Fat America: Profiting off the Majority-Minority

Fat Wallet

A fundamental pillar of body diversity activism is the concept that fat people are a persecuted minority in this country. Statistically, people classified as “overweight” actually make up over two-thirds of the population. That means we can’t be considered as a minority, right?

Wrong.

This statistical discrepancy is used as fuel to discredit the body acceptance movement. What a cursory internet search reveals, however, is that this is a legitimate phenomenon called the “majority-minority”. In Texas, New Mexico, and California, for example, non-White Hispanics constitute a majority-minority, in that their population outnumbers that of other races in the same region. This majority-minority status does not negate the discrimination faced by the Hispanic population. Things like housing discrimination and hate crimes (which among immigrant populations are most likely higher than reported due to fear of deportation), are just as bad in these states compared to states where Hispanics are merely a minority-minority group.

Increased population, and thus visibility, is not a cure for discrimination. This is painfully apparent when looking at the treatment of fat people. Even though fat bodies, or at least bigger than “average” bodies (think about that statement for a second) are by far the numerically dominant group. Logically, businesses should be catering to us. Services should be catering to us. People who make waiting room seats, underpants, and cars should all be catering to our big butts. There are billions of dollars to be made here. A capitalist’s wet dream.

Instead, I hear arguments along the lines of, “just because you’ve let yourself get fat doesn’t mean you deserve special treatment”.

Is it special treatment when it directly caters toward the majority of people?

In fact, weight-loss is a huge money-making industry. It just doesn’t cater to us. It tricks us into THINKING it’s catering to us. In actuality, it’s taking advantage of us. Warning: dieting and weight shaming ahead.

From media empire charlatans …

… to the tech industry …

… to multi-level marketing schemes…

… to the pharmaceutical industry …

The diet industry is a $60 billion a year industry, and it works if your metric for “working” is making a shit ton of money reliably over time. What it doesn’t succeed in doing, however, is helping people lose weight and achieve that much sought-after “average”-ness. Most people regain the weight they lose. Businesses and corporations stand to gain by keeping your sad ass fat, and your fat ass sad. By treating the majority like a minority group, by keeping us feeling disenfranchised, lonely, ugly, and unloveable, corporations can keep us buying things that don’t work and things we don’t need. Fat Americans face discrimination on an economic level, with constant messages telling us we aren’t worth anything unless we change. That we don’t deserve to be treated well unless we stop being “lazy” and “exert some effort”. We are subjected to scare tactics, personal attacks, and public shame. “Average” and “thin” people are susceptible to these messages as well. People are pressured to utilize “willpower” to maintain their physique, to eat certain foods and take certain medicines so they don’t devolve into a dreaded fat person. This fuels societal stigma, and creates a body-type based class system where thin people benefit from fat people staying fat. People who stay “fit” because they “put down the cheeseburger” or “get off their ass”. They can feel superior. They can feel “better than”. They can feel right, as long as they keep taking their probiotics and count every calorie and exercise 90 minutes a day.

Show me a world where we aren’t profiting off telling people being fat is bad and you might just have a case against the overweight in this country being a true minority.

Reliably, Dr. Douchebag Keeps on Douching

While standing in line at Fred Meyer this weekend, I made the common mistake of looking around. As my eyes scanned the impulse magazine stand, I saw something that gave me the impulse to flip over my grocery cart and Fat-Hulk through the store terrorizing patrons and throwing bottles of Slim Fast into displays of Smart Ones with my +4 Fists of Douche-smiting.

Table Flip

Thankfully, I was able to restrain myself just enough to pull out my phone and snap a photo. Like HELL I was going to actually pay money for the damn thing. The clerk looked at me strangely, and I prefaced it with, “hold on just a sec, gotta take a picture of this offensive magazine”.

Dr. Douchebag

Ah, First for Women… confusing advertising with reporting and body shaming with empowerment since 1989, from the same media company bringing you other high-end publications like In Touch Weekly and Life & Style.

My regular readers already know my disdain for Dr. Oz. What a puzzling contrast between his Ivy League education/surgical expertise and the constant shilling of woo-woo pseudoscientific miracle “cures” with a strong bias against fat people. It’s good to know that there is something I can do about my “ugly fat”, so that I am left with only my non-ugly fat. Thanks to Dr. Oz and the fine reporting of First for Women, I know I am only part ugly.

