Shapewear Challenge My Ass

In  another incidence of body shaming advertising this week, I received the following almost unbelievable e-mail:

Subject: A Shapewear Challenge

Body:

Hi Ragen,

I hope this finds you well.  My name is Nina Lxxx and currently I am interning with Sassybax for the summer.  I came across your blog post about your displeasure with Spanx, and couldn’t help but notice all of the reader comments that went along with it…We would love to challenge you to try our shapewear products, and let us know what you think! … Here at Sassybax, we are committed to solving real women’s problems such as muffin top or bra bulge.  We would love to send you some samples to try out and see what your reaction to our product is.

All the best,

Nina

Nina, if you read my blog about Spanx  and this is what you’ve arrived at, I welcome you to read that blog again.

“We are committed to solving real women’s problems such as muffin top or bra bulge”   You. Cannot. Be. Serious.

If you are trying to convince me that calling these things problems when we live in a world where 10 year olds are making themselves throw up to lose weight  (not to mention cancer, hunger, poverty…) you are barking up the wrong fat girl.  I think that marketing like this is a real problem and that muffin top and bra bulge are pretend problems created by your industry in an attempt to steal our self esteem and then sell it back to us at a profit.

And really, challenge? I am a three time National Dance Champion pursuing my first World Professional title.  That is a challenge.  Wearing underwear – not so much.

I’m not going to challenge you to stop wearing shapewear because I absolutely respect everyone’s right to choose what they want to wear.  If you like wearing shapewear that’s totally cool, rock on. However, you targeted me because I said publicly that I was happy with my body without Spanx.  Your goal was to change that, make me scared of “muffin top” and “bra bulge”.  Had you succeeded you wouldn’t have just sold me some underwear, you would have chipped away at my hard won self-esteem. So I challenge you to ask yourself – are you proud of what you’re doing?

And it seems that the intern doesn’t fall far from the tree.  I went to the Sassybax website and found this gem from the “about us” section.

“Fear is a great motivator,” said Amanda [creator of Sassybax].  “A few years ago, when fashions got slimmer but I hadn’t, I suddenly became afraid for the first time of looking my age.”

So rather than work on her body image issues, Amanda chose to try sell them to all of us!

Then I read her biography and was stunned, saddened, and sickened:

Shortly after my 31st birthday, I re-entered college and finished my degree with a BA in Psychology. I earned my Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology and became a therapist. My main objective was to help women with an issue I had now come to know intimately, self esteem.

I have created Sassybax as a way of helping women look and feel more confident and comfortable in the fashions they love. Sassybax gives women the freedom of a more natural non-restrictive kind of support. The stretchy smooth microfiber moves and breathes with your body, allowing you the freedom of being more of who you are. Now isn’t that where self esteem comes from?

I don’t think I’ve ever read anything that made my skin crawl this much.  It’s so slick that it would be easy to miss the manipulation  “I’m a therapist and an expert on self -esteem.  I think that to feel better about yourself you shouldn’t work on your self-esteem, you should buy my underwear.”  Allison, if that where true it would be called underwear-esteem, not self-esteem.  If you want to feel better about yourself I recommend this exercise, which is free.

Nina is a a summer intern and as such is likely just doing what she is told. Since Nina noticed my reader comments I assume that Sassybax is interested in what you have to say.  Nina’s an intern for the summer so let’s not bother her. If you have feedback about this marketing campaign I suggest that you contact Sassybax Media Contact: Rebecca Barrouk:  Rebecca@sassybax.com

64 thoughts on “Shapewear Challenge My Ass

  1. The #1 culprit for ‘bra bulge’ and ‘muffin top’ are bras that don’t fit and pants that don’t fit. Instead of changing our bodies to fit the clothes (including Super-Duper ElastaGirl undies), we should insist on clothes that fit our bodies.

  2. Things like this make me fear for the world we live in. It’s as if those in charge of marketing these sorts of things have decided that they must think for us, because obviously we’re too stupid to think for ourselves.

  3. Wow…this person obviously has a very low literacy level if they thought in a million years you would be interested in their “shapewear challenge.” That just doesn’t make sense. You are so CLEAR about how you feel about that crap.

