So there’s been a lot of hullabaloo lately regarding comments made by Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries. If you live in a cave and therefore don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s the gist — According to Mike Jeffries, Abercrombie & Fitch won’t carry sizes larger than a 10 because “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”
Personally, I think Jeffries is a prick, but I also think people are jumping on the wrong issue. There’s a Change.org petition going around trying to get Abercrombie & Fitch to start carrying larger sizes, as if the store catering to smaller frames was the problem in all of this. It’s not. There are retailers that cater to small frames and those that cater to larger frames, those in between and those who cover them all. I don’t have a problem with Abercrombie & Fitch only carrying small sizes. Even at my lowest weight, I wouldn’t have been able to shop there . . . and you know what? I was always perfectly okay with that.
The issue here isn’t the what but the why. It’s this idea of coolness and popularity and who fits into those categories . . . who is allowed to fit into those categories. I have always been overweight (well, save maybe 5 or 6 months in 7th grade). I have never been cool or popular. I can assure you that these two facts are completely unrelated.
The problem with Jeffries’ comments (and I feel the need to point out that if you’re outraged by his comments, you probably haven’t been paying attention to the world in general because his sentiments are hardly unique) is that they put a misguided emphasis on “coolness” and popularity and perpetuate the idea that body type dictates a person’s value.
I’ve been happy to see those coming out in support of a body-positive culture where we don’t judge people’s worth (including, but not limited to – coolness, popularity, sexiness, desirability, happiness, self-esteem, and health) based on the size of their pants. To be not only comfortable, but delighted in our own skin should be attainable for everyone – from a size 00 to a 46 and in between and beyond.
But . . . but . . . it’s just unhealthy to be overweight! Saying overweight people can be sexy is glorifying obesity and is just as bad as handing out Big Macs by the truckloads at high schools!
Listen. Being happy with yourself as you are today, regardless of numbers on a scale or dress size, does not mean we should stop working towards healthier lifestyles, and it does not mean we are advocating for obesity.
I am not at a healthy body weight. I know this. I don’t need you to tell me and guess what, anyone else who has weight-related health issues doesn’t need you to tell him/her either. We know. When we stand up and say that we can still be happy, still be sexy, still enjoy life, we are not telling people to go out and put on an extra 150 pounds because hey, it’s fun!
This may be one of the most difficult concepts to grasp – it is perfectly reasonable for people to love themselves as they are while still working to improve themselves. I have an entire chubby person to lose. Would it be better if I hated myself along the way? Or is it okay for me to look in the mirror and find myself attractive while working to improve my health? Because I spent nearly 20 years looking in the mirror and hating myself and all it managed to do was help me get fatter. I think I’d like to try loving myself instead.
Abercrombie & Fitch is not the problem. Mike Jeffries and people like him aren’t even the problem. The problem is within us all . . . the problem is the inability to find beauty and value within ourselves and within others . . . to look beyond the “ideals,” the “coolness,” and the “popularity” and to focus, instead, on our inherent worth as human beings.