The Feminomics of Spanx — Act Three: You May Crush My Internal Organs, But You Will Never Crush My Spirit

Spanx

Continued from The Feminomics of Spanx — Act Two: Sara Blakely’s Rags to Much Tighter Rags Story

In the last article, we briefly touched on the utility of Spanx; it smoothes bulges, hides lumps. It makes clothing that wouldn’t look “good” otherwise lay more smoothly against the body. It must be a tricky item to market.

“Are you malformed? Do you feel bad about your saggy lumpiness? Here, try SPANX!”

Not so coincidentally enough, Spanx does no actual marketing. It has grown solely through word of mouth. For example, Blakely kept sending gift baskets to Oprah with Spanx in them. Eventually, Oprah made Spanx one of her Favorite Things. Spanx is like an infection. There are no billboards, no commercials making you feel bad. It’s passed from person to person. Women, openly sharing with other women that they are unhappy with how they look, and recommending special expensive underwear to hide their imperfections. Women are sharing this with one another, spreading it, disseminating it. It’s everywhere now. Celebrities wear Spanx. There are Spanx for men. There isn’t a giant corporation telling us to perk our asses up. We are telling ourselves.

Think about the real purpose of Spanx; Spanx facilitates a lie we tell each other about our bodies. It’s a lie we tell because it is too hard to ask for support and respect for how we actually look. Spanx legitimizes what the Fashion and Beauty Industrial Complexes keep pounding into our minds.

We need to change to fit in.

We need to change to squeeze into the molds society has set out for us.

No, seriously. LITERALLY SQUEEZE.

Spanx and other foundational undergarments smoosh our insides so they don’t work properly. Our lungs don’t breathe as well, our nerves get pinched, our muscles atrophy. We don’t even poop properly anymore.

But look at this video from the Spanx website of a woman modeling the Slimplicity Full Slip:

Did you see how sad she looked? Then suddenly they gave her makeup and a necklace and she was happy! They smoothed out all her normal bumps and lumps, and made her pretty. Because she wasn’t pretty before. She was gross.

Sara Blakely is a model female entrepreneur, someone who pulled herself up by her pantyhose and is now trying to help other women do the same. But did she have to make her fortune on something like SPANX!? My heart, as well as my ass, hurts from knowing that our best model for women making it in the business world is someone selling insecurity out of a little red backpack.

The Feminomics of Spanx — Act Two: Sara Blakely’s Rags to Much Tighter Rags Story

Spanx, Sara Blakely

Continued from The Feminomics of Spanx — Act One: How to Maybe Succeed in Business By REALLY, REALLY TRYING

Sara Blakely is a self-made lady. She invented Spanx. I will be quoting a lot of material direct from the Spanx website for ultra-clarity.

She first got the idea for Spanx from an expensive pair of white pants she bought that she never quite liked the look of. How could she wear these cream-colored, $98 pants in a flattering way? Eureka! Footless pantyhose! She began investigating pantyhose patents in the library at Georgia Tech, then got in touch with some lawyers who dismissed her.

“To keep costs down, I wrote the patent myself and later found a lawyer who helped write the claims. My patent was approved and I successfully trademarked the name SPANX online! The original product drawing for the SPANX patent was sketched by my mom, an artist.”

The next step was to find someone to make the Spanx. She heard “NO” a lot. She didn’t have capital, financial nor social. She had to take time off from work to look for these manufacturers. Finally, her tenacity paid off:

“I received a call from a mill owner who said he ‘decided to help make my crazy idea.’ When asked why he had the change of heart, he said, ‘I have two daughters.’ Turns out they didn’t think the idea was crazy at all. The prototype took a year to perfect because as someone who wanted to wear the product every day I was obsessed with comfort.”

Now, what to call these clingy, undergarment thingies?

 “I knew that Kodak and Coca-Cola were the two most recognized names in the world, and they both have a predominant “K” sound in them. Also, from doing stand-up comedy, it is a known secret that the “K” sound makes people laugh. So for good luck, I wanted my product’s name to have the “K” sound in it, and SPANKS hit me like a lightning bolt. I immediately knew it was perfect! At the last minute I changed the “KS” to an “X” after doing research that made-up words do better for products than real words (and are easier to trademark). Spanx is edgy, fun, extremely catchy, and for a moment it makes your mind wander (admit it). Plus it’s all about making women’s butts look better, so why not?”

Why not an x? Edgy butts! GRRRRL POWER! Ass girdles for all!

Untold billions smoothly hidden under a deceptive cream polyester-blend.