    And that woman being a therapist makes me feel sick to my stomach.

    This seems to be a trend right now — CLAIM, for instance, that you are asking women to heart their bodies and then issue a sugar fast challenge. ANY denial, repression, RULES…it’s all the same shit…it’s all self-hatred and punishment for not being “perfect” and it makes me so angry that anyone purporting to HELP is doing this much HARM.

    1. I agree about the trend. There’s a lot of “I’m a doctor…take this diet pill” marketing going around right now. I even saw a commercial for toothpaste with someone dressed up as a dentist and a disclaimer explaining that he was an actor. Seriously, you couldn’t get a single dentist to say that your toothpaste works?

      ~Ragen

  4. Could this be some type of spam bot message? If not then, well, I don’t really know what to say. You made it clear that you find shape wear useless and that you are fine with your body, so why on Earth would someone then try to sell your their product?

    And real women’s problems? LOL Wow.

    1. I don’t know if it’s a spam bot or a cut and paste or if she’s just really lacking in reading comprehension skills. Either way it’s super annoying and the “real women’s problems’ made me want to hurl.

      ~Ragen

  5. A clinical psychologist specializing in self esteeem who’s created shapewear?
    You just did the impossible, you rendered me too stunned to actually form a 6,000 word sentence,330 sentence paragraph, response, like I normally do.Unbelievable (for me, not your blog,which is amazing like usual!!!!)

    1. Apparently, marketing is a pretty large employer of psychologists who decide not to go into (or to leave) clinical practice. Kind of like the dark side of the force.

      Also, does anyone else think that muffin tops are kind of cute? (Not counting the ones that are clearly hurting the person.) It’s sort of a push-up bra effect for your hip fat. The only difference is that we’re supposed to want lots of breast tissue and no hip fat.

      1. I find “muffin tops” really attractive! If I’m standing behind a woman with a nice round curve of flesh above her pants I kind of want to just grab her hips and be all “hey there.” I don’t do it! I’m just saying.

  6. Time to issue a Self-Esteem Challenge in response to their Shapewear Challenge.

    Dear Company X: Commit to solving real women’s problems by purposefully and vocally discouraging psychic brow-beating and malevolent advertising designed to instil fear and self-doubt. Provide your product free of messages of guilt and worry about societal acceptance. You’ve got ninety days to change your approach and win the challenge.

  7. Ummm…this kind of made me throw up in my mouth a little. Which was a shame because I had an awesome dinner. With carbs. And mayo.

    I second the comment about the ill-fitting clothing by the way. That was my first thought when I started reading. “How about we as women just buy clothes that fit instead of worrying about the random number assigned to the size??!?”

    *sigh*

    I fear for humanity.

    1. And you know, maybe if clothing makers would make clothes large enough for ALL women, instead of just trying to constantly make the clothes smaller and smaller at the same size, then women wouldn’t have these issues! But maybe that’s the point, there’s all this conflict of interest going on all in the name of making more money.

    2. Sorry for putting your dinner in danger, it sounds delicious! (That didn’t start out to be alliterated but that’s where it ended up…)

      I absolutely agree about buying clothes that fit. I think it would also be great if we could get bras that are well made for our size.

      ~Ragen

  8. As a masters level clinical psychologist, i had no idea self esteem came from underwear. Self esteem=pride in accomplishments and character. Not how my clothes fit.

    Shame on these people!
    Xo Susie

  9. You know, I’ve worn both Spanx and Sassybax before, and I actually have more “bulge” when I wear them! So I stopped wearing it because they made me look larger than my actual size!
    I like the way I look without an enhancing underwear, thank you very much!

    1. I’m glad I’m not the only one with that problem. I go from a cute hourglass to a lumpy sausage while wearing Spanx. I have a piar but only wear them during *that* time of the month, they help with cramps and back pain.

  10. I am so glad that my friend, Renee, shared your post on Twitter. Thank you for being a strong voice against the horrible industry that specializes in tearing down the self-esteem of women all across society. I try to be a voice against it, and I thank you sincerely for your wonderful post.

