can being headless and also not alive) next to a size two mannequin in a major location of a global brand. That’s a big deal for a lot of people, which naturally means someone had to try and tear it down.
But Gold is too busy to notice that because she’s out here, leading a crusade against everything from Nike to the advertising industry to porn to video games to Kim Kardashian for unfairly dictating women’s appearances….all while writing an op-ed attempting to unfairly dictate women’s appearances.
“I would never want a woman to hate herself for what she finds in the looking-glass,” says Gold. Unless that woman is overweight and looking for athletic clothes to wear so that she can perhaps change that fact. Or to lounge in around the house because they’re comfortable. Or to wear because she’s a f*cking human and is allowed to buy overpriced athleisure just like the rest of us.
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but overweight people need workout clothes, too. Just because someone is large does not mean they are unhealthy. Big women can run marathons and lift weights and do sports and live their lives and perhaps punch women who try to tell them otherwise in the face if they are so inclined. And even if they are unhealthy, it’s not up to some woman with a word processor and access to a short-sighted editor to decide what they get to wear.
Wow @Telegraph – nice job with the Tanya Gold click bait. I look like that @nike mannequin, and I’ve done a 10k, a half, & a marathon this year. And there’s another 10k & a half coming up. If you think obese women can’t run you’ve clearly been living under a rock. pic.twitter.com/Pb2rFM5sRd
— Tegwen Tucker (@tegwentucker) June 9, 2019
Perhaps it never occurred to Gold that these mannequins, this kind of mainstream representation from a fitness brand, could give overweight people the confidence to actually start exercising. The road to wellness is daunting and overwrought with obstacles as is, God forbid Nike try and make it a little smoother for people who are already inclined to avoid it.
Gold’s outrage is built upon the fact that this “fat acceptance” movement will stop overweight people from trying to change their lifestyle, but she also doesn’t want to give them the means to do so. Almost sounds like she cares less about their well-being and more about being an intolerant asshole.
TL;DR: Hate Nike? Then don’t shop at Nike. Hate plus-size people? Then don’t be plus-size. But also maybe try not being a giant piece of sh*t while you’re at it.
Images: Twitter (@tegwentucker, @Fattymustrun)
Before I give you my thoughts on Shrill, here’s a little context. The first time I sat on a guy’s lap, he jerked back and pushed me off. “How much do you weigh?” he demanded, rubbing his legs in pain. I was 13 years old, standing in the aisle of a school bus filled with my 7th grade classmates. Over a decade later, I barely remember the guy—but his comment, I remember. The same way I remember, later that year, comments under pictures of me on my cousin’s Myspace: “Who’s your fat friend?” Or in 4th grade, when another girl and I broke our ankles at the same time and had to be carried down a flight of stairs. “Looks like I got the light one,” a teacher joked, picking up the other girl.
If you haven’t yet watched Shrill, the new Hulu show starring SNL’s Aidy Bryant, I highly recommend it. (I also recommend tuning out of this article, because duh—spoilers.) Shrill, in six too-short episodes, tells the story of Annie (Aidy Bryant), a fat woman who finds herself taking far too much sh*t from her mother, her boss, and her f*ck buddy-slash-boyfriend. While Annie’s struggles are not solely derived from her size, Shrill emphasizes the harmful assumptions made about fat people (namely, that their size is a result of being lazy, or lacking willpower), and how licensed people feel to treat Annie differently because of it. From well-meaning “concern” expressed by strangers to her boss telling her to her face that she doesn’t “take care of” herself, the sheer fact of walking around as a woman of Annie’s size translates to an onslaught of uninformed, unsolicited opinions about her character.
All this is to say: though I have not, in my adult life, been overweight, I expected to relate to Annie while watching this show. From my own memories of middle school fat-shaming, I was ready to raise a glass in solidarity and share in Annie’s triumph as she gained the courage to issue a massive f*ck you to her haters. But while I did find the show highly relatable, it wasn’t, ultimately, Annie’s struggle in which I saw myself. Instead, I felt my stomach sink every time a passive-aggressive barb was thrown out against her—and I heard it clearly in my own voice.