Now, Spanx is a mega-empire. There are different lines sold in different stores. There are camisoles, body suits, bras, swimsuits, tights, corsets, panties, maternity wear… the list is exhaustive.

Spanx is worth $1 billion, and Ms. Blakely is currently the youngest self-made female billionaire. She’s also signed up to join the Warren Buffett and Bill Gates Giving Pledge. Besides signing the pledge, Ms. Blakely has started two campaigns using her Spanx dollars. First, is her Spanx Leg Up Campaign. This is where women, with an existing product and business, can compete for the following:

  • A feature in the Spanx catalog
  • A feature on spanx.com
  • Multiple features on the Spanx facebook page and Spanx blog,
    The Rear View
  • Lucky Red Backpack (the same kind Ms. Blakely used to start Spanx)
  • Opportunity to have a private chat with Ms. Blakely to ask their most pressing entrepreneurial questions

The other charitable organization related to Spanx is the Sara Blakely Foundation, which as you can see by clicking the link, is a work in progress. The general vision so far is thus:

“I pledge to invest in women because I believe it offers one of the greatest returns on investment. I am committed to the belief that we would all be in a much better place if half the human race (women) were empowered to prosper, invent, be educated, start their own businesses, run for office — essentially be given the chance to soar!”
So, yeah! Go Spanx! Go Sara! You are a role model! You have created a real benchmarking opportunity! So, why then, do I look at your little red backpack and cringe?

The Feminomics of Spanx — Act One: How to Maybe Succeed in Business By REALLY, REALLY TRYING

Spanx

I wanted to write about Spanx. To write about Spanx, I needed to familiarize myself with the product and its history. Let’s just say I went down an internet rabbit hole and now my readers get to be rewarded for their patience with a three-part article about underpants. And society.

It’s well documented that men make up the vast majority of small and large business owners. On the large end of the scale we have the Fortune 500 companies that are the industry leaders of the American economy. Out of those 500 top companies, only 12 of them are run by women.

CEO Company Rank
Bartz, Carol A. Yahoo 365
Braly, Angela F. WellPoint 42
Burns, Ursula M. Xerox 121
Elsenhans, Lynn L. Sunoco 68
Jung, Andrea Avon Products 226
Kullman, Ellen J. DuPont 84
Meyrowitz, Carol M. TJX 119
Mooney, Beth E. KeyCorp 417
Nooyi, Indra K. PepsiCo 43
Rosenfeld, Irene B. Kraft Foods 49
Sen, Laura J. BJ’s Wholesale Club 221
Woertz, Patricia A. Archer Daniels Midland 39

While all of these companies are giant, money-hungry, commercially-manipulative stock-monsters, 12/500 is a pretty pitiful ratio. Just taking these statistics at face value, one might argue that we need more power-mad female puppeteers making the economy dance its merry jig. There are smaller businesses that have been started and owned by women. In fact, according to the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), there are 8.6 million businesses owned by women here in the U.S., and those account for 30% of all private businesses. That’s a somewhat less depressing number than the 2.5% of woman owners you see in the Fortune 500. When you look at wealth creation, women-led businesses account for only 11% of total revenues in the U.S., and only  4.4% of all female-led businesses have yearly revenues of 1 million dollars or more. 

SAD TROMBONE NOISE

There is a lot of discrimination out there against women trying to start their own companies. I went looking for straightforward articles about women in the U.S. and found a lot of misleading vagaries. However, there have been multiple studies done in the U.K. and elsewhere about removing barriers for female entrepreneurship (thanks, Poland!). Here are some of the impediments I discovered:

Absence of benchmarking possibilities — Essentially, what this means is that there is a lack of female entrepreneur role models for potential future entrepreneurs. So we can’t make new role models because we currently don’t have role models? FOREVER ALONE.

Lack of experience — While women are slowly becoming more educated on the whole compared to men, our education and experience does not lend itself to starting one’s own business. Unless it’s about makeup.

Lack of social capital and time – The social networking opportunities women have are different from those of men, i.e. primarily related to familial duties. This is associated with the “double burden syndrome”, requiring women to balance their professional responsibilities with their domestic responsibilities. Increasingly, successful business persons need to be ultra-flexible in regards to time and travel. Women often do not have the time or social resources, nor the social support to take the leap into Business Land.

Lack of financial capital — Money. Prospective business owners need it to pay for basic business-y stuff, like office space, component materials, staffing, technology, travel, marketing, and the like. Getting start-up money is a lot more difficult for women in less economically developed countries where women are more dependent on a man’s income.