  11. I have Spanx I wear occasionally for smoothing purposes – I don’t look smaller, but it keeps sweaters and certain types of fabrics from clinging to my body in an uncomfortable way – but damn, I don’t…I don’t even *get* how someone could see your blog post about Spanx and decide the appropriate response is “issue a shapewear challenge”. Epic targeted response fail.

    Also the phrasing is a bit odd in that email. “We are committed to solving real women’s problems such as muffin top or bra bulge.” I can’t decide if using “real women’s” in that sentence is intended to imply that muffin top and bra bulge are problems only “real women” have in a twisted sort of nod to the “real women have curves” crap, or if it’s intended to imply that the REAL problems of women are muffin top or bra bulge, not silly things like the pay gap or systemic oppression or violence or poverty.

    Either way it’s pretty sick. I repeat: epic fail.

    1. Hi Jadelyn,

      I had the same question as to which noun “real” was modifying. I decided not to go into it because either way it was just bad. So ridiculous all the way around..

      ~Ragen

  12. That biography literally gave me a chill. I mean, it really is heartbreaking that she came to that conclusion.

  13. I’m glad you named them. I doubt we’d get them here in Australia yet but at least I know what NOT to buy should I ever be overcome by the inane urge to stuff myself into a sausage skin to pander to the ignorant and sanctimonious bigotry of people who very clearly have too much time, money and opportunity on their hands. Me and my muffin top are very happily going back to moving house now, which I’m quite sure is not nearly as impressive an activity as selling bs BUT when I consider that my body periodically shuts down requiring hospital stays and months of rehabilitation just to do simple things like gee I don’t know, type this post, well yeah me and my muffin top are REAL happy to be moving house. If I am unsightly and bother you may I suggest…DON’T LOOK. That’s right, turn your highly educated, degree holding eyes away and live happily in your bubble of self delusion. I’m good here in my garden variety underpants, moving house and grateful that my body with all its supposed flaws still works when I ask it to this week.

    1. Hi Jayem,

      I’m glad that you said that. At first I thought about keeping them anonymous in case the “any publicity is good publicity” rule applies, but in the end I believe in giving people all the information and letting them make their own choices.

      Congratulations on your move and on feeling good in your body today! I am so very with you when you say that if people don’t like it they can just look away.

      Thanks!

      ~Ragen

  14. #1. I’d really like to verify that woman’s creds. What state does she claim she ever was licensed and practicing in?
    #2. I’m also sickened, but not surprised. A colleague of mine recently stated in a media interview that pageants for pre-schoolers were good for kids’ self-esteem. Helping women lose weight to boost their self esteem is a cottage industry within psychology, as are bariatric surgery evals. So, yeah. There are plenty of therapists out there who swallow that shit hook, line & sinker, and use their authority to sell it to others.

    You rock. Keep it up–we so need you.

    1. Hi Virginia,

      She doesn’t say abou tteh licensing.Thanks for bringing this up, I hadn’t even thought about the bariatric surgery evals. Just a gross use of a degree. Blech. Thank you for being a psychologist who truly gets it!

      ~Ragen

      1. I’m a work in progress. There are unfortunately three evals out there with my name on them, done before I ‘got it’. In case you’ve never seen one, irony of ironies, the gist of them is that you are evaluating the person for their ability to . . . diet. Because that’s basically what you have to do after the surgery.

  15. I am amazed by the woman. How ethical is she? I worry for the people who visit her for help, she has the wrong idea and is potentially offering dangerous ideas.

    1. Yeah, it must have been magic to be her client:

      “Why are you seeking therapy?”
      “Well, I just feel horrible about myself.”
      “Oh, have you tried stuffing yourself into very tight underpants?”

      Sigh.

      ~Ragen

  16. I am all FIRED UP from reading your post, thank you for your absolutely incredible way with words! I had NO idea that I could become a whole ‘nother person, full of self-esteem and wisdom, JUST by the kind of underwear I’m sportin’! Thank you, Sassybax! /sarcasm

    Also? Real women’s problems such as muffin top or bra bulge? And here I was, thinking that some ACTUAL problems women face include, but are not limited to, poverty, domestic and intimate partner violence, the government telling them what they can and can’t do with their bodies, earning less than men for doing the same job, shall I go on? /sarcasm for real this time.

    yuck.