To fill you in on the decade between being cyber-bullied on Myspace and now: just before high school, I lost about 25 pounds and grew three inches. (Don’t hate me; it was the last time I lost weight effortlessly in my life, I promise.) From that moment on, likely because of how I’d been treated when I was bigger, I have been obsessed with getting, and staying, thin. From 8th grade on, no diet was off-limits—from South Beach in 2009 to keto about six months ago. (Am I crazy BTW, or are those diets basically the same?) All that dieting was successful, depending on how you define it. While I’m perpetually in a state of wanting to lose “the last” 5-10 pounds, I am by no means overweight. And importantly, my body allows me to suffer none of the public shaming and discrimination that Annie receives every day.
So, let’s take Annie being accosted in a coffee shop by a personal trainer, who grabs her (apparently, tiny) wrist and says earnestly: “There is a small person inside of you dying to get out.” Watching that scene, I had no idea what it was like to be Annie. I did, though, have years of memories of grabbing my own wrists and admiring their smallness, of looking in disgust at the rest of my arm and hating myself for the way it (in my mind) ballooned outward. When Annie’s mom tells her, “you always feel better when you exercise, I can tell,” I hear the same lie I tell people about going to the gym. Sure, it makes me feel better—but only, I’m pretty sure, because I know it’s helping me lose weight.
I came into Shrill thinking it would be a feel-good empowering romp, with twinges of painful memories from my past. I was mostly right (it felt great! and super empowering!), but the twinges of guilt I feel are from how I think about my body right now. I hope that my constant desire to be smaller doesn’t spill out in how I treat other people—but I can’t imagine that it doesn’t. If I hate myself for struggling to zip up a pair of size 27 jeans, how would I not judge someone who wears jeans that are two, four, or ten sizes larger? When I look around in envy at the tiny women NYC is riddled with, have I been kidding myself that I’m not, also, looking at fat people with pity? How many people, beyond myself, have I actually been harming with the constant internal monologue of self-directed fat-shaming?
I won’t say that Shrill cured me of these habits. Midway through writing this article, actually, I stopped to measure myself to decide which size pants to reference (every company is different, y’all know this). Then I measured myself again—and three times after that, with different tools, because I wasn’t happy about the number I was getting. This can’t be right, I thought, furiously switching out a charging cable for a piece of ribbon to wrap around my waist. Never mind that reading a different number off my tape measure has exactly zero effect on my actual body. My negative body image, clearly, is still in effect—but Shrill is the first show I’ve seen in a long time that made me want to do something about it.
If I can recognize how sh*tty people’s treatment of Annie is, I reason, I should be able to apply that same logic to myself. And hopefully, if we can all be a little kinder to ourselves in private, we can be kinder to others in public too. I’m grateful that Shrill brought my fat-shaming into clearer view, but the most pressing issue the show elucidates is our policing and shaming of fat people for simply living their lives near us. And whatever personal struggles you may or may not be dealing with, that kind of bullying on a societal level has got to stop.
Images: Hulu Press; @aidybryant, @dietstartstomorrow/Instagram
New year, new me, am I right? Not if you’re DJ James Kennedy (AKA the white Kanye West). In a turn of events that may shock you for someone with this nickname, James Kennedy kicked the new year off with a series of questionable tweets. If you’ve been watching Vanderpump Rules, you’ll know that James has been getting heat from fellow cast members after body-shaming costar Katie Maloney. Oh, and rapping about Jax cheating on Brittany while she was working. And also kind of for cheating on his girlfriend two years ago? How many episodes are we in again? What year is it? Anyway, James had a bad week, which in the VPR universe means he was uninvited from a birthday party and lost his job. Here’s the rundown of the first James Kennedy Twitter meltdown of 2019.