What does Spanx have to do with all this? Spanx, for those of you unaware of the existence of the supportive undergarment industry, is a line of “shape wear”. What is shape wear? It is namely pantyhose, briefs, tights, and other foundational garments, meant to be worn under clothing. Think “ass-girdle”. The Spanx brand was created and is owned by one Sara Blakely, a female entrepreneur from Atlanta, Georgia. She overcame all of the barriers! She’s a role model! She also might be evil. Maybe.

Stay tuned for The Feminomics of Spanx — Act Two: Sara Blakely’s Rags to Much Tighter Rags Story

Reblog: The Tyranny of the “Normal”

BMI

Reblogged from Riots Not Diets

Margitte Leah over at Riots Not Diets wrote a thoughtful, analytical essay of the bullshit of the BMI. It starts:

A few years ago I was getting a pap smear. The doctor—whom I had just met that morning—had me in those cold metal stirrups and was rooting around in my vagina when she asked, ever so casually, “so, do you know what the BMI is?”

I laughed.

As if a woman who has been fat all of her life might have never heard of the BMI.

The thing is, we all know about the BMI. It’s a simple chart that measures our height against our weight, right? The number that comes out of that equation places us into categories—underweight, normal, overweight, obese.

The BMI is supposed to be a value-neutral way to assess bodies across populations.

Except that, did you know that the BMI has never been neutral?

Read the rest over at her blog, Riots Not Diets.

Jennifer Lawrence: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

lawrencewalters

First of all, Jennifer Lawrence is dynamite in every movie she does. She is lovely. She seems fairly intelligent. And then she goes to Barbara Walters and says this:

Transcript:

BW: “You criticized the people who judge other women especially on the red carpet, you’re very sensitive to that. Why?”

JL: “Because why is humiliating people funny? And I am also, and I get it and then I do it — we all do it but, I think when it comes to the media — the media needs to take responsibility, for the effect that it has on our younger generation, on these girls are watching these television shows and picking up how to talk and how to be cool and how to be — then all of a sudden being funny is making fun of the girl that’s wearing the ugly dress and making fun of the girl that’s, you know… and the word fat. I just think it should be illegal to call somebody fat on TV, and  if we are regulating cigarettes and sex and cuss words for the effect it has on the younger generation, why aren’t we regulating things like calling people fat?”

Okay, let’s break a few things down. What is and is not seen on broadcast TV is largely determined by two groups; the Standards and Practices departments of the given cable television network, and (for broadcast television) the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC bases their guidelines mostly around the concept of “obscenity” as it is vaguely defined by the US Supreme Court. Specifically, it looks for material that:

  • An average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find, as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;
  • Depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable law;
  • Taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value

The Standards and Practices departments of television networks are beholden to no one but their potential advertisers. Obscenity, or sex, or smoking, or drug use, is not banned from television.  And when those behaviors AREN’T shown, it’s usually because it would upset the advertisers and the network would lose revenue as a result.

Banning the adjective “fat” from TV is not the same as banning smoking. The problem with how “fat” is used on television isn’t that it glorifies the use of the word. It is that it glorifies the use of the word as a derogatory term. If anything, “fat” should be used more often, in more positive contexts. More fat characters with positive story lines and comedy that doesn’t revolve around body type. The only way to get the networks to discourage fat caricatures and fat shaming for comedy would be through the manipulation of ad revenue. Unfortunately, there is BIG BUSINESS in fat shaming, and even more in “body improvement” and “health” (think low-fat anything, makeup, SPANX).

Asking for someone to ban a word like “fat” does not deter fat shaming behavior. It simply increases its already negatively charged stigma. I say, bring on the “fat” words! Proliferate them! Take their negative power away. That is something that would actually help little girls… to hear words that describe their bodies that aren’t “bad words” that you can’t say on TV.

What the Hell is “Skinny Fat”?

I first heard the term “skinny fat” at an event during a conversation with an old acquaintance about their current fitness regime (which involved eating massive amounts of protein, as well as a shit-ton of pseudo-ephedrine as a “metabolism booster”). This acquaintance told me that “skinny fat” was when someone looked skinny, but was just not fit and healthy.

I put this concept on the back burner for a while for it to simmer down. And when I say “for a while” I mean six months. And when I say “simmer down”, I mean get to the point mentally where I don’t want to go running down the street screaming obscenities and shooting lasers out of my eyes like Cyclops without his visor.

