In Tasha Fierce’s latest post, she brings up some important points about the goals of fat acceptance:
Now, I love clothes. I mean, I LOVE clothes. But I’m also personally invested in intersectionality and the idea that all liberation movements are entwined. So when I see us desiring to buy into the mindless capitalism and consumption of clothing that’s marketed to thin folks, I get frustrated. Insisting that fat folks’ money is just as good as thin folks’ money, so therefore we should have equal access to the same sweatshop-produced clothing lines offered by multinational corporations who use their profits to subjugate marginalized folks around the world? I don’t want that kind of revolution.
I don’t want that kind of revolution either.
I think we’re at a weird moment in plus size fashion where some people–especially those who wear smaller plus sizes and have a decent amount of disposable income–have enough options that it’s easy to acquire huge piles of clothing. But at the same time, low-income and/or larger fats still struggle to find clothes, and some people still have nearly no options at all. Even smaller fats who have specialized needs, unusual taste, or a gender presentation that doesn’t match most of what’s available can find themselves with very little to wear.
Which means that there’s an awfully fuzzy line between demanding clothes that people genuinely need in order to live their lives, and asking for assimilation into the destructive system of disposable fast fashion. I know I’ve fallen on the wrong side of that line myself plenty of times, even though I’ve also done a lot of thinking about what sustainable fashion could look like and how fat people are building community-oriented alternatives like clothing swaps and thrifting events. I’ve always found it hard to reconcile my love of ALL THE SHINY THINGS with my anti-capitalist values, and this is something I need to work on.
For what it’s worth, I think it’s also important to keep in mind that many of the plus size fashion bloggers asking for inclusion in mainstream fashion are not, and have never been, part of the fat acceptance movement. So the proliferation of plus size bloggers asking for expanded clothing options doesn’t necessarily mean that fat activists as a whole have given up on more revolutionary goals. I’ve also noticed that a lot of fat activism these days takes place behind-the-scenes in closed Facebook groups, so it’s not necessarily visible unless you know where to look.
And on a related note, I wouldn’t be surprised if many fat women choose to blog about fatshion rather than other fat issues because it seems that fatshion bloggers get far less harassment than general FA bloggers. That’s a whole other problem that has a major effect on how people engage in fat activism.
That said, I still agree with Tasha that it’s important to talk about how we can create inclusive and ethical forms of fatshion, about normative beauty standards, about class divisions within our movement, about our goals beyond access to clothing.
One of her points is something I’ve thought about before, and still feel like there’s no easy answer:
When you can’t afford jack, it can make you feel crappy when you see your fellow activists wearing the cute new dress from ASOS that cost what your weekly food budget is. It’s hard to focus on the prize (like being treated with respect and dignity, or not being discriminated against in hiring) when you see the immediate spoils going to those with class privilege. So you take your eyes off that prize and start spending time fighting to get cheaper fashionable clothes. Meanwhile, society is fighting a war against your existence.
As I wrote in my post about Domino Dollhouse’s Oblivion dress:
I have mixed feelings about my own participation in the system as well. When I buy a DD dress and wear it on my blog and social media, I’m supporting an awesome indie woman-owned business, and spreading the word to potential new customers. I’m helping keep a creative fat woman financially afloat, and helping her continue to make edgy, interesting, fun plus size clothes, which lord knows we need more of.
At the same time, I’m also reinforcing an unattainable standard for women who look at fatshion blogs and see nothing that they can afford. I try to balance out my more expensive purchases with the many clothes I’ve gotten from thrift shops and clothing swaps, but I still worry that I’m creating an image that’s just as unattainable in its own way as the parade of size 0 women in mainstream fashion. I don’t know what the right answer is; I just know that shit’s complicated, capitalism sucks, and pretty dresses are pretty.
Indie designer clothes are as expensive, if not more so, as ASOS. Supporting a small business owner who makes the equivalent of less than minimum wage also means alienating potential readers who can’t afford indie clothes. It’s one of capitalism’s shittiest features that being able to buy ethically/sustainably-produced goods is often a luxury reserved for those who already have more money.
At the same time, I do think that buying less, talking about the limits of assimilation as a political strategy, and continuing to refine our goals as a movement are good places to start. I have a few ideas of things I’d like to do personally, but since this post is already getting long, I’ll make them into a separate post. I also recommend checking out these posts from other fatshion bloggers talking about similar issues: Vanessa Leigh’s Sustainable style: suburban sprawl and the fashion/style section of Kobi Jae’s New Year post (note: the health section of the post mentions intentional weight loss).