I have recently been becoming more of a fatshionista and it’s included several trips to a couple different locations of Lane Bryant. There are many clerks there who are great (including a some who have seen my blog on Jezebel and talk about it, which is actually really cool…). Of the limited selection of clothing stores in my style (and because I live far away from re/dress in NYC) they are probably my favorite store in terms of clothes. I do not like their models and we’ve talked about that here before. However on the last three trips I’ve noticed a trend in body shaming by the clerks.
In the first incident I was in line to pay, and a customer in front of me mentioned that she had thought about wearing Spanx but that they looked uncomfortable. So the clerk who was not checking people out launched into a diatribe to everyone in line about how she used to be against them, but then she wore them for a special occasion and now she won’t go out without them on. That’s her experience and that’s fine. But then she said “I can’t believe that I ever subjected people to all of my lumps and bumps before. I mean, who wants to see that?”. If you read this blog you know my feelings about Spanx and their marketing but this was just beyond the pale.
In My Head: Hold on there fat-store sales lady. Did you just try to sell us all something by trying to convince us that nobody wants to look at us, and that we are doing the public a disservice by not making ourselves into over-stuffed underwear-sausages?
Outloud: I think Spanx are uncomfortable and make me look like over-stuffed underwear sausage. And I prefer to see people’s lumps and bumps so there is at least one person who wants to look at that!
Several of the women in line laughed and we got checked out and on our way but I felt a little queasy handing money to a fat clerk, in a store that caters to fat women, who was selling using fat hate.
In the second incident I was attempting to buy a pair of pants when this happened:
Clerk: You don’t want those, you want these – they are way better.
Me: They look the same to me?
Clerk: They look the same, but you won’t because they have our Tighter Tummy Technology. They’ll pull in that problem area.
Me: I don’t consider my stomach to be a problem.
Clerk: Oh you know, we all have those flaws to mask.
Me: No. Some people choose to think of their bodies as flawed and that’s their right. I do not think my body is flawed.
Clerk: Stares at me like I am not speaking English
Me: I’ll just take these original pants thanks.
Clerk: (Still looking super confused) Ok?…
The last incident happened just yesterday. I was bra shopping and I saw a bra that was really pretty but it had a ton of runching on it and lace and I asked the clerk what you could wear it under so that it wouldn’t show.
Clerk: It doesn’t matter, it will distract people from looking at our stomachs.
Me: Goldfishing (opening and closing my mouth without being able to get sound out)
Her: That’s the trick. We need to get them to look at our face, chest, or feet so they don’t look at our stomach, legs or arms.
In My Head: Oh what in fat hell?! Who is this ‘we’ you’re talking about? Do you have a mouse in your pocket that has body image issues too?
Outloud: There are no parts of my body that I don’t want people to look at.
Her: Well…um… there you go then.
This trifecta of body hate really got me thinking. As a researcher you learn that one data point is nothing, two points just make a line, but three is the start of a trend.
So, are these clerks just trying to drag me down in their sea of body issues, or is Lane Bryant telling their associates to pour on the body hate to sell expensive shapewear and more expensive verions of pants?
To be clear, I’m not trying to tell anyone else how to live. I support women buying whatever shapewear they want. I support the clerk having whatever relationship she wants to have with her body. Where it goes off the rails for me is when she tries to make her experience “our” experience, subsequently trying to sell me something by assuming, or trying to convince me, that I hate my body.
My best friend graduated from NYU recently and Bill Clinton was the speaker. One of the things that he spoke about was that he felt it was a mistake that businesses had gone from caring more about their stakeholders to caring more about their stockholders. I fear that this is an example of that. Ye olde fat girl clothing store sees how much money the diet industry rakes in by trying to convince us to hate ourselves and our bodies and thinks “Hey, we can do that too, who cares if we contribute to a dangerous unhealthy culture of body hate, we’re gonna make a ton more money!”.
I don’t know if this kind of body shaming happens to thin women when they shop, but I personally feel that as a fat woman when I go into a store that caters to fat women, I should see models who look like me, be affirmed for who I am, and leave feeling fabulous about my body and the clothes I’ve just spent my money to put on that body. I’ve been “polite but firm” so far but the more this happens the less I’m going to be able to keep my inside voice in.