Stop making life hard for retail workers in the name of activism. Seriously, just stop.

I keep reading about forms of activism that involve going into a store and making a mess–from “occupying” Abercrombie & Fitch to spelling out pro-choice messages with craft supplies in Hobby Lobby to reorganizing clothes to put larger sizes at the front of the racks.

I can understand the subversive intent behind these actions–for example, as someone who’s always had to dig out my size from the back of racks and the bottom of stacks, the thought of putting larger sizes front and center appeals to me immensely. I love the idea of being able to walk into a store and see my size at the front, if only briefly.

But I think that when we engage in activism, we need to ask: who is harmed by our actions? Are we actually targeting those in power, or those at the bottom–like the poorly-paid, erratically-scheduled, benefits-denied, mostly female retail workforce? Are we punching up or punching down?

Time and time again, women with retail experience have come into these threads and pointed out that such actions are not only ineffective, but also harm women who are already vulnerable. They’ve told stories about times when they were blamed for their customers’ mess–yelled at, forced to work unpaid overtime to clean up.

Time and time again, they’ve made it clear that such activism not only never reaches the people with the power to make changes, but also directly harms those at the bottom of the ladder. Time and time again, the “activists” ignore them and continue insisting that their actions are subversive.

I’m not here for that kind of “activism.” I’m not here for activism that doesn’t ask, “Who am I helping? Who could I be harming?” I’m not here for activism that conflates poorly-paid salespeople with the multinational corporations they work for. I’m not here for activism that repeatedly ignores the voices of poor and working-class women and women of color.

I’m here for thoughtful activism, activism that does its best to punch up rather than down.


Sunday links, 9/28/14

golden retriever puppy

One of the many cute puppies I’ve seen around town lately. Look at those eyes!

Major retailers, you have no right to complain.
The complications of being a fat girl and still loving fashion.
Why read fashion blogs anymore, when they’re often more like magazines? This is definitely less of an issue for plus size blogs than straight size ones–but it’s still relevant, as a good chunk of the fatshion-o-sphere has become very much professionalized.
-Eloquii interviews Georgette and Jeniese on style.
Appropriation vs. appreciation: an illustrated style guide.
Whatever happened to butterfly clips? 11 reasons why we’ll always love those little plastic pieces of hair perfection.
-Ragen writes about the difficulty of finding plus size workout clothes for her Ironman training.
-Next weekend, there will be a gender and body positive clothing swap in Rhode Island.
-Check out Singapore’s plus size fashion magazine, Big is Gorgeous.
Hey modeling agencies, listen up.
-Emma designed a dress-like garment for men to start a conversation about power, gender, and fashion.

Fat Acceptance
5 inspiring plus size athletes on Instagram.
This is what an athlete looks like.
-Incredibly fucked-up: a woman was denied routine cancer surgery because she’s fat and disabled. This series of posts has more information, including contact information for the hospital–let them know how not-ok their behavior is.
The HAES Files: My mom has a disease.
-I wish I could be in Oakland for this event on challenging weight stigma with creativity and wit.
-Ragen interviews Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor about their new book, Body Respect.
-BEDA has a week full of posts on weight stigma.
I’m a fat bride.

Butternut squash, ricotta, and cranberry pizza–perfect for fall

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My #FashionTruth

I know I’m a little late to the #FashionTruth conversation, but better late than never. I’m really glad that ModCloth’s co-founder Susan Koger has challenged the industry to change for the better, and I have plenty of thoughts of my own to add. Consider this my own open letter.

hot pink plus size outfit with blue scarf against pink wall

Dear Fashion Industry,

I’ve always loved fashion in one form or another, from the days when I pored over the rainbows of fabric colors in L.L. Bean catalogs to the time I showed off my new floral skirt for show-and-tell in first grade. I got really into style as personal expression in middle school, which is also when I became fat–so just as my interest in fashion deepened, I found myself excluded from it in so many ways.

Every teen magazine I read was full of unattainably-thin bodies, with only the occasional token plus size model who looked vaguely like me. As a young teen, I barely fit into a size 13, which was the biggest juniors’ size available in most stores–and then I gained weight and sized out of most juniors’ clothing. The fun clothes I saw in magazines rarely came in a size 16, and it was especially hard to find specialized items like prom dresses. It takes a toll on your self-esteem when you hardly ever see your reflection in media;  when bodies like yours are portrayed only as problems to be solved; when you can’t find your size in most clothing stores you walk into, or can only find one rack of frumpy dresses at the back of the store.

Plus size clothing has come a long way since then, mainly thanks to the rise of online shopping. I have far more options today at a size 22 than I did then at a 16. But still, it’s rare to find my size in a brick-and-mortar store, so I’ve mostly given up on buying clothes in person. And women who wear a size or two larger than I do, let alone a size 30 or above, have significantly fewer options.