    1. Yeah, this whole thing is just unbelievably dumb and gross. I don’t understand how you can look at yourself in the mirror after telling someone that muffin tops and bra bulge are “real women’s problems”.

      yuck seconded.

      ~Ragen

  17. You know, I am vowing never to buy anything from someone who thinks they are “helping” me by attempting to make me feel bad about myself. It’s the ultimate in passive aggressive crappery!

    1. I am vowing right with you. How different would the messages that we get from marketing be if people were forced to try to convince us to like our product rather than convincing us to hate ourselves.

      ~Ragen

  18. Let’s assume for a second that these shapewear people really are trying to make people feel better about themselves. Maybe they’ve seen how many women are distressed about being held to an impossible ideal of beauty and chicness that they can’t emulate. Maybe in a flash of compassion they developed shapewear so that real women can reach the current body ideal.

    You know what would happen in that world? A world where there are no muffin tops or bulges left because shapewear had removed them all?

    The fashion industry would change the goal posts again and create a new definition of thinness – one that no amount of shapewear would allow women to achieve.

  19. “Fear is a great motivator”

    Ragen, that might be one of the most offensive things I have read in a long time. I can’t even get my head around someone writing that. I’m actually stunned.

    Let me tell Amanda about fear. Fear is what motivated me to lose weight (which obviously makes me win at life, according to her). Fear motivated me to starving myself, fear got me hooked up to an ECG because my heart is weakened. Fear made me take up to 10 laxatives a day (I’ve stopped that now, 23 days lax free), fear made me take water retention tablets as well as purging from time to time. Fear makes me not want to go out with my friends in case someone says I’m fat. Fear made me exercise so much on Thursday (burned approx. 1678 cals) that I fainted twice, I had to ring my friend because I was alone in the house and “confess” my eating disorder and eat teaspoons of chocolate spread and drink fruit juice to get my blood sugar up as quickly as possible.

    And let Amanda take a look at some of my followers on Twitter. Fear made someone ask me how many cals are in toothpaste (15, if you’re interested, but let’s face it, you don’t swallow it). Fear made one of them stay in her house all day and not go to the beach because she wasn’t bikini ready. Fear makes you prefer to sit in your room and look at thinspo instead of going out, then do as many jumping jacks and sit ups as you can get away with.

    Fear makes you not want to eat with your friends. Fear makes you say, “I don’t feel well, I ate before I came” (quote from ‘Courage’, Superchick). Fear makes you not drink water before you go to bed cos your nightly weigh in is bad enough.

    And fear is what my friends feel when they notice that my spine sticks out. My ribs stick out. Fear is when you’re 50 miles away from me telling me to eat chocolate spread and to get my boyfriend home asap. Fear is noticing your friend weighs only half a stone heavier than you, and she’s 5’11” and you’re 5’2”.

    That, Amanda, is fear.

    And fear is me typing all of that wearing my spanx with no intention of taking them off because we have people round today. And fear is me having these unexpected guests and wondering when the hell I’m gonna get to exercise, because not exercising today is simply not an option.

    That is fear. Lucky you, amanda, because you’re profiting from my fear. And those spambots who tweet me saying “Want to lose weight fast? Go to http://youreafatbitchandwecanmakeyouthinataprice.com and see results”.

    Fuck this. Fuck anyone who scares people into losing weight. FUCK THEM. And she’s a therapist? God help us. Reason #167364859 why I’m not gonna go into therapy. I’ll sort this shit out myself.

    Furious.

    And another amazing blog post, Ragen. I really admire you for being you and not putting up with this crap for another second.

    1. Reading this saddens me. There ARE therapists out there who don’t do this. There are therapists out there who really focus on issues and NOT on weight (unless that’s something you want to focus on). My sister was seeing a therapist while she was separated from her husband. She had just had a baby and lost 50 lbs in 6 months (and not in a healthy way either). Her therapist told her she needed to go in to see a doctor and find out why she was losing so much weight in that short amount of time. She didn’t see that as being normal. Don’t let the bad ones scare you off. Yeah, it’s a crap shoot finding ANY doctor who isn’t going to push the weight loss crap on you but not all of them are bad. The bad ones just make it harder for us to even bother looking for the good ones.

