This sign was posted on the window of a Social Services office. We’ll get to that in a minute. But first, awesome activist Crystal Vasquez e-mailed to inquire as to just what the sam hill they were thinking, and received this treasure of a response (posted with her permission, of course)
Ms Vasquez, Thank you so much for your correspondence. I am truly sorry if you were offended and/or inferred that a sign encouraging people to dress appropriately was directed at a particular group, or individual, in any way. I assure you it was not, nor do we want any client to dress in less clothing (“skinny” or “fat”) than another for any reason. We want all who visit our agency to feel welcome. Our concern is as much for underdressed individuals, no matter what size or shape, as it is for those who are subjected to the inappropriate (sometimes grossly, i.e. – bra and/or panties) attire they’re wearing. While we do not necessarily expect visitors to dress modestly, we do hope they’ll adhere to most societal norms of acceptable attire and not degrade and/or embarrass themselves and/or others by doing otherwise. Unfortunately, that is not always the case and we do try and find ways to address these situations, hopefully without being offensive. I’ve attached a sign that was the catalyst in an effort to do so with a seemingly humorous approach. I’m sorry it’s so easily misconstrued and do appreciate you bringing this to my attention. I’ve forwarded you an email sent to staff (below) regarding this matter. I did not reference fat shaming, nor skinny or fat clients, (since the intent of the sign was to have all visitors appropriately attired, not any particular group or individual) and hope you won’t mind the use of larger people in describing the offended. I did not want anyone aggrieved by the use of “skinny, fat, shaming” anymore than I would want anyone offended by the sign. I find those terms offensive and unacceptable myself and I did not use them. Many people struggle with underweight issues, as well as overweight and/or eating disorders. Every effort should be made to avoid offending anyone, which is what we strive for. Again, I’m sorry that wasn’t your experience. We will continue to make our agency an inclusive, safe, and non-offensive place for one and all. Again, thank you for your correspondence and concern regarding this matter. Sincerely, Melissa Stokely
Huh. Well, I guess this is a step above using the Shaggy song “It Wasn’t Me” as a damage control strategy, but it’s not exactly Olivia Pope either. A lot of this note has that “talking points in a blender” feel, but let’s look at some of the greatest hits:
I am truly sorry if you were offended and/or inferred that a sign encouraging people to dress appropriately was directed at a particular group, or individual, in any way.
Oops, this is not an apology. An apology occurs when you say that you are sorry for your bad choices, not when you say that you are sorry that other people had appropriate reactions to your bad choices. And the sign suggested that clothes that are appropriate for some bodies are not appropriate for others, so the idea that this wasn’t “directed at a particular group, or individual” seems to be, at best, the message that she WANTS to convey, not the message that she HAS conveyed.
Our concern is as much for underdressed individuals, no matter what size or shape, as it is for those who are subjected to the inappropriate (sometimes grossly, i.e. – bra and/or panties) attire they’re wearing.
Their concern would be touching were it not wrapped up in big ball of shaming with absolutely no attempt to assist the people about whom they are so concerned. This is an office that deals with people who are struggling with poverty. If we are to believe that they weren’t trying to be shaming, then we must point out that they are aware the people are living in poverty such that they may not have access to a mirror (per the bottom line of the sign there are mirrors available in the bathrooms for those who don’t have them at home – because of course It’s totally easy for people dealing with poverty to come to the Social Services office, check their reflection in the mirror, then go home, change clothes and come back.)
So it wouldn’t be, you know, totally beyond the realm of possibility that people don’t have access to a “7 Pieces You Can’t Live Without” Marie Claire wardrobe at home. People may have to come to this office to get the assistance they need regardless of the clothing that is available to them and they should expect to be able to do so without being shamed.
This sign would be inappropriate anywhere, but it is wildly inappropriate in an office that claims to provide support to people who are dealing with poverty and the classism and oppression (and often shame) that comes with that. Melissa and her sign making-team need to pull their shit together and I mean right damn now.
While we do not necessarily expect visitors to dress modestly, we do hope they’ll adhere to most societal norms of acceptable attire and not degrade and/or embarrass themselves and/or others by doing otherwise.
Well aren’t we just splashing around in a pool of self-righteous judgment. “Degrade and/or embarrass themselves”? Every social worker I know is ridiculously overworked, so I’m thinking that if these folks have extra time on their hands, there’s probably work to be done helping people rather than caring about how they are dressed, and making body shaming signs.
We do try and find ways to address these situations, hopefully without being offensive.
The phrase that you are looking for is “Epic Fail.” If this is truly a problem, how about addressing it by keeping a box of clothes (big t-shirts, etc.) that people could borrow or be given, and offering help on a individual basis, quietly and with dignity (and without a heaping helping of body shaming.)
Every effort should be made to avoid offending anyone, which is what we strive for.
You may be striving Melissa, but I don’t think this one’s got the distance. Suggesting that the body people have isn’t the one that they want is offensive. Suggesting that some clothing is only for some bodies is offensive. Trying to use ridiculous “won’t somebody think of the children” hand-wringing to justify body shaming and manipulating adults to dress in ways of which you approve is offensive.
Hey, wait y’all … I just had a scathingly brilliant idea! If we don’t like what someone is wearing, we could…wait for it… look at something else. Or, hey, even better – we could get the fuck over ourselves. We can do it, I believe in us!
For me, the body I have is the body I want and I dress accordingly (which is to say, however I damn well please) but regardless, I’m just a big fan of dressing however the hell you want. Now, I understand that they’ve taken the sign down. But still, I try never to criticize without offering solutions, so I’ve taken the liberty of redesigning the sign, let’s see if they take me up on it:
Speaking of wearing spandex, I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!
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