Titled “When activism gave way to advertising: how fat girl blogging ate itself,” it argues…well, exactly what the title says.
Fatshion blogs have largely evolved to be in step with large clothing brands, and I fear that the joining of oppressed and oppressor in brand relationships is not furthering fat activism. I don’t begrudge authors of blogs deriving an income from advertising, but I’m concerned with the increasing hand that brands have in blog content.
My feelings about all of this are complicated, but first of all, I admire Natalie for speaking up. She’s an amazing writer, and it takes guts to criticize a such a popular model of blogging.
When I have many conflicted thoughts about something (as I often do–ever heard the saying that between two Jews, there are three opinions?), I find it helps to number them. So, here goes.
1.) I agree that it’s upsetting to see a form of activism be so frequently turned into an apolitical consumer enterprise. Fatshion has revolutionary potential, and toning down one’s views in order to appeal to advertisers is…somewhat less revolutionary.
2.) On the other hand, not all fatshion bloggers want to write about their political views, and that’s ok. Some people may feel like their own views have already been better articulated by others (which is how I feel about a lot of fat activism, and many other issues I care about), and they’d rather stick to the fun stuff. Some want to keep their blog a positive space, free from the depressing-ness of discussing fat stigma. There’s nothing wrong with that.
3.) Nor is there anything inherently wrong with making money doing something you love. I’m a big proponent of finding creative ways to make a living (and a big fan of Chris Guillebeau‘s advice for doing so, if any of you are looking for resources), and I believe it can be done with integrity.
4.) Advertising can be done ethically. As an example, I really like how the Offbeat Empire (which comprises Offbeat Home, Offbeat Bride, and Offbeat Families) does it. They’re consistently transparent, and they only partner with businesses that reflect their values.
5.) On the other hand, it is dismaying to skim through my blog reader and find post after sponsored post. It’s especially frustrating when a blogger puts the disclosure at the end of their post, so you read through what seems like genuine fashion advice until you get to the end and realize that they were paid to shill something.
It does diminish their credibility as reviewers–no matter how upfront a blogger is about their sponsorships, it’s hard to believe the advertising relationship doesn’t affect their opinions, if only subconsciously. If someone gave me free shit, I’d feel positively about it too.
6.) Fatties assimilating into the mainstream fashion model of constant spending, constant creation of desire, is not a good thing. Down that road lies debt, dissatisfaction, and both environmental and human destruction. I strongly prefer the deep economy of clothing swaps and thrifting events.
7.) But on the other hand, fatties need clothing. And although some fatshionistas are buying the latest trends every season, others still can’t find enough options to clothe themselves on a daily basis. Clothing matters for a lot of reasons, and the fatshionista movement has brought about a significant expansion in the range of plus size clothing available. We still have a long way to go. I’m not sure that progress is possible without partnering with those who make clothing.
8.) Natalie says that “it’s foolish to suggest that fat stigma can be solved by the emergence of fatshion bloggers in the mainstream.” Is anyone actually suggesting that, though? Fatshion is just one tentacle of the fat activism octopus. There’s plenty of room for other kinds of fat activism, both online and in real life.
9.) She also says that “[f]atshion blogging also started to replicate the formula for mainstream media: white, cis, good looking, middle class, young and able-bodied.” But the only commercial fatshion blogger she mentions in the post, Gabi Gregg, is black.
And of the eleven bloggers that the New York Times mentions in its article about fatshion, six are of color, at least one is queer, and one is 37 yrs old. This is not to say that the fatshion blogging world is as diverse, or as inclusive, as it should be. It’s absolutely not! But to say that it’s not diverse at all feels dismissive. It feels like an erasure of the popular fatshion bloggers of color, and I’m not ok with that.
In summary, this shit’s complicated! I’m still not sure what direction I want to take my blog when it comes to monetization, so this is stuff I think about a lot. I’m glad Natalie brought it up, and I’m looking forward to reading what I hope will be many discussions around the blogosphere. I might even have more thoughts later, once I give my brain some time to process.
What do you guys think?