      I have felt that fear too or rather that self-hatred. I even would have fantasies of cutting the fat off of me. But I did fear seeing certain people because of my weight including a favorite teacher of mine. I felt ashamed of my weight because she was in shape and made it her mission to be in shape. When I finally did decide to contact her, I made a stunning discovery. I found her obituary online. This in-shape, runner, former biology teacher of mine had died from brain cancer. Wow. And now I have that regret of not seeing her before she died, all because I was ashamed of how I looked.

      So I feel for you, I do. I’ve had a lot of the same feelings. I’m working on that but it’s no easy, that’s for sure. Blogs like this help though, they help a lot.

      1. Blogs like this definitely do help. I looked for blogs like this because I wanted to learn about fat positive feminism, I never thought for a second it would help me get better, but it has. Ok, I’m a long way off and ok, I’m still trying to lose weight even though I’m already under weight. But I have increased my goal weight by 12lbs (which was a big deal to me) and my cal intake to 1000 (which is a REALLY big deal to me), and this blog has helped me do this.

        As for therapy – yes, you’re completely right. When i wrote that I was in a blind rage! I still wouldn’t go for therapy right now, but I’m sure there are some good eggs out there 🙂

        Just wrote to that woman about her stupid “fear” comment (in a calm way though, not like the way I did above!). Wonder what she’ll say, if anything…

    2. I, too, am just wanting to hug you.

      You have awesome clarity and strength of mind. I hope you get all the love and support you need from the in-person people in your life to lose your fear and find a state of health that comes from self-love. You deserve it.

      I also really appreciate that you wrote to that psycho (not psychotherapist) which is what this woman is if she thinks that constricting underwear is the solution for women’s self-esteem problems.

      The therapists I’ve been lucky to have have been a HUGE help for my eating, weight, and body image issues. With the help of them and some loving friends and good books, I went from constant obsession with body issues to a really comfortable relationship with my body and food. It took a long time, but it really has settled out and I’ve gotten on with my life. I think it helps a lot that several therapists I’ve worked with have or have had their own food struggles and have developed deep intelligence about those issues through their experience.

    3. Don’t give up. Please, please, please don’t give up. I used to wear the same eating-disordered hair shirt all the time, and I had to go through 3 therapists before I found one that could help me help myself. You CAN tell the internal and external skinny-at-all-costs voices to cram it, but you’re going to need backup at first. It’s dangerous to go it alone.

  20. If I may briefly go off on a tangent: can anyone recommend a good brand of non-slimming long-leg shorts?

    I am financially supporting the shapewear industry (against my principles and interests) because I can’t wear dresses or skirts without undershorts to prevent chafing. I would like to stop, but I haven’t found anything else that works. (I tried one variety of non-shaper shorts, and they rode up. I tried powder and anti-chafing products, but they didn’t last very long.)

    Any suggestions?

      1. Similarly, I’ve heard that lightweight triathalon shorts (“tri shorts”) are great for that kind of use and for wearing under a short skirt so one doesn’t unintentionally show one’s underpants while mounting or dismounting a bike. If they’re the right size, they don’t compress one’s flesh, just cover it to reduce exposure and/or chafing. They generally have much less chamois padding in the butt and crotch area than full-on bike shorts do, since they need to be comfortable for the running and swimming stages of the race as well as the biking stage.

        They’re pricier than ordinary undergarments, unfortunately. I find the best way to shop for them is like shopping for bras: When I have the time I try them on at the store to see what brand/size combos I like, then keep an eye out for sales.

    1. I second the bike shorts – I got some from Fashion Bug and not only are they super comfy but they do the trick perfectly so I can wear all my dresses and skirts.

    2. I like to get workout clothes (and swimwear) from junonia.com. They have a “Quik Wik” line of high-tech fabric sportswear including bike shorts. A little pricey but I have never been disappointed with them or had something fall apart like the clothes from a certain online retailer who shall remain nameless (except that their name rhymes with “Pain Client”)….
      Note: I am not a junonia employee, I just really really like their clothes.

