Nope, Not Buying It Lululemon

lululemon-thighs-rhymeOkay, okay, Lululemon — you win! I will never even think of buying one piece of your overpriced clothing.

Athletic apparel brand Lululemon has, once again, turned off their consumer base by making insensitive, belittling comments about women’s bodies. Not too long ago the brand was forced to recall some of its yoga pants after customers complained that the pants became see-through when worn. In response, Lululemon founder Chip Wilson blamed women for the recall, claiming that “Quite frankly, some women’s bodies just actually don’t work” with the pants; it’s because of “rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over time.” In other words, “Hey, you big-thighed/overweight/bottom-heavy women, please stop wearing our pants. You’re killing them! They’re meant for slim women.”

As if it couldn’t get worse, their latest “Huh?” commentary comes from their location in Bethesda, Maryland. For the holidays the store decided to play on Wilson’s comments about women’s thighs with a lovely poem in their front window: “Cups of Chai/Apple Pies/Rubbing Thighs” This, on top of comments by former employees that the company discriminates against bigger sizes and wants to be the go-to brand for the “fit” and stylish.”

Lulu is clearly suffering from an incurable case of foot (thigh?)-in-mouth syndrome. As anyone could have predicted, Chip Wilson took back his comments after a petition was lululemon-shares-fallcirculated, demanding that he apologize for his words, and the Maryland store promptly removed their window rhyme, adding that they were “deeply sorry”. But what are they really sorry about? Making hurtful, disparaging comments about women or the dollars that they see slipping from their hands? Moreover, the damage has been done and their shares continue to fall.

Now, some ask, what’s the big deal about their comments? Why should those who have extra weight or bigger bottoms wear stretchy, tight pants material? Why can’t a brand be particular about its customers?

This issue is bigger than the right of women with big thighs to wear trendy yoga pants. The issue is one of a culture which green-lights a negative, shaming attitude toward women and their bodies which don’t fit its idea of beautiful. When comments like this are made, all women are affected by the perpetuation of thinking which values (and devalues) women based solely on their outward appearance. Even the slimmest of women are made to wonder what flaws of theirs people are secretly laughing at, as they have another plain salad for lunch. Women who are attempting to work out and be healthy should be encouraged, not shamed.

So, nope, not buying it Lululemon. Not buying your numerous apologies after making hurtful, sexist comments about the women who made you into a multi-million dollar company. And definitely not buying your poor quality, $90+ Spandex.

(Mis)Diagnosing Personality

personality-disorder-misdiagnosisDoes our culture promote the labeling of regular variations in behavior and personality as abnormal and disordered?

It has been announced that the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-V, will contain some significant updates. The DSM, published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), is considered the standard for understanding and classifying mental disorders in the U.S. and around the world.

With recent changes, however, the manual and the 30,000+ psychiatrists who oversee its contents have come under heavy criticism. This is because the new edition to be published later in May contains criteria which would classify such common behavior as tantrums, overeating, and grief as personality disorders. For example, those who grieve over the loss of a loved one or a relationship for more than what is considered necessary would be seen as suffering from Prolonged Grief Disorder (PGD) and kids who are stubbornly broody and have outbursts would be displaying Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD).

Critics of the new manual include many psychiatrists, like the head of the National Institute of Mental Health who says the manual, “lacks scientific validity”. Other health professionals and the public alike have put pressure on the APA to revise its changes, believing that the current update would encourage the labeling of normal people as unwell and in need of serious psychiatric help, including medications.

Others, like myself believe that the APA’s updates are a part of a global culture of diagnosing undesirable personality traits as mental illness. Although the average person isn’t aware of how symptoms specifically manifest and how severe they can be, many personality disorders have become common parlance as a way of dismissing people who we don’t get along with or understand. Thus:

  • That odd person who is rather cold, blunt, and a loner has antisocial personality disorder.
  • The grating boss who is concerned with order and conformity has obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.
  • The woman who is emotionally intense and expressive has borderline personality disorder.

The APA claims that their diagnoses are made to better understand people and ensure they receive the best treatment for their mental health. Despite this, it can’t be ignored that these conditions have been popularized and are now used not to understand but to stigmatize and exclude those whose behaviors don’t line up with the society’s –or a specific person’s– ideal and norm of personality. Instead of trying to understand and empathize with others we have learned to simply classify them as “crazy”.

So, is the publicizing of personality disorders and mental illness wrong? I don’t believe so. I agree that it is helpful and necessary to understand the various ways that personality can manifest, I believe it is also necessary to understand that these are not personality disorders but personalities, well within the realm of normal human behavior, response, and outlook.

See also:

Question & Answer: Race

race-question-answerEvery now and then, the topic of race and racism comes up in discussion. Like religion, politics, and war, race is one of those “taboo” subjects, but also one that gets people talking. Sometimes the topic is introduced when someone haphazardly makes reference to race or ethnicity in an unrelated discussion. Other times it is purposely made the topic of discussion. Either way, people want to know — what is the big deal about race?