I thought I had actually pushed skinny fat so far down into the back of my mind that I had forgotten it, until I ran across this interview with skier Lindsey Vonn:

“I’ve been to a lot of photo shoots and I just see these girls that are really thin, they’re not healthy. They don’t work out … It’s difficult to be at events with a room full of women who weigh half as much as you do. That’s always tough. I don’t envy them, though, because so many of them are skinny-fat. They have more cellulite than most people.”

“It may look good in a magazine, but it’s not healthy, and girls who are that skinny are actually fat. You can see the cellulite on their legs and on their butts. You know I have cellulite too but I go to the gym and I try to eat healthy. I think that’s a better model for girls to look up to than skinny people who need to eat more.”

First of all, c’mon, Lindsey! Every body’s got its own thing going on. Athletic, thin, fat, whatever — the commentary is not helpful. Aside from the clearly polarizing message, what the hell is this? Is skinny fat a legit thing?

GOOGLE-FU!

Apparently, skinny fat is another term for Metabolically Obese Normal Weight (MONW), which is confusing to me. Apparently, someone who is “metabolically obese” is someone who is “hyperinsulinemic, insulin-resistant, and predisposed to type 2 diabetes, hypertriglyceridemia, and premature coronary heart disease” just like many obese people are. What grinds my gears, specifically, is that not all obese people experience such symptoms.  IN FACT, research is now showing that 1 in 4 THIN people are showing signs of metabolic obese-ness.

So let’s just get this straight… there’s a metabolic problem fat people often suffer from that now lots of skinny people suffer from. And medically, we refer to the problem with the label “obese” even though it isn’t an obesity-specific problem. And colloquially, we refer to it as “skinny fat”, because the “fat” modifier tells the lay-person that it isn’t “regular” skinny… it’s “bad” skinny.

SKINNY FAT!!!

Cellulite: Another Way to Make Us Hate Ourselves

Just one of many cellulite "cures." The name implies that not only will your unsightly dimples disappear, but you'll also magically become skinny if you rub this cream on your fat.

Let’s talk about cellulite. It’s like, totally the worst, right? If you have it, you are clearly failing at life. I mean, why else would people market expensive cellulite-removing treatments? It couldn’t possibly have anything at all to do with making money. Right?

We are taught from childhood that as women, our worth is defined by how closely we match the perfect standards of beauty portrayed in the media. We are taught that aging will ruin us (if I see one more product that claims “age-defying” properties, I’m going to scream), that our wardrobe defines us, and that being overweight is a character flaw. And nothing screams, “You’re a huge, ugly fatty!” like cellulite.

Scarlett Johansson, one of the sexual and beauty icons of our time, an undeniably thin woman, has cellulite. In photo shoots, it's airbrushed out.

Scarlett Johansson, just one of many huge, ugly fatties.

Except that skinny women have it. Models have it. Athletes have it. WebMD says that it “is nothing more than normal fat beneath the skin.” It exists in over 85% of post-pubescent women, and it wasn’t considered unsightly or problematic until Vogue called it a skin disease in 1968. Scarlett Johansson, one of the sexual and beauty icons of our time, an undeniably thin woman, has cellulite. In photo shoots, it’s airbrushed out.

I have heard women bemoan the fact that they’ve been trying to get rid of their cellulite since they were teenagers. Which makes sense given that it is a secondary sex characteristic that develops along with breasts and body hair at puberty. And since it’s not a disease, there is no cure. Profit-hungry people will happily sell you expensive snake oil to help you rid yourself of your natural and healthy shape, but there is little evidence that the creams and treatments have any lasting effect – if they have any effect at all.

Just one of many cellulite "cures." The name implies that not only will your unsightly dimples disappear, but you'll also magically become skinny if you rub this cream on your fat.

Just one of many cellulite “cures.” The name implies that not only will your unsightly dimples disappear, but you’ll also magically become skinny if you rub this cream on your fat.

It’s an ongoing process, but I’m starting to learn to appreciate my cellulite. Mostly, I’m angry at the beauty industry. I’m pissed off that I have been deceived by unscrupulous people who don’t care how many women they harm in order to make more money. And I am livid that women have been trained to see their healthy bodies as monstrosities.

The “Biggest Loser” Can Never be a Winner, and it is Society’s Fault

The Biggest Loser is a game show where fat people compete to see who can lose the largest percentage of their body weight. Most recently, the grand prize winner for season 15 was a young woman by the name of Rachel Frederickson. She started the show weighing 260 lbs.

