Putting the Ass in Aspirational

Reality and PerceptionAnother company has discontinued athletic wear that I use.  This is a big deal – there isn’t a lot of good technical gear for fathletes so once you find something you want to be able to buy it over and over.  So I called them.  The reason they initially gave me is that they didn’t sell enough in my size.

We had this conversation, it’s not the first time that I’ve had a conversation like this. (I’m keeping the company private because I don’t want to get the guy I spoke with in trouble since he was honest with me and it’s not his fault.)

Me:  “Do you mind if I ask how you marketed them?”

Him:  “I’m not sure.”

Me:  “I’m asking because I’m looking at your website and based on all of the pictures on there I would think that you didn’t sell anything over an adult medium”

Him:  Laughs uncomfortably.  “I see what you’re saying and I agree that’s probably a big part of the problem. It’s come up in conversations but [the company] feels that the images on our website should be aspirational.”

Me:  “So [the company] feels that everyone should aspire to be thin and that people of other sizes should not have role models or have a chance to see people who look like us wearing your clothes, even though you sell clothes in our sizes and want our money?”

Him:  “I don’t agree with it, but basically yes.”

Me:  “I know it’s not your fault, but that is total crap.  If there is anywhere to put my feedback, you can let folks know that I buy several pieces of clothing from you besides the one that was discontinued in my size, and while it doesn’t seem like the company wants me as a customer anyway, it’s definitely lost me now.”

Him:  “I understand and I’ll pass it along.  Do you want me to give them your contact info in case they want to contact you?”

Me: “That would be great.”

This idea of “aspirational” images is far too often used as a way to justify reinforcing the current stereotype of beauty which is typically thin, white, cisgender, able-bodied (and which, thanks to Photoshop, at this point is only actually achievable via digital enhancement.)  Representation matters. Seeing people who look like you – whether it’s in athletics, or television and movies, or on stage, or doing whatever it is that you want to do – is important.  Denying people role models who look like them isn’t aspirational, it’s cruel, and it’s oppressive, and it’s bullshit.

We each get to choose what we aspire to, and none of us is obligated to aspire to a stereotype that is used to exclude and oppress us and others. We have the opportunity to speak out against the idea that the choice to exclude so many people is doing anything other than putting the ass in aspirational.

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13 thoughts on “Putting the Ass in Aspirational

  1. I’m five feet tall and weigh 235 pounds. I aspire to have a swimsuit that fits me so I can go swimming. I do NOT aspire to being 5’10” and 110 pounds.

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Seeing people who look like us doing cool things is aspirational. What about that do they not get?  Ginny Wood Pshrink Emeritus

  3. And even if I WAS aspiring to the model they show, don’t I deserve to have something to wear while I’m on that path? Granted, I’m completely over all the bs hype to conform to standards of beauty that aren’t possible, but I would like to have access to clothing for the activities I do engage in. I’m about to loose a foot due to bone infection and I’m completely freaked out about rehab as a fat woman who has been on forced inactivity, off and on, for several years.

    1. They tell us to exercise more so we stop being such big fat fatties, but then refuse to sell us the clothing and equipment we need to do it.

      (I hope I don’t sound like one of the memes in that post from the other day, I just mean, if you think we need to do a thing — whether that’s accurate or not — and then won’t sell us what we need to do said thing, it becomes pretty clear how you actually feel about us)

      1. “if you think we need to do a thing — whether that’s accurate or not — and then won’t sell us what we need to do said thing, it becomes pretty clear how you actually feel about us”

        Quoted for truth.

        Also, Susan, I’m so sorry to hear about your foot. I hope you get excellent care, and a good prosthetic, and can be active again (as much as you want to).

  4. I’m glad the guy was honest with you and as helpful as he was able to be.

    But yes, stores that sell our size (if they sell our size) certainly don’t want to admit it. Whether it’s hiding our stuff in the darkest corner or only offering it online, it does get super frustrating.

  5. Why do they bother selling clothing in large sizes if they don’t even want to advertise them? I know that the answer is money but, since we are supposedly in the midst of an obesity epidemic, wouldn’t they make more moolah by letting it be known that they can accommodate large people, since there are “obliviously” so many of us?

    1. Because someone, sometime, decided that accommodating large people is somehow “encouraging” them to continue to be large.

      Only by making us be naked until we get thin enough to deserve workout gear can they “encourage” us to be thin.


  6. I’m finding it increasingly hard to find affordable clothes in my size. I guess they want us non-wealthy fat people to walk around naked…

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