In years as a blogger and commenter in the blogosphere, I’ve found that many of the same questions and comments come up about race and racism. Given this I’d like to dedicate some time to answering a few of these common questions about race in the United States and the world. This will be my first question and answer post, using a compilation of questions I’ve been asked or seen asked in discussions about race. Feel free to add your own questions, comments, and answers below:

Question: Why are non-white people so defensive about race?

Answer: What I have found is that how defensive a person perceives others to be about race is proportional to how likely they are to make offensive remarks related to race. That is, the more likely a person is to think and act in ways that could be seen as racist, the more likely they are to view others as being defensive about race.

On another note, it is only natural to be more aware of prejudice that affects us, whatever the issue. While when something does not affect us, we may ignore it or not even notice. Simply put, non-white groups speak up to prejudiced comments and behavior because few others will.

Question: How am I supposed to know if something I said or did could be seen as racist? I don’t have a lot of experience with people outside of my race; I don’t know if something could be offensive.

Answer: You’re not expect to know — it is expected that you’ll make a few slip-ups on racial issues. However, you are expected to learn from these mistakes and recognize that they are mistakes and why; not excuse them away or put the blame those who called attention to it. That is, if you’re mostly tolerant and unbigoted.

Continue reading

Jessica Simpson Weight Gain — One Look at Anti-Fat Prejudice

jessica-simpson-fatSinger and actress Jessica Simpson’s weight has been the subject of discussion for some time now, with her size increasing and decreasing dramatically over the years. But Jessica’s recent pregnancy weight gain has even those who weren’t talking about adding their views. From medical professionals to politicians, many are offering their view on her size and the topic of unhealthy weight gain.

Called an “absolute porker” by Dr.  Tara Solomon, Jessica has never publicly responded to her critics. Instead she shrugged off the weight gain, saying she is pregnant and needs to eat, giving into her cravings for foods like buttered Pop Tarts and fried Oreos. Jessica says she will worry about her weight after she gives birth. But onlookers insist she deal with it now, cautioning that her nonchalant attitude towards weight and unhealthy eating choices will affect her and her baby.

But not everyone has an issue with Jessica’s reportedly 50+ pound (22.7 kg) weight gain. Actress Tori Spelling defended Jessica, saying “When women are pregnant, people need to lay off…As far [as] weight, you never know what is going to happen.” Sarah Palin remarked that if she were Jessica she “would have wanted to punch [her critics] in the neck.”

jessica-simpson-thin

A slimmer Jessica

Others, like myself, believe that while some may be genuinely concerned about the health of Jessica and her baby, others’ real concern lies in her looks. People are simply horrified that the once slim, 5’2″ Jessica is now clearly obese — the world is anti-fat. Upon seeing how much weight she’d gained, people could not hold in their disgust and disappointment that she allowed herself to become so, well, fat. Few things could be worse, especially for a woman.

But although the anti-fat prejudice and fat phobia is clear to anyone who is paying attention, voicing such prejudice outright isn’t considered polite. So critics couch what is truly disgust in worry about the health of her unborn child. Health is a legitimate concern — few can disagree that being obese and gorging on sugary foods can be bad for a person, not to mention a growing baby. Unlike critique about not being thin, which would only make commentators seem shallow and mean.

In other words, the conversation on Jessica’s weight is a classic example of anti-fat prejudice in practice. If you still think that anti-fat prejudice does not exist or isn’t “that bad”, you need only do a search and read the comments from the public at large on Jessica’s weight. One woman’s comment sums up the feelings of fat-phobic critics everywhere: “Seriously, this b*tch pisses me off, she is so disgusting.”

…Yes, being fat might just be that bad in an anti-fat world.

Agree or disagree?

Open Question: Are You Anti-Fat? And Why?

fat-phobia

As discussed in a previous article The World is Anti-Fat, anti-fat prejudice is one of the most widespread prejudices. Unlike many other prejudices anti-fat discrimination mostly goes undetected and unchallenged. In fact, in many areas, the fat phobic mentality and subsequent anti-fat prejudice is actively encouraged.

In the earlier mentioned post, I covered some reasons that I, and others, believe that people become anti-fat. The biggest of these reasons being the idea that people have control over their weight and as such they are responsible for keeping their weight under control. And they are also responsible if they fail to keep their weight in check.

Anti-fat prejudice goes unchallenged because many fail to see what is wrong with it. What is so bad about encouraging people to eat healthy, be a healthy weight, to become more disciplined and control their eating? To some, anti-fatness is not a prejudice. But the effects of anti-fat prejudice on overweight and obese people, and all people, are many. In striving to fight fat, many cultures have created new issues in its place, such as ever-increasing rates of anorexia and bulimia and decreasing self-esteem.

But I would like to make the question of what causes a nearly global anti-fat culture an open one. Why do you think people are anti-fat and/or fat-phobic? Why are you anti-fat?

