Victoria’s Secret Hires Anti-Fat Plus-Size Model

WTF are you doingFat people didn’t even fully get out our half-hearted this-is-still-hella-problematic cheer of Victoria’s Secret’s choice to (fricking finally) hire a plus-size model. Because the model they hired, Ali Tate Cutler, once hijacked a fat activist’s Facebook page to declare that fat people shouldn’t be allowed to live because we’re bad for the environment. I wrote about this in 2016, and I thought today would be a good day to revisit it (with thanks to Alysse Dalesandro for continue to fight the good fight on this!)

Alysse Dalessandro, a fashion and beauty writer, and designer for the brand Ready To Stare, posted an excellent article from Everyday Feminism called “11 Reasons Your ‘Concern’ for Fat People’s Health Isn’t Helping Anyone” on her personal Facebook page. Then a plus-size model and self-described “body Activist” named Ali Tate Cutler took it upon herself to demonstrate why the article from EF was necessary, and illustrate the cycle of fatphobia – fat bash (using “the science!”), non-apology/demand education/tone police, claim to be a victim.

It’s also an example of casual fat elimination, which is when people suggest, during the course of normal conversation, that it would be cool to eradicate fat people because they think that the world would be better in some way if we didn’t exist.

Step 1 –  Make an argument that sounds all “science-y” but is actually based on stereotypes, prejudices, and …rectal pull.  Ali has this step down pat

Sorry but I don’t care about people’s health who are fat, that’s their own prerogative and their own life to lead. They are free to make their own choices. I am a staunch feminist, followed by a close second environmentalist. While some people are genetically obese and are vegetarian, and eating relatively low carbon foot print foods, most obese people are not. I do care about the excessive amounts of carbon, nitrous oxide, and methane gases it takes to produce a large person; the amount of animals that have been killed; the amount of exploitation that is going on to create fat. That’s not even being mentioned. Being obese is simply bad for the environment, and in this day and age, we cannot afford that lack of empathy anymore.

First let’s clarify – if you missed her point (and it would be easy to do since it is a poor argument, very poorly made) she is suggesting that people whose weight in pounds times 703 divided by their height in inches squared is greater than 30 (aka obese people) shouldn’t be allowed to exist because of her assumptions about the amount of meat that we eat and the subsequent impact on the environment.

Ali is a plus-size model and self-described “body activist,” but she appears to be one of those people whose “body positivity” only expands far enough to include herself.  Just as her “body activism” is questionable, so is her “environmentalism” since it seems to include lashing out irrationally on other people’s Facebook pages using numbers that she makes up. Suggesting that size = amount of meat eaten is patently ridiculous, especially considering the popularity of the paleo diet.  Ali seems to know that there are fat vegetarians and fat vegans (and thus that you can’t tell how much meat someone eats based on their size)  but she’s not one to let facts get in the way of a good fat bashing.

Regardless of what you believe about fat people and our carbon footprint, any time someone like Ali suggests that it’s ok to take a group of people who are identifiable by sight, calculate (or, in Ali’s case, make completely random guesses about) their cost on society, and then suggest that they shouldn’t exist, they are going down a bad, bad road.

But it gets more hypocritical. Having spent some time looking at Ali’s social media she is very proud of the time that she spends flying around the world, apparently the expanded carbon footprint that requires is justified in her case because of the importance of Ali wearing clothes in many locations.  To be clear, I have no problem with Ali being a model traveling around the world to do it, I do have a problem with her throwing carbon stones from her carbon house.

Finally, in the “adding insult to injury” and “horrible irony” categories, the winner is…Ali’s use of the phrase “lack of empathy.”

Step 2 – Issue a Non-Apology, demand education, and tone police

Like so many before her, Ali seems to suffer from NAS (Non-Apology Syndrome.) So, after seeming to be super surprised that people didn’t jump on her “stereotype the fatties for the environment” bandwagon and instead insisted that she stop saying ignorant shit and educate herself, she issued the kind of non-apology that  far  too  often follows this kind of fat-shaming. This is better than some, but still fails at the core goal of apologizing  for doing something wrong:

I wrote a comment on @readytostare instagram about obesity and its relationship to over consumption. I was coming at this from an environmental viewpoint. After reading some of the viewpoints and comments on the thread, I can totally understand how my comments came off rude, coarse, and inappropriate. And definitely not the truth for many people. I didn’t want to offend ANYONE and I’m so sorry that I did. I hope you can forgive my poorly written comments.