This needs to change. It’s not ok that such a large percentage of women and girls don’t see themselves reflected in fashion media, and it’s not ok that so many of us can’t find clothes in our size.

plus size outfit pink jacket, blue and pink scarf, pink hat, and black pants Continue reading

Sunday links, 9/21/14: it’s finally fall

pumpkins and squash at farm stand

-The New Yorker has a great profile of plus size style–just ignore the obligatory crap about how “obesity is a genuine health issue.”
A first for high fatshion: the Design Collective at Evans LFW Catwalk Show.
Two up-and-coming labels sent plus size models down the catwalk at NYFW.
-Kath shares an experience of clothes-shopping as it should be.
-Affinity rounds up places that sell plus size Halloween costumes in a variety of sizes, some up to 12X.
Why do designers hide their plus size lines? (Spoiler alert: because they’re douchenozzles who let fat-phobia get in the way of profit.)
How to manage a massive closet purge.
Are you more likely to buy things from retailers who use models in lots of different sizes?
-Everything in Zelie for She’s Pink Carousel collection is amazing, and should teleport to my closet immediately.
Rock n’ Roll Bride’s new collection for Crown & Glory = awesome.
-The San Diego fat clothing swap looks like it was so much fun!
22 fashion infographics you need in your life.
While the fashion world swoons over this season’s styles, the workers making them are fainting on the job.
The fast fashion industry doesn’t want you to know about these things.

Fat Acceptance
Vogue didn’t discover big booty–booty never left.
Fat discrimination is real discrimination.
Things you only know if you’re a “fat girl” on the internet.
Why I’m not signing the OAC petition.
Fat para-academics, read this!
-If you’re in Oakland, check out this fat dance performance.

Climate and Sustainability
Environmental justice works, and these folks show us how.
-Rebecca Solnit provides thoughtful historical context for the People’s Climate March. (Sadly, I won’t be able to make it, as life has been exhausting lately and I am dead-tired. But I will be there in spirit!)
Why do we protest? “We shouldn’t stop trying to create the world that we want to live in, but at the same time, we need to live right now in the world we want to create. We certainly can’t buy our way there and we probably can’t fight our way there either. Better to make as many friends as we can, gather them close, watch the flames together, and try to figure out how to live in the light that the fire reflects.”
Watch out, Wall Street, climate marchers are coming for you next.
Naomi Klein is right: unchecked capitalism will destroy civilization. I agree with this 110% except for the predictable analogy comparing climate change to weight gain causing diabetes, sigh.
11 short stories about the People’s Climate Train.
Civil rights heroes offer climate marchers a little wisdom.
Hey, U.N.: climate change and population are related. Continue reading

Pretty things I’m drooling over right now: dark florals and pink leopard

As the weather finally gets cool enough for cardigans and leggings, I’ve been eyeing warm-looking pink fuzzy sweaters and all things darkly romantic: lace, leather, tulle, dark florals. I’m also still obsessed with all things holographic (although somehow I haven’t managed to acquire any yet). What types of pretties have you been loving this fall, or spring if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere?

Dark romantic


Pretty pink things


Pretty black, holographic, and galaxy-print things


Queering Fat Embodiment excerpt: on fat fashion

I was recently invited to participate in the social media book tour for the new anthology Queering Fat Embodiment, edited by Cat Pausé, Jackie Wykes and Samantha Murray. QFE is, according to its Amazon page, “the first book to focus on the intersection of queer studies and fat studies, and promises to be a classic in its field. What could be more exciting than discussions of fat and queer fashion, desire, performance, cyberspace, and politics, as well as the fluidity of gender identity, bodies, and sexuality?”

I’m excited that QFE is exploring all of these topics, especially my beloved fatshion. Below is an excerpt from the chapter “Fashion’s ‘Forgotten Woman’: How fat bodies queer fashion and consumption,” by Margitte Krisjansson (paragraph breaks added by me):

The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in the United States saw the birth of the department store and the growth of the ‘ready-to-wear’ fashion industry (Leach 1984). A history of ready-to-wear fashion in America made specifically for fat women can be traced to Lithuanian immigrant Lena Bryant, who, in the 1920s, turned her maternity-wear line into a clothing company for ‘stout’ women, the first of its kind (Clifford 2010). Today, Lane Bryant is one of the most prominent and prolific plus-size retailers in the country.

The plus-size market has seen growth above and beyond the fashion industry at large, and events such as Full Figured Fashion Week in New York City are gaining in popularity (ibid). Online, a transnational movement of fat fashion bloggers has sparked a mini-frenzy of media attention and body-positive activism (Cochran 2010). ‘If the personal is political’, writes social commentator Erin Keating, ‘than being able to find clothes that fit and make you feel good is a political plus’ (quoted in Lebesco 2004: 72). In an industry where the fat fashionista has been called the ‘forgotten woman’ – a plus-size store with this name existed in New York in the 1980s – the possibilities for her today seem much improved.