Rachel Frederickson before having the fat shamed off of her.

Through medically questionable dietary and fitness tactics, she was able to drop down to 105 lbs. Severe caloric restriction and six hours of strenuous exercise per day alone is enough to cause huge stresses on all of your body systems, the most vital being the heart. Ms. Frederickson, just like all of the contestants of The Biggest Loser, literally risked dropping dead of a heart attack to “win” this competition.

Whoa.

So, what happens when I look for articles on Ms. Frederickson?

“Biggest Loser” winner Rachel Frederickson reacts to weight-loss backlash

Biggest Loser Winner Rachel Frederickson Admits She May Have Gone Too Far

Biggest Loser Winner Rachel Frederickson Admits She Lost Too Much Weight Too Fast

So, let me get this right…

At first she was too fat. So fat that she needed to resort to drastic, unhealthy measures to lose weight. Then she lost weight. A lot of weight. Now, apparently, she’s TOO THIN. Really? Seriously?! The problem isn’t Ms. Frederickson’s fatness, or thinness. Apparently, nobody’s bodies are acceptable. We must pass judgement on EVERY PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTE of anyone who dares to step into the spotlight. What must this be doing to the self-esteem of someone who already suffered humiliation and ridicule for being on the opposite end of the spectrum?

HEADDESK

The Strange Economy of the Fatshion Industrial Complex

I was talking to my good friend Danica the other night about the seemingly unfair cost structure for plus-sized clothing. It’s fairly common knowledge that an item of plus size clothing costs more than its straight size counterpart, but why? Is it the cost of the cloth? A manufacturing difference? Availability? Not enough buyers? I decided to do my own pseudo-scientific investigation to find some answers.

First of all, is there even a large enough market to make plus sizes anything more than boutique? Well, elsewhere on the site I’ve cited sources pointing to the fact that over 1/3 of American women are classified as obese. Other research shows that an additional 1/3 of women are classified as overweight according to their BMI. I am reasonably sure that the nudist population doesn’t skew too dramatically toward us fatties, or at least not significantly enough as to have an impact on clothing demand. Essentially, two-thirds of ladies out there are shopping for a size 12 or above. Clearly, the problem isn’t having enough buyers; maybe there are too many buyers. It’s the first law of supply and demand, right? Let’s do some Google-fu and break it down.

My go-to cheap, non-thrifted clothing option throughout my kiddie-coaster weight fluctuations over the last 10 years had long been Old Navy. ON is the abusive boyfriend of the plus-sized clothing world. It has a plus section, and for a while it was in stores. It has now been relegated to online-only. Maybe because we fatties tarnish the brand? On their website, they advertise 288 dresses in straight sizes (XS-XXL) and 78 plus-sized dresses. That’s nearly a four-to-one ratio. FOUR-TO-ONE.

Target is another box store trying to appeal to the plus-size crowd (albeit ridiculously at times — remember the “manatee” incident?) What do their numbers look like?

Target's Dress Selection

Target’s Dress Selection

Target's Pant Selection

Target’s Pant Selection

Target's Top Selection

Target’s Top Selection

When I searched for women’s dresses on Target’s website, 282 of the tops were in women’s straight sizes (XS-XL) and 71 were in plus sizes (1X-4X). That’s a four-to-one ratio of straight-to-plus dresses. Pants have a similar ratio, with tops faring slightly better with a three-to-one ratio. OH, YAY! I AM SLIGHTLY LESS LIKELY TO FEEL BAD ABOUT MY TOP SELECTION!

What about the price differential? I think a lot of retailers have caught on to the fact that bitter fat chicks like myself do these sorts of comparisons, and have thusly renamed their different clothing items to make such comparisons difficult. I have stuck with basics to make the comparison process easier. Let’s look at Old Navy again:

Black t-shirts shouldn’t be very different, right?

Old Navy's straight-size V-neck tee

Old Navy’s straight-size V-neck tee

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 9.49.19 PM

Old Navy’s Plus-sized V-neck tee

Can I just say that it pisses me off that they use mannequins for the plus size clothing and actual people for the straight sizes?

The plus-sized tee is almost $7 more. It is literally seven dollars more to be born with big tits or various bedonkadonk. And it’s not even the most drastic sticker shock I’ve found! Let’s look at some more examples at different price points.