Let’s start with a screenshotted January 2nd tweet uploaded by Brittany:
The disgust continues. @itsjameskennedy I pray YOU will find peace some day. pic.twitter.com/OywfbyoRgC
— Brittany Cartwright (@BNCartwright) January 2, 2019
In case you’re too lazy to click on her tweet and read the quoted text, here’s what he says. “And Jax?! He is just a sad man after his daddy died. Coming for me cause I’m the only man he don’t like- brother make peace with your dead father please so you can be set free that’s goes for Lala also. Btw he made fun of George when he left.” As a side note, I cannot figure out who George is and it’s driving me wild. Fan theories in the comments please.
In other good news, James was apparently still
drunk mad when he read Brittany’s tweet, because he responded with the following:
Wow…. just wow. pic.twitter.com/qOOKYquerR
— Jax (@mrjaxtaylor) January 3, 2019
Yes James. In case your drunkenness isn’t evident from the content of what you’re posting, please add random periods to drive the point home. Brilliant. Eventually, James—because he has publicists who require him to keep making money—deleted his tweets and tried two very different tactics to get out of this. First, the “I got hacked,” with a side of blatant lying about how he is perceived by the public. (James Kennedy? Positive? I think not.)
@mrjaxtaylor I don’t buy this pic.twitter.com/TV0YWuY6fR
— Lisa (@txldallas) January 2, 2019
Then, the sincere apology with a side of “but it wasn’t my fault because I was provoked.” Quick note to any celebs in need of PR guidance out there—you should do ONE or THE OTHER of these. Both is the worst look imaginable.
Hey I’m sorry for what I said about Jax and Lala and I apologize deeply to them and anyone I offended. I hope you guys also stop provoking me, thank you and I wish everyone a happy new year.
— James Kennedy (@itsjameskennedy) January 3, 2019
Jax and Brittany continued offering up swift rejections of this apology, with Jax
doing the lord’s work posting new screenshotted evidence from James’ drunken Twitter spree as well.
There is a difference between someone who notices his wrongs and changes everything about his life for the better and someone who just doesn’t care who he hurts no matter what and has no intention of admitting his wrongs or changing. We know what’s real. Y’all see 30 mins
— Brittany Cartwright (@BNCartwright) January 3, 2019
Wow.. again with insulting women. After he just apologized. You are a joke my friend. You must seriously hate who are as a person. https://t.co/vDzOlC8Ba9
— Jax (@mrjaxtaylor) January 3, 2019
My favorite part of this whole drama is from an hour ago, in which Jax Taylor continues to rain hell down on James in whatever way he can. This time, it’s by tearing down a tweet Raquel posted from the Vanderpump dog show. According to Jax, Raquel “attempted to bid” on a puppy, “looked for money from James,” (who “has none so he bolted”), and then was ultimately rejected as a dog owner out of hand by Lisa—who “told the auctioneer “no way” and gave to the next bidder. Is any of this related to the rest of James’ tweets? Nope! But you’re out of your mind if you think I’m missing the opportunity to include some dog show drama.
You did not get out bid, we sat 10 feet from you when you attempted to bid on the puppy, you looked for money from James, he has none so he bolted and then Lisa saw it was you and told the auctioneer “no way” and gave to the next bidder. How can you lie when 300 people saw this. pic.twitter.com/tJvLFy5unN
— Jax (@mrjaxtaylor) January 3, 2019
And there you have it! Only three days into 2019, and if the James Kennedy Twitter meltdown is any indication, his resolutions are off to a great start. (I can only assume they were “drink less” and “win my friends back,” both of which are going exceedingly poorly right now.) If Jax’s resolutions, on the other hand, were “be more petty” and “continue to use Twitter as a catalog of personal vendettas,” then I’d say he’s doing great. I don’t usually like to support anything Jax does (gtfo with Mamaw’s Beer Cheese), but I’m really enjoying these twitter clap backs.