  21. What pisses me off is not so much the product (ever see the kind of shapewear in use before the 20th century?), but the idea that the way to make money is to do what everybody else does. We fat women are a notoriously underserved market, and someone could make a tidy profit by selling us beautiful clothing not in polyester, beautiful footwear in a big variety of sizes and widths, beautiful underwear that is truly supportive and beautiful jewelry and accessories made a few inches bigger to fit properly.
    Since such items are not common, they would have to be well-marketed. They often aren’t, and then stores blame the potential customer when the stuff doesn’t sell well.
    Nina, or her boss, has totally misread the demographic here. They want people who have fattened or drooped a little with age, not so much people who were fat to begin with. People for whom a little restriction would make a big difference. Even if some of your readers are in this category, their psyches are not so likely to be.
    Advertising has taken over the western world, if not the universe, and companies are screaming ever louder and hitting as hard as they legally can in order to get the customers. This one’s no different. Too bad for them.

  22. I bought some shapewear at Avenue for a dress I wore to my brother’s wedding. The dress was clingy and I used it for smoothing purposes. No amount of Spanx, Sassybax or whatever brand is actually going to make me look smaller because I’m already very large. The only thing this stuff will do is give me a more streamlined look clothing-wise, not make it appear that I’ve dropped a few dress sizes.

    But normally I don’t use it because the more you wear it, the more uncomfortable it gets. And if you’re like me and sweat a lot, trying to take it off is extremely difficult when it doesn’t decide to roll down on its own. I like to breathe, thank you!

    People will get into the body-shaming retail industry no matter what their occupation is because it sells. So many are looking for that quick fix. It’s a promise of easy money. But it does nothing for self-esteem especially if it doesn’t do what buyers think it will.

  23. To think that someone genuinely thought that would be a good sales technique.
    My jaw dropped while reading that letter. Way to completely miss the point. Maybe they think that it is all bravado and you don’t REALLY feel good about yourself – how COULD, after all, a respected writer, champion dancer and happy successful person feel good about themselves without SHAPEWEAR???!

    (Also how on earth does someone market microfibre as ‘natural’?)

    1. On thinking further, and possibly with unbalanced amounts of *RAGE*, I find the implications really nasty.
      It’s like no matter what, and how often you write, people that have even (allegedly) read your own words and that of your commentors STILL have this disturbing underlying assumption that NONE of it is true, that really, none of us could *really* be happy with the way we look, or happy with how our bodies work, That it is just a big lie.

      Am I seriously over-thinking what is basically just unthinking targeted marketing?

  24. Oh boy! I’m glad I’m going into the therapy profession soon. My little piece of sanity and perspective is obviously needed to help balance out, and provide healthier, kinder alternatives to, perspective’s like this [Sassybax therapist]. I say the real taking “sassy back” is to love and celebrate your body just the way it is!!!
    So, Sassybax therapist, hopefully you can find the strength to take your sassy back too! (It’ll last a lot longer than underwear.)

  25. my letter to Rebecca

    Hi there Rebecca~
    I like myself just fine. And shaming women into buying a product isn’t a likable action so I can see that I’m not your preferred customer.

    I’m wearing one of the all hoseiry bralleleigh (or however that’s spelled) from Spanx right now cause its comfortabe, doesn’t bind or smoosh, and I can hoop in it.

    And there is no shame involved!

    That might be a smarter direction for product development.

    And for marketing you might want to consider Rich Happy and Hot Busines School http://rhhbschool.com, cause the marketing with your company I’ve seen so far has low ethics and an even worse backlash.

    Rowan

  26. I would think “real women” issues *just might* include issues such as women GETTING BEATEN for driving cars in parts of the Middle East. Women getting virginity tests for protesting to be treated with basic human decency.

    We cannot stop how others *choose* to feel about their bodies but for me … I am SICK and TIRED of feeling like crap about myself because I am not thin enough, white enough, propotionate enough, straight enough, family oriented enough and blah blah blah. Nothing I do will EVER be good enough for THEM, so the real question is what is good enough for me???

    Eating when I want to, wearing what I like, doing the things that make me passionate and …. totally… reading this blog 🙂 It takes me to my happy place because I am not the ONLY one who feels the way I do about the world around me!

    The world is full of fattitude, and they only way to conquer it is to live Phat and Proud, no matter WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE…. This blog makes me happy 🙂

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