Except the problem isn’t that what she said “came off” rude, coarse, and inappropriate it’s that they, in fact, WERE rude, coarse, and inappropriate. And the problem isn’t that people were offended, it’s that she stereotyped fat people allowing ourselves to exist in the world constitutes a lack of empathy on our part.  Finally, the problem isn’t that the comments were “poorly written” it’s that they were inaccurate, bigoted, and suggested that fat people shouldn’t exist.

At this point Alysse said on Facebook

From the emails she has continued to send me, I’m clear that she’s not open to understanding how what she said was wrong, she just doesn’t want people to be mad at her.

Ali doubled down with a note telling Alysse how she should have responded:

This is Ali Tate. Thought I should write you about our interaction on Facebook. I’m really, I didn’t meant to offend you! I’m a body positive activist as well, and am passionate about talking and learning about these things.

But I don’t think I warranted a “fuck you” on Facebook. If I am wrong and wrote a false claim please, by all means, tell me why it is wrong and engage in rational discussion? The last thing I meant was to offend, just a good conversation. Anyways, hope you could unblock me and we can Converse about it.

Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that in the third sentence she actually meant to say “I’m sorry.” This is still not ok.  First of all, bigots don’t get to control both sides of the conversation. This (all too common) technique of fat-shaming and then telling fat people how they should respond to your bullshit, is bullshit.

Also, you have to come from a particular combination of privilege, bigotry, and ignorance to think that you can suggest that people shouldn’t exist, and call it “just a good conversation.”  There is no way to have a “good conversation” about whether or not fat people should be eradicated. There is no way to have a “good conversation” about whether fat people have the right to exist.  Nobody has the right to require fat people to debate them for our lives.

Step 3 – Claim to be the Victim

At this point Ali posted to her own Facebook

Wow. Now I really know what it feels like to be cyber bullied. It’s rough guys. Hope no one has to go through this.

Sorry Ali, my tiny violin is in the shop. This is another common tactic of bullies – engage in bullying behavior and then accuse those who stand up to them of being the bullies, using claiming victim status as their exit strategy from the situation. This also makes it clear that Ali has never actually been the victim of cyberbullying and I hope that continues for her, because it is horrible.

Let’s examine the situation:  Ali, a plus-size model and “body activist,” voluntarily went onto the Facebook page of a fat activist, on a thread about why concern trolling fat people is not ok, and hijacked the space and the thread to concern troll fat people – stereotyping us and calling our existence “empathy” that the world “cannot afford.”  Ali is the problem here, and so is the idea that people who stand up to oppression are bullies.  Many people have offered to educate her so I’m not going to spend my time and energy on it, but I sincerely hope that she educates herself, or at the very least keeps her stereotyping and fat bashing to herself.

In the words of Alysse (who was kind enough to give me permission to write about this and answer my questions)

I initially had blocked Ali from seeing the post because I didn’t want to cause any trauma to her because I knew I couldn’t control how people would respond but then I decided then that blocking her wouldn’t give her a chance to respond either. It was a difficult situation for both me and her. I believed that she should be held accountable for what she said about the community that both employs her and that she claims to advocate for. I hoped that the experience would educate and multiple people who I consider to be strong body advocates have come forth and offered to educate her. I hope she takes them up on that.

Ali seems like the perfect plus-size model for a company whose Chief Marketing Officer said “We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it, still don’t.”

Until I see a real apology, all I know is that Ali and Victoria’s Secret both hate fat people – but still want our money. To go along with our discussion of raising our standards, it’s sad to think that it would actually be raising the bar to require that those who make their money from us not simultaneously call for our eradication, but here we are.

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8 thoughts on “Victoria’s Secret Hires Anti-Fat Plus-Size Model

  1. What you describe sounds familiar all right. On raising one’s standards–when 3 different doctors tossed me around like a hot potato, a relative said “well, you just have to expect…” and I said “I expect to be treated like a worthwhile being!” and that shut her up. I just put up with too much crap as a kid and an outsider, and decided to quit. Quite earlier, another relative decided she didn’t like how I by temperament am an introvert, more interested in things/ideas/places than in people though average in people-skills, and she got in a few digs at me about it, despite my saying each time that that wasn’t cool. [I had quit feeling guilty about myself some years earlier, inspired by gays.] She would not let it go, even saying I should take lithium–that shows her scientific expertise–and at last I walked away. That was 30 years back, and now the first relative accused me of “alienating” this person, who had in fact alienated me. There was a brief spirited discussion and she switched subjects real quick. It was all very, very much like this Cutler person acts as a bully and then accuses the victims of being bullies, complete with bad “science”.
    The range of things people come up with to dump on other people seems limitless. You are helping put an end to more forms of this nonsense than you know, so keep up the good work. And I won’t shop at Victoria’s Secret, just like I already don’t.