However, as many fat fashion bloggers are quick to point out, the physical and economic accessibility of fashionable clothing for fat women is still a major issue, and it continues to bring many young and dissatisfied people into the fold of fat- and body-positive activism. Fat fashion, asserts fat studies scholar Kathleen Lebesco, has the capacity to be ‘revolutionary’: when fat women ‘disdain “blending in” in favour of cobbling together a look from the scattered resources available and becoming more brave about appearing in ways that defy the “tasteful” intentions of the commodities of corpulence’ they subvert cultural norms about what it means to be fat (2004: 73). Unequal access to fat-sized fashion is a well-documented and long-term phenomenon (Klemesrud 1969, Riggs 1983, Feuer 1999, Adam 2001, Lebesco 2004, Kinzel 2012).

Even now, after several decades of fat-positive activism and consumer interest fuelling the creation of more fat fashion, clothing in larger sizes is not nearly as accessible as ‘straight-sized’ clothing, in terms of quantity as well as quality. As such, today’s fa(t)shionistas have
developed their own ways to engage with fashion when the industry refuses to recognise them as viable customers. This has manifested itself in hundreds of fatshion blogs, community-building events such as fat-only clothing swaps, online fatshion-centred communities and forums, independent fat-positive fashion shows, and the creation of zines and even documentaries cataloguing render their bodies visible via the fashion that they consume.

Used by permission of the Publishers from ‘Fashion’s ‘Forgotten Woman’: How fat bodies queer fashion and consumption’, in Queering Fat Embodiment eds. Cat Pausé, Jackie Wykes and SamanthaMurray (Farnham: Ashgate, 2014), pp. 134. Copyright © 2014

Sunday links, 9/14/14

woman in pink tutu jumping in front of the notre dame cathedral

Life has been a little overwhelming since getting back from Europe. I’ve been catching up on all sorts of things and dealing with getting back to everyday life after my first adult trip abroad, all while adjusting to a new office (my current temp job has been moving me around, and I’m still not sure if/when/where I’ll get moved next). I have so many things I want to write about, and so many pictures to post! But it might take me some time to get to them. In the meantime, here are my traditional jumping-in-front-of-landmark pictures. 🙂

-ModCloth’s co-founder, Susan Koger, asks the fashion industry to change for the better. Many bloggers have added their voices to the #FashionTruth conversation, including Kristina, Virgie, Kate, and Thamarr.
The connecting threads between the global garment trade and sex trade.
-I love everything about Betsey Johnson’s spring show “Pre-Nup” (except, of course, the lack of body diversity and the fact that Betsey Johnson doesn’t make clothes in my size).
Five fabulous ways to wear tulle skirts.
-Sally writes about the evolution of her style and the expectations that readers put on fashion bloggers.
Curves on the red carpet: Danielle Brooks.
-Olivia gives her recommendations for dress-shopping as a plus size bride.
Plus size fashion: 1 step forward, 2 steps back?
-Leah went to Plus North, which sounds like a lot of fun.
31 ridiculously gorgeous people at the Afropunk festival.
-Margot Meanie started #alternativecurves on Instagram, which is full of fab punk-y inspiration.
Catherines’ new Black Label collection includes size 34W/5x.

Fat Acceptance
Processing the federal government’s $3 million lesbian obesity study in six steps.
-Ragen writes about what it’s like doing fat activist work full-time. On a related note, Jes is leaving her job to do body advocacy full-time, and you can support her work by donating on Patreon.
-“Aren’t you afraid of health problems later in life?”
“Good fatty” vs. “Bad Fatty”: an exploration of behavior and the policing of women’s agency.
-“My images are for everyone who has ever been told that they can’t.”

woman jumping in front of eiffel tower Continue reading

I’m back from Paris and Iceland!

me and steve standing in front of pink restaurant in paris

So remember when I said that comment moderation would be slow, and I wouldn’t be putting up a Sunday Links post last week? It was because I was on a weeklong vacation with Steve to France and Iceland! We just flew back to Boston yesterday.

We got a deal through Groupon Getaways for a week split between Paris and Reykjavik (except that the way the travel times worked out, we only had 2 1/2 days in each place). It was amazing. Overwhelming, exhausting, a bit whiplash-y, but so worth it.

I have a ton of pictures to post, including some outfit pictures I took while abroad. And I have lots of things to write about. I also want to weigh in on the whole #FashionTruth thing that’s been making rounds in my feeds. But right now, I’m still decompressing, de-jet-lag-ifying, and trying to catch up on all the internets I missed over the past week. So for now, here’s a brief preview:

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