Images: Shutterstock; Twitter; Twitter; Twitter
Look out Goop, Revolve is on its way to take your spot as the least relatable brand on the planet. In their latest “wait, what?” moment, Revolve released, and subsequently removed a sweatshirt with the quote “Being fat is not beautiful, it’s an excuse.” Obviously, the internet was quick to call them out for their sh*tty decision making, because this isn’t 2007 anymore and graphic tees with questionable slogans being sold at Abercrombie is no longer a thing that anyone has time for. *Kourtney Kardashian voice* There’s people that are dying. Oh and, just to make this more of a face palm situation, Lena Dunham, Cara Delevingne and a bunch of other models are involved. Because, of course.
Luckily, queen of shade Tess Holliday snagged some receipts and publicly called out Revolve before the sweatshirt was taken down.
LOLLLLL @REVOLVE y’all are a mess. pic.twitter.com/CrzOkd5oE4
— Tess Holliday ???? (@Tess_Holliday) September 12, 2018
According to Fashionista, the product was one of five sweatshirts that were created in a collection for LPA. Each one included something terrible that was said to Lena Dunham, Emily Ratajkowski, Cara Delevingne, Suki Waterhouse and Paloma Elsesser (who was the one told that being fat is not beautiful, it’s an excuse). It was meant to be a campaign addressing cyberbullying, as exhibited by the barely visible Instagram handles on the sweatshirts and literally nothing else. Like, seriously, someone actually thought it was a good idea to create that sweatshirt, throw it on a thin model, and not explain the point behind it. Smart!
In the most on-brand statement of her life, Lena Dunham posted this painting to her Instagram with a long caption explaining the intention behind the collection while distancing herself from the project and announcing donation to the charities of Emily, Cara, Suki and Paloma’s choices. She also called out Revolve and suggested they cough up some money to try and fix this mess. Revolve later told People that it would be making a $20,000 contribution to Girls Write Now, the charity that the collaboration was originally intended to benefit.
View this post on Instagram
For months I’ve been working on a collaboration with LPA through parent company @revolve – sweatshirts that highlight quotes from prominent women who have experienced internet trolling & abuse. This is a cause very close to my heart and the proceeds were meant to benefit charities that help young women by empowering them to express themselves through writing and art. Without consulting me or any of the women involved, @revolve presented the sweatshirts on thin white women, never thinking about the fact that difference and individuality is what gets you punished on the Internet, or that lack of diversity in representation is a huge part of the problem (in fact, the problem itself.) As a result, I cannot support this collaboration or lend my name to it in any way. I am deeply disappointed in @revolve’s handling of a sensitive topic and a collaboration rooted in reclaiming the words of internet trolls to celebrate the beauty in diversity and bodies and experiences that aren’t the industry norm. *** I’d like to especially extend my love and support to @palomija, whose quote was the first to be promoted and mangled. She’s a hero of mine. Like me, she gave her quote in good faith and shared her vulnerability in order to support arts education and to spread her message of empowerment, and she wasn’t consulted in the marketing. Not an ounce of negativity should be sent her way. *** My only goal on this planet is to empower women through art and dialogue. I’m grateful to every woman who shared a quote and so disappointed that our words were not honored. As a result, I will be making a donation to the charity of every woman’s choice who was wronged with me and I hope that @revolve will join me with a contribution of their own. *** P.S. This Rubens painting makes me happy because it’s about women joining in love, but he didn’t recognize diversity at all- he just loved curvy butts. Problematic fave.
I’m pretty conflicted here. I mean, the intention behind the collaboration definitely sounds cool as like, an initial idea. It kind of reminds me of every time I’ve ever been like, “oh my god, I have an idea for an app/podcast/other sizable project I’m going to realize is a bad idea once I start actually thinking it through.” Like, yeah it would be great to have a collection of clothing that addresses internet trolling. But maybe, Revolve, using a skinny model and selling a sweatshirt that says “Being fat is not beautiful, it’s an excuse” is a miss, considering I can’t imagine anybody except hateful fat-shamers who would dare wear this shirt out in public? IDK, I’m not a professional! Also, if a sweatshirt needs a long-winded explanation to not appear as offensive, maybe it’s just offensive.
Images: tess_holliday / Twitter; lenadunham / Instagram