  2. Seriously, what the hell is it with these people? I have an abusive brother who is doing the same crazy making BS. “Trying to Control BOTH sides for the conversation”. I don’t know, bespeaks of fear and a need to control the words, to not be confronted with anything he doesn’t like/approve of or that makes him look bad?

    That’s my take on it. Whole world full of people who keep saying they are “good people” (his exact words) and are givi-shing of compassion and understanding all the while they are really just being assholes and telling people that they do not trust or approve of them. Maybe they know they are not the paragons of virtue they keep advertising they are and are attempting to avoid any reminders of it…

    “Givishing” new word. The slap in the face hand shake. The back handed compliment, the compassion that takes more than it gives…

  3. “This is another common tactic of bullies – engage in bullying behavior and then accuse those who stand up to them of being the bullies, using claiming victim status as their exit strategy from the situation.”

    It’s so common there’s an academic term for it: DARVO. It stands for Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender, for those who haven’t heard the term before.

    Now, I’m not an expert, so I ask those who are… is there also a term for a bigot appropriating a real, serious issue (like, say, unemployment, exploitation… or, just spit-ballin’ here, pollution and animal rights) and then using it as a bludgeon against a marginalized group they despise, suggesting that group’s existence is the root cause of the problem and that eradicating the group would make the problem go away forever? Because if there isn’t, there *really should be.*

    1. I’m gonna copy that one and start using it. There are days when it looks like the world has gone DARVO!

      Maybe the latter is a straight forward bias, but there is too much to it. I don’t know if it has a term. Diggin’ stupid is too vague but applies. It fits with our increasingly narcissistic society. Is it something like political projection?

      1. I’ve heard “scapegoating” used to describe it, but I think that’s a) too general, as scapegoating can be done at an individual level and i’m talking specifically about a propaganda tactic leveled against marginalized groups, and b) whenever I’ve seen this brought up in a social setting, the people bringing it up have gotten it ass-backwards, suggesting it is fear of the problem that causes the hatred of the group when- even though I’m not a social scientist, I AM a member of a marginalized group, and I’ve had plenty of unpleasant interactions with bigots- from everything I’ve seen, the hate comes FIRST, and THEN the bigot starts scraping around for excuses to justify it (“I hate fat people! Why do I hate fat people? Um… uh… oh, I know! Fat people are greedy! And greed ruins the environment! So fat people ruin the environment! And that’s why I hate them! …Yeah, that’s it.”). I mean, just look at how quickly and easily bigots find a new reason to continue hating after their old excuses have been proven definitively wrong (“I hate those greedy, rich fat people with their yachts and mansions and corporations, stomping to success on the backs of the poor!” “Actually, due to hiring and pay discrimination, fat people are more likely to struggle finding work and are more likely to BE ‘the poor.'” “…I hate those lazy fat people, too slothful to get off their fat asses to look for work! Maybe if they stopped watching TV in their muumuus for two seconds, they’d find a job!”). It is NOT correct to say the bigot’s deep, emotional connection to some issue is what makes her hate, because the bigot only cares about the issue for as long as it gives her a socially acceptable out to oppress/support the oppression of the group she hates. Once it no longer does, she drops it like old trash and finds a different issue to “care deeply” about. Someone’s gotta be studying this phenomenon somewhere.

        1. Probably American Society 21st century is too broad as well…It about sums it up though, somewhere in this ‘didn’t get my needs met’ and ‘entitled to blame people I don’t like for all my problems’ lies a clue.

          1. Well, I’ve just invented some! I henceforth coin “cause-mining” for weaponizing issues against marginalized people and “cause-hopping” for only “caring about” an issue for as long as it can be used for this, then dropping it and moving on to another when it can’t.

            1. Ah ha! That’s it you win. “Cause Mining”. Put it up on Urban Dictionary see if it gets more traction. Certainly timely. It is so bizarre. Maybe having really serious issues to think about in 2020 will take the emphasis of gossip/casual/self-interest as the end all and be all of existence.

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