Nobody Tells This Woman How to Dress

How messed up do you have to be to take to social media in order to try to tell people of a certain weight what they can and can’t wear? That’s a question that I don’t have a definitive answer to (“pretty messed up” is as close as I can get.)  When it comes to options for responding to this nonsense, Sara Petty has that part under control.

Sara is a blogger who is majoring in Public Relations at Bowling green University, and she decided to create a response to the size-shaming troll drivel she found in social media about what people should and shouldn’t wear.  In a statement to Huffington Post she said:

I also hope that girls are able to separate who they are from the number that shows up on the scale, and realize there is no number, high or low, that dictates if you’re worthy of feeling beautiful.

I think that this is a great project and I appreciate Sara putting herself out there.  I especially appreciate that the pictures are amateur, with just her room in the background etc.  While there’s nothing wrong with having beautiful, professional pictures taken of yourself, I also want people to know that activism doesn’t require a professional photographer, and that you can make a difference using whatever resources you happen to have.

But it’s the responses to her activism that I found particularly interesting, and that’s what I want to talk about:

There is NO WAY that she could be 200 pounds

This one illustrates that people are terrible at judging weight, but excellent at missing the point of Size Acceptance. She is 5’11 and 219 pounds for the record, but that’s not really the point here.

She’s not fat!

This one is a bit tricky.  As a smaller fat person Sara has privilege since the mistreatment of fat people, as well as access to everything from clothing to transportation to compassionate evidence-based healthcare gets worse the more visibly fat one is (as well as intersectionally with things like disability, health, race, and other marginalized identities.) So some people are pointing out that, while she is taking a risk by putting herself out there, her risk is not as great as it would be if she were a size 26 with belly rolls and cellulite. And that’s true.

Still, as we’ve discussed before, this is something to be careful with because if someone is being shamed, stigmatized, bullied etc. for being fat, and we say “they aren’t fat” or “they aren’t even that fat”  in their defense, what we are also suggesting is that there is a size at which they would deserve that treatment, and that’s just not true. Which brings us to…

But she looks good at 200 pounds, I was talking about the other 200 pound people.

Because of her height and the distribution of her fat, Sara approximates the current stereotype of beauty more than people who are shorter, fatter, have different fat distribution etc.  That’s an important thing to note, and I was happy that Sara represented for women her size, and used her privilege to advocate for women of all sizes – specifically not doing the “at some point you’re too fat blah blah handwringing about our health blah blah” thing that can often happens in these situations.

At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember is that the suggestion that only people of a certain size/ weight/appearance are allowed to wear certain types of clothing is ALWAYS bullshit regardless of the parameters.  If people don’t like how fat people dress, they can avail themselves of one of these options.  In the meantime, here are Sara’s fabulous pictures, and you can check out her blog here!

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10 thoughts on “Nobody Tells This Woman How to Dress

  1. Sara looks amazing. She is beautiful, and confident. I am glad she’s ignoring the trolls and doing what she wants. Life is just too short.

    If others don’t agree, their loss, but it seems their mothers didn’t teach them some basic considerations like: Don’t say anything if you can’t say anything nice.

  2. One of the reasons I really hate the “People of Walmart” page, is that so many of the photos I saw people link to/share on Facebook were of fat people that were being mocked for the way they dressed. “People of Walmart” was one of the first pages I blocked on FB once I realized that I could do so, for that and several other reasons.

    I figure, I do not appreciate others trying to tell me how I should dress, so the reciprocal courtesy is that my opinions on someone else’s wardrobe should only be shared if actually solicited, and even then, being honest does not require being cruel. We can state an opinion in a way that takes the other person’s feelings into consideration, without feeling we must lie or offer empty flattery.

    As for Sara, for those making the objections, “she’s not fat,” they need only look at the typical recommended weight/height charts to see what our current medical system regards as fat. A National Institute of Health chart I looked up stated that, at 5′ 11″, the ideal weight range is 136 – 178 pounds, so a doctor is going to rate her at least 40 pounds overweight. At 219 pounds, the chart lists her as “obese.” This will still likely come into play in the kind of medical treatment she receives, regardless of her actual health.