Most Common Prejudices

inequalityWhat are some of the most common ways that people discriminate against each other? Some of the areas where people show their intolerance are well-known, such as race. But others are less acknowledged, even if more common:

  • Age: Ageism is more common than you think, with both older and younger people facing discrimination. Older people are thought to be inflexible and stuck in the past, while younger people are seen as inexperienced and naïve. One-fifth of working adults say they experience ageism in the workplace.
  • Class: Classism usually takes the form of discrimination by  wealthier people against those who are less well off. However, classism goes both ways — people of lower economic status can see the wealthy as elite snobs who, while monetarily secure, are morally bankrupt.
  • Color: Different from racism, colorism is discrimination based solely on the color of a person’s skin; how relatively dark or light they are. Colorism takes place within and between races. It is common in multi-ethnic and non-white societies and societies with historical racial prejudice. In the latter colorism more commonly advantages those with lighter skin.
  • Ability: Usually called ableism, a less well-known form of prejudice is discrimination against people with visible disabilities such as those in wheelchairs or with a learning disability. The disabled face discrimination not only from their peers, but from institutions, schools, employers, and landowners who are hesitant to accommodate the disabled.

sexism

  • Sex/Gender: Possibly the most universal and long-running prejudice is that based on a person’s gender or sex. Historically, sexism has placed men in a more advantageous position than women.
  • Weight/Size:  In short, sizeism is discrimination based on a person’s body size or weight. Sizeism works with social standards of beauty and usually takes the form of discrimination against the overweight — anti-fat prejudice.
  • Religion: Religious discrimination and persecution has been common throughout history. But prejudice based on religious affiliation doesn’t end with organized religion; atheists are prone to discrimination and being discriminated against.
  • Sexual Orientation: Most commonly, prejudice based on sexual orientiation includes discrimination against those of a  non-heterosexual orientation — homosexual or bisexual. Discrimination against the non-heteresexual takes many forms depending on the society. In some societies prejudice is open and tolerated, but in most Western societies, bias against the non-heterosexual is more discreet.
  • Country of Origin: Otherwise known as nativism, a common form of discrimination is against immigrants to a country. Unlike many other forms of discrimination, nativism is many times encouraged and enforced by the government and other public entities.

Which prejudice do you have? Which prejudice have you experienced?

See also:

The World is Anti-Fat: Exploring the Unexplored Prejudice

overweight-womanBe honest — Are you anti-fat? Do you subconsciously discriminate against overweight and obese people?

Anti-fat discrimination may be one of the least explored and certainly one of the least challenged prejudices worldwide.There are very few laws against weight discrimination and cultural norms encourage people to covertly discriminate against the overweight.

Not Discrimination

To some, anti-fat discrimination isn’t discrimination at all — it’s simply a healthy preference for people of a healthy weight. They believe that societal discouragement of overweight and obesity helps people become, and stay, healthier and happier.

This thinking misses the mark: anti-fat discrimination makes weight issues worse as people who feel discriminated become depressed and eat to soothe themselves. In addition, anti-fat discrimination encourages deadlier conditions such as anorexia and bulimia.

But most anti-fat prejudice is subtle and can go unnoticed even by the person with the prejudice. It only shows up as a mild or strong preference for thinner people. This sort of anti-fat prejudice is exhibited by a diverse group of people, from pre-teen children to physicians.

Why People Discriminate

One aspect of the thinking behind anti-fat prejudice is, “Your weight is your responsibility. If you’re overweight you’re lazy and lack self-control. It’s your fault.” Unlike gender, perceived race, and disability, weight is viewed as something that is mostly, if not entirely, under an individual’s control. So why should anyone feel bad about preferring people of a healthier weight?

A larger part of anti-fat prejudice is fear. Fear of being overweight and fear of being shunned for being overweight. This fear is unknowingly turned against other people who are overweight.

Men and Women

women-compete-weightWomen have it harder than men when it comes to weight discrimination. They are at risk of anti-fat prejudice if they are even moderately overweight, and face prejudice at a lower body mass index — a measure of healthy weight based on an individual’s height and weight. In fact, a man is unlikely to face fat discrimination unless his body mass index puts him at well past clinically obese.

Both men and women discriminate against overweight women. In addition to general weight discrimination, women compete with each other over their weight. An overweight woman is stigmatized or simply ignored. Other times she is pitied — women know that in the Competition of Women being overweight puts you far behind.

Obese women are less likely to date or be in a relationship. Men respond negatively to a potential female date who is overweight. In one instance, more men responded to a dating advertisement where the woman is described as having past drug issues than one where the woman is described as obese.

Self-Examination

Clearly being overweight or obese affects a person in multiple areas of life. But have you ever wondered if your own thoughts and actions add to anti-fat discrimination? Many of us, if we are being honest with ourselves, have some form of anti-fat bias.