Over at bookface, I ran across a post from the make up company Wet N Wild. Ahem. Note the brown skinned folks in some of the posts/photos.
Love the idea of a lot of what they do. No cruelty, vegan yadda yadda. BUT, most of their face products don’t come in shades appropriate for folks darker than beige. I think one of the foundations comes in a few shades of brown but, come on.
Their new mega cushion foundation literally comes in fiftyshades of beige.
Not long ago plus size retailer Universal Standard did a giveaway of free tees. From their website about us page:
We’re here to break the plus-size fashion industry.
We will accomplish this by making beautiful, quality, modern, elevated essentials for women size 10-28.
We will tear down existing barriers by doing this at democratic prices, and by turning away from fast fashion and all of its waste, inhumanity, and disastrous impact on the environment.
We will use Universal Fit Liberty to shut down the size-bully living in the head of every woman who doesn’t see her true self in the mirror by giving her the leeway to change her body without penalty to her style, or her wallet.
We will create clothes that will erase the style barrier between her and her smaller-size peers.
We will welcome her to our showroom and give her the peace and luxury of a one-on-one session with a stylist.
We will create stunning imagery and thoughtful editorial content because we want her to know she has the right to expect it.
We will say to her, ‘now you can,’ and make it so, in every way a brand can.
And when her interaction with US is over, she will say:
The teeshirt I got for free is normally fifty dollars. For a tee shirt. A TEE SHIRT.
What do these things have in common?
This is what happens when capitalism wants to play at activism. Lane Bryant does it, lots of cosmetics companies etc do it. THey want you to feel good about shopping with them on the tickly idea that you’re being part of a movement.
However, if we examine these things closely we find the problem.
It is very rare that the about us, or hashtags actually match up with the brand. Wet N Wild for instance, their hash tags imply accessibility but if we look at what they offer, if you’re not in the fifty shades of Becky range, the choice is deeply limited. They cash in on the cachet of having WOC models/photos but don’t put in the effort to make their product accessible to those people.
Universal Standard is doing something that is almost the same. Just like every other plus size brand, their mission statement implies that you the fat customer are getting some special amazing experience. What is funny is that a lot of fat people are absolutely excluded from jump. If you aren’t of a particular economic class, I doubt you can look at your bank account and say, hell YES get me that fifty dollar tee shirt.
If you are over a size 28 well, too bad so sad.
This is a problem and has been for a long time. Capitalism likes to play dress up in order to make us feel good about having to participate in it. A lot of people want to believe that by buying a shirt from a store that uses progressive sounding hashtags they are really doing something radical.
This is what the commodification of the lowest level activism looks like. This is what it looks like to use your economic privilege to try and seem more radical.
The fact is, a lot of people, especially those involved with not sparkly or pretty activism are not the demographic here. A lot of the Fat Activists I’ve known for at least 10-15 years, couldn’t afford to vote with their wallets that way. And in terms of clothes accessible to fat folks this is what happens.
Brand X offers body posi sounding line of clothing that is overpriced tee shirts and ugly stretch knits. Folks don’t buy it because it is expensive and ugly. Brand X says, OH WELL WE TRIED U UNGRATEFUL FAT HOES. Brand X goes back to their usual bullshit and get to say, well the market isn’t there.
Make up companies do it with dark skinned folks ALL the time. High end brands want to say that Black women especially don’t buy their products. They make two shades of brown, lots of BW don’t buy it because there are way more shades of us than that, brand says SEE WE TRIED.
These things have gone on for years. They come in and out of fashion and frankly this is why I am very reluctant to vote with my wallet. For me while I do love the idea of voting with my wallet, a lot of the time I’m just not in a position to or frankly I see through too much of the initial shiny RAH RAH LOOK HOW GOOD WE ARE.
I have a lot of friends who are very determined to shop ethically and I think that’s great. It is wonderful. What’s not awesome is the idea that all of us can do that to the same degree. For instance. Probably ten years ago, I remember a big long thing in the fatshion community about not allowing folks who shopped at Walmart to post outfit photos because it encouraged shopping at Walmart.
We all know Walmart fucking sucks.
Some of us know that and shop there out of necessity. Let’s look at a common necessity. Panties.
Now I personally am fond of the Fruit of the Loom Beyond soft briefs. If I were someone who wears a size 30-32 (according to their size chart)
We can assume some stretch in the 56-59.5 hip measurement. Now at Walmart you can get a pack of these for $12.44. Now if we shopped with ALL BODIES type thing in mind we might look at Lane Bryant. A similar style of panty is available but only up to size 26. For 10.50$
Now in this example the person who buys the Walmart draws in a size 13 is not only saving money but they have access to panties their size.
I don’t believe that the person who chooses the Walmart drawers is ethically bankrupt or doesn’t care about how shitty Walmart is. Sometimes, you just really need some damn drawers.
And that is where a lot of arguments about ethical shopping or voting with your wallet fall apart for me. Often there is just a lack of nuance in terms of how these things work in real life for a lot of us.
Marginalization can have a major impact on how we buy, what we buy etc. I think that conversations and actions trying to deal with trying to do our best under capitalism are so important, we need to learn to be more inclusive and listen when our friends say yo this isn’t gonna work for me.
If you’re not a fat person and you insist that folks don’t shop a certain brand that goes beyond say a size 24, think about what that says to your size 26 or 40 friends. If you’re someone who is into make up, if you do reviews of say a line of foundations, say hey this does not come in colors made for brown people.
If you work in the has influence area of fashion or make up, bring this shit up. Ask those questions.
Ask if we are breaking beauty, where are our products to support that idea? Why don’t we have products for this person we’re saying is awesome?
I’d like to see our conversations about ethical consumption become less if you don’t do these things you suck type conversations and dig more into accessibility and how reasonable it is to expect folks to all have the same ability to impact these things.
I think when we make these conversations less about doing the most to be right and more about how to live and function and feel like we’re able to make the best decisions we can in our unique circumstances, we’ll be more effective in figuring out how to enact change.
That’s all for now.
We are still not moved. Life is a mess so posting will remain very sporadic.