    Part of this, and one aspect that rarely gets considered, is that she likely is sporting a decent amount of muscle mass, which is denser than fat tissue. This can push the numbers of the scale up without pushing up the body dimensions as much as the corresponding weight of fat tissue would. This is one reason that I try and remind people often, when they are working at getting in better shape, to not depend on their scale as a metric of progress. If they are burning off fat and putting on muscle, the scale may actually go up, and if they are using that as their only marker, they can get discouraged. A better metric is progress on activity. Did you go farther or faster? Lift more? How do you feel after the workout – less tired after a longer group of sets? The scale cannot measure any of that, and a lot of people with low numbers on the scale cannot ride a bike to the corner and back without feeling totally spent, so that low number is no indication of good condition.

  3. Sara is awesome and I’m really glad her photo essay is getting around 8)

    I was pleasantly surprised to see that one of the people approvingly sharing her photos on Facebook was George Takei. I know he has a history of fat-shaming (including his husband!) and he could be right back at it tomorrow,but this time, for this meme, he appeared to get it.

  4. Wide awake with a splitting headache, I came here, looking for a pick-me-up, and boy, did I find it! Thanks, so much!

    I don’t care what she weighs, or her size, or her shape. She looks good. That smile!

    I tried looking at her blog, but I think the link is broken. At least for me. No matter, the four pics I saw were enough.

  5. Ugh, People of Wal-Mart. Pretty much everyone on there is fat, poor, or obviously ill/tired/busy.

    1. I have to boggle at the hypocrisy in it, too. I mean, if you’re taking the pictures of these people, aren’t you also shopping at Wal-Mart? So, what prevents you from being a “People of Wal-Mart?” What makes you better than the other people shopping there?

      Or, are these “People of Wal-Mart” pictures posted by jerks who only go to Wal-Mart to take pictures of people, without their permission, and post them online to mock them? Actually, I believe some jerks would do just that, while shopping at the high-end stores that actually carry stuff they can wear.


  6. Ahh, the old “she must weigh XXX pounds!” I often think that people would be astonished at real people’s real weights. I was going somewhere with my belly dancing troupe long ago, and saw a magazine cover with a photo of Roseann Barr in lingerie in a stereotypically sexy pose, straddling a chair backward. I thought she looked awesome. Other dancers mostly commented on how FAT she was: “She must weigh 200 pounds!”

    She probably did. So did I, right then, and the prickling, shamed feeling of TOO FAT TO BE WITH THESE PEOPLE is why I remember the incident. They honestly had no idea I weighed 200 pounds.

    Another time I was having a conversation with a customer at work about her sister’s health problems, and she trotted out the “she must weigh 250 pounds!” Did she have any idea she was saying that, in that tone of shock and awe, to someone who weighed 253? I doubt it.

    I used to think going into a store and forgetting the ONE THING I came for was weird. I used to think staring at the item I was looking for on the shelf and not seeing it was embarrassing. Then I worked in retail and discovered these things are NORMAL. I kind of feel like the truth about people’s weight might be good for people: 200 pounds (or three hundred, or ninety, or whatever) looks all kinds of ways. Bone density, muscle mass, fat distribution, water retention all play into appearance, and NORMAL comes in a lot of shapes and sizes.

    Brava to Sara for putting herself out there for the education of so many.

  7. Hmm…it sort of looks like the reason her photos are working is because she looks good in those clothes according to current cultural standards even though she is over 200 lbs. As you said, this is mostly due to weight distribution, and she is saying “wear whatever you want,” but I don’t think it would make the same point if she was larger or didn’t fit the current beauty standard to such a degree.

  8. It seams like a lot of people are missing the point. It doesn’t matter if she “looks good”. She could “look bad” to you and it would NOT MATTER – because the fact is women shouldn’t be told what they should or shouldn’t wear regardless of if OTHERS think they “look good” or not.

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