Nordstrom is a solid department store that sells a lot of high-quality basics, like this Eileen Fisher pencil skirt:

Eileen Fisher Pencil Skirts at Nordstrom

Eileen Fisher Pencil Skirts at Nordstrom

Notice that the petite and regular sizes cost the same, while the plus size skirt is $10 more. If it is a matter of increased fabric, shouldn’t the petite be less expensive?

Caslon Drawstring Maxi at Nordstrom

Caslon Drawstring Maxi at Nordstrom

Sandra Ingrish Tunic at Nordstrom

Sandra Ingrish Tunic at Nordstrom

Not only is the Sandra Ingrish top $14 more, it also comes in fewer colors. Again, the petite and regular sizes are the same.

Sandra Ingrish petite vs regular prices

Sandra Ingrish petite vs regular prices

Determined to figure out some rational reasons for the price differential, I redoubled my Google-fu efforts. I finally found a logical argument from an actual pattern-maker/designer:

When drafting a multi-size pattern for a garment, you start with what is called a base size. Ideally, this size falls in the middle of the range you’d like your garments to cover. For an XS through XL range, the base size is Medium. For a 0 to 16 range, the base would be an 8. If you grade correctly, you can hang you XS size right next to your XL size and they look the same, just larger/smaller. Sometimes proportions change a bit, but really the design should translate the same.

Let’s say you have a fantastic dress in an 8 and wonder, “Why isn’t it available in a 20, or a 22 ,or a 24!?!?” Well, typically when you grade your garment beyond a XL or a 16, the jump between sizes increases more than the jump between a size Medium to a Large. So to fit for a plus size, you have to start with a whole new base size that sits in the middle of the Plus size range. A good example of this at a retail location would be Lane Bryant, who doesn’t go smaller than a 12.

Essentially, what the author is saying is that plus-sizes require a whole new pattern, and cannot simply be upsized from an existing straight-size pattern. I guess it’s just unreasonable to expect a manufacturer to desi– OH WAIT WHAT?

Black Dress from Modcloth

Black Dress from ModCloth

Top from Modcloth

Top from ModCloth

Notice the price points for these items. Identical styles for a variety of sizes (albeit probably slightly different patterns) for the same price! ModCloth is not the most affordable online store, but I am heartened by their commitment to provide cute, quality items in a large range of sizes:

“A lot of vendors will encounter a challenge when trying to design for plus and stop there,” Technical Designer Goretti explained. “You want to feel flawless. You want to put it on, zip it up, and go out and not deal with too large arm holes or restricting fabric. When working with designers, I get to be your advocate to make sure what’s getting made ultimately is amazing — and not letting the limitations of fabric or patterns get in the way.”

ModCloth suffers the same problem regarding their ratio of regular-size to plus-size clothing. I did a search for dresses, and found 2,278 dresses in the XS-XL range. How many dresses in the 1X-4X range? 489. That ratio is worse than both Target AND Old Navy.

As far as I can tell, it’s possible for manufacturers to make plus size clothing that is cute and not overpriced… they just aren’t. There is a dearth of options. Designers and manufacturers can charge more because we will pay more, regardless of the ethical implications. I know that if I find something cute and well-fitting, I will buy the shit out of it in multiple colors because who knows when I will find something like it again? Not knowing if/when I’ll be able to find something that makes me feel cute and comfortable is manipulative and almost cruel. Despite my criticism of the plus-to-straight size ratios at most stores, at least it looks like the industry is finally moving in the right direction.

Fat Girl’s Forever Alone Valentine’s Day Round-Up

Liz Lemon is my power animal.

“Valentine’s Day is a sham created by card companies to reinforce and exploit gender stereotypes.” – Liz Lemon

A pretty, skinny woman and her handsome date go to dinner at a clichéd restaurant. She picks at a salad and drinks expensive wine. They laugh. She opens a gift of jewelry and gasps.

GAG ME WITH A SPOON

It is a frequent assumption that the overweight don’t have loving relationship partners or are unable to find someone willing to spend Valentine’s Day with them. Not only are we fatties supposedly forever alone on V-Day, but we are reminded by the advertising blitz that starts on January 1st and runs right up until February 15th where we get to hear about the amazing gestures of love made by everyone’s respective significant others. I have no desire to compete with other women on who had a more romantic evening, or who received the most extravagant gift. Every year, my husband and I eschew traditions and do pretty much the exact opposite of what the Hallmark Industrial Complex has decided is appropriate. Instead, we order chicken wings and watch horror movies. It’s The Best Thing, and in its honor, I present the Fat Girl’s Forever Alone Valentine’s Day Round-Up.

