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 circulated, 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.