Before getting down to the eating and watching, theme-appropriate attire is required. Here is a range, from comfy to flashy:

Nothing says “celebrating love while watching murder and eating carcasses” like this tank top from Torrid.

If you are feeling sassier and of the dress persuasion, try something more in the vein of this rockabilly horror movie dress from Etsy seller VintageGaleria.

Cafe Press has this great blood spatter tee, which is thematically appropriate and also hides buffalo drippings.

Etsy seller FrostedCrossbones sells this gorgeous alternative to traditional gold and diamonds.

Lastly, I know that one of the primary priorities for a meat-centric, violence-desensitizing anti-holiday is comfort. For that reason, I present the pièce de résistance:

Yes. These are zombie footie-pajamas. You’re welcome.

Dr. Oz’s Bottomless Bag of Body-Shaming

I could write an entire blog just discussing the douchebaggery of Dr. Oz.

For those of you not acquainted with the wonders of daytime television, Dr. Mehmet Oz is a cardiac surgeon. He went to Harvard. Then Wharton. Then the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He currently teaches at Columbia, where he directs the Cardiovascular Institute and Integrative Medicine Program. He has patents. He has authored many papers. He got his showbiz career start as a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2004. He then received his own spin off series produced by Harpo (Oprah’s production company) called The Dr. Oz Show. He’s won Emmys. Sounds legit, right? Right?

He’s wearing scrubs. Take him seriously.

Dr. Oz uses a lot of decisive language, claiming “revolutionary” “miracles” and “cures” for a whole host of health problems. One particular hill Oz has decided to die on is the horrible burden of fat. Not necessarily obesity (a nebulous term at best), but fat of any kind. I decided to spend some time over at his website watching episodes, and I think I killed off a small part of my soul in the process. The search term “fat loss” returned 752 results when I searched episode topics. I present a small sample of episode titles:

21 Days to a Flat Belly

Dr. Oz’s Two-Week Rapid Weight Loss Diet

Melt Your Fat Fast

Three Teas That Will Shrink Your Waist

The Next Big Weight-Loss Superstar

New Ayurvedic Fat Fighters

The Secret World of Squashers (wait, how is this even a health topic?)

Oz starts most episodes talking with guests (mostly women), encouraging them to speak about their bodies under the pretense of helping them to self-actualize and appreciate themselves for who they are, after which he promptly prescribes that they lose weight. I found a particularly shaming episode about bedonks that… well, see for yourself:

Bust Your Butt Fat, pt 1

Bust Your Butt Fat, pt 2

Bust Your Butt Fat pt. 3

I need to face my “rear-ality” and “bust (my) butt fat” with a “butt busting brownie”. Oh, to be as lucky as the guests on his show, standing around in nothing but panties and a t-shirt, encouraged to disparage my tush on national television in front of millions of people.

Apparently, there are only 4 steps I need to follow to fix my derrière dilemma. If you watch more Dr. Oz (though I don’t recommend it) you’ll notice a similar trend: “3 Ways to Get Your Fat to Eat Itself”, “The 3-Step Action Plan to Supercharge Your Hormones and Melt Fat”, and “4 Ways to Flush Fat From Your Body” are some examples. First, I find the numerical aspect interesting. Is there something innately appealing about a checklist? From my experience, quick fixes and fads do not make for sustainable weight loss. However, lists like these prey on the insecurities and frustrations of plus sized women, telling them that now, finally, there is an easy solution that will work for them. They just need to try! The other critical feature of these titles is that they heavily imply negative connotations. “Bust Your Butt Fat” evokes a feeling of combativeness, while “3 Ways to Get Your Fat to Eat Itself” implies some sort of weird, alpha-fat cannibalism super-struggle within your own body. I never understood the use of “melt” as a verb for weight loss, because it implies that the body is interacting with fat in a way that isn’t even scientifically accurate, and the same goes for “flushing” fat from one’s body.

Dr. Oz’s manipulative phraseology and imagery conveys a message that is just wrong. Millions of women watch his show every day. Millions of women hear Dr. Oz, a physician, telling them that their body is malformed and that they are unhealthy. Just in case you were wondering, there is no revolutionary miracle cure for “obesity” that involves shock, humiliation, and manipulation of statistics. That’s called bullying. In Dr. Oz’s case, it’s the bullying of millions of people for the sake of profit and renown.

What a douche.