Dear Brands: Our Fat Bodies Are Not Your Marketing Tool

More and more I am noticing that fat bodies are being used at the forefront of brand launches and campaigns as a way of appearing inclusive and body positive. And I say appearing because lately, I’ve noticed that it is about appearing body positive and not actually being inclusive.

Fat bodies do not exist to be your marketing tool.

Let’s start off by saying that if this reads more as a rant than a blog post, that’s probably because it’s something that has been sitting on my mind for the majority of 2020. I even pitched to a few publications, and at this point, I just need to write it SOMEWHERE. It’s not a new take, and shouldn’t be a hot one. But here I am, all fired up as my nighttime skincare routine awaits me.

fat_bodies_marketing

This is my thinking face, mostly here for SEO purposes.

And I’m also writing this as someone who can appear straight-sized these days, or on the smaller end of the plus-size range. I can fit into some of the brands I’m going to talk about, but that is not the point and really it’s not about me. Even though I’m one of the many fat bodies that this affects, I know that I still have a lot of privilege.

And I’m white – whereas the body-positive moment was started by Black women and was about a lot more than posting photoshopped glittery stretch mark photos on Instagram.

This is a letter to brands, both that I’ve worked with and some I would love to one day, to MAKE clothes that fit fat bodies instead of just preaching inclusivity.

And I know from conversations online, that I’m not alone in these thoughts so just stick with me as I ramble, and let us hope it makes sense.

So why now?

Honestly, it might just be because this year I’ve wanted comfy clothes so bad but I quickly realized that was somehow a hard task. And it shouldn’t be. Or it could be that I am running out of patience.

I get it, making larger sizes is hard (like don’t really get it but I try to give the benefit of the doubt) but purposefully using body acceptance and body positivity is sneaky. It’s misleading.

And it’s exhausting.

When I first started pitching this, I was told it wasn’t a story because people can shop elsewhere (you can eye-roll, because I did) and that is one way to look at it.

And then I looked at the stores and brands that people were mentioning to me.

Some of them I agreed with from first-hand experience: Aerie (American Eagle too, but Aerie leans HARD into the body positive moment), and Old Navy (notorious for fat tax, and excluding plus-size options from stores as well as online sales). Others I hadn’t tried yet and wouldn’t have even known purely based on what I had seen through social like Fenty Savage (larger cups are left out, with the styles being different depending on the cup size) and Brunette the Label. The latter, I see many ‘body positive’ influencers push and their motto is “uplift all babes, all day, every day.” Yet their sizes go to a large, sometimes x-large/xx-large, which begs the question of what “all babes” actually means. As one woman question in my public asking around this topic (rightfully) said: “Are you only a babe if you fall into the sizes?” Gross.

There are so many other brands, and this has been happening for years. And will keep happening.

This doesn’t even touch on brands that offer some plus-sizes (Joe Fresh, now Lululemon, Nike, you get my drift) but not an inclusive range. And this is also not the post that’s going after brands to offer smaller sizes, because I do not have the energy to touch that.

We could have an entire series on this.

But I digress.

An event on ‘self-love’ that left me feeling less than loved

I guess this is where the thinking started, even in the back of my mind.

A few years ago, I was at a self-love event that was meant to speak to body positivity and different sizes. When the speaker, Mary Young, went on stage I was thrown off because I had never heard a straight-sized woman speak on body positivity – but I held out hope.

Her products were gorgeous. The photos were stunning. And the brand’s tagline?

She went on to talk about how her goal was to build a brand that ’empowers women with different body types.’ And that wasn’t a message I heard often – the idea of empowering ALL women’s sizes. And then, the Self-Love Club – complete with a woman in the video who looked, well, different than what I was used to with lingerie brands.

I was sold.

And then I noticed the brand only goes up to a large (sometimes an x-large), capping out at a size 12.

Immediately I was confused, saddened, and disappointed. And when I began to think about writing this, and reaching out to see if others related, Mary Young was one of the two Canadian brands that were repeated over and over.

I will say, that if you scroll their social platforms, they don’t use larger bodies.

But the wording – the idea that their mission is to welcome everyone of every shape, only to have the sizes be so limited, isn’t okay.

You aren’t redefining anything if you don’t have an inclusive size-range

And maybe that’s the wrong take, I’m not sure. But I’ll go back to when I first started working with Knix as an example.

On their website, they boldly state: We’re Redefining Intimates. It’s time that all of us lived unapologetically free. Free from judgment. Free from self-doubt. Free to be yourself. That’s why all our products, from the most comfortable wireless bras to super-absorbent underwear, are designed to make you feel more comfortable in your own skin.

But my introduction to them didn’t exactly leave me as myself, free from self-doubt.

When I led the Knix runway, with the idea being that all women are angels (a nod to the Victoria Secret show), I was the largest.

At a size 16, give or take. Not many fat bodies in sight, although many different ages and races. And I remember they needed to add a bra extension to make the bra properly fit me, but more sizes were coming! It was okay!

I was embarrassed, but it was a show! And we were working with what they had!

Of course, the video doesn’t show that, the photos don’t. I didn’t mention it, because what an opportunity it was, and I still love what that night meant for me.

But has now been 4 years, and that promise is still not met.

When I tested their latest sports bra (the one with the zipper that I was THRILLED about) and it wouldn’t even zip up, I was asked if I was trying it on wrong. And the emails were left unanswered. And my posts in the Knix Ambassadors Facebook group were left unanswered.

In fact, when I’ve brought up-sizing numerous times over the years, I’ve been left without answers every single time.

The most recent was their latest collab with a Canadian influencer (I mean hey, one of the most popular Canadian influencers of our time who BUILT her brand from folding her stomach and making funny faces and is hailed as a body-positive queen – even after being called out) with their Longevity Bra that goes up to a 40DD – and I can’t even fit into it even though I’m a 40DD at actually plus-sized stores. I was so excited at the idea of a box, but it was quickly crushed. I DM’d them right away asking if it was available above an XXL and got silence.

We shouldn’t have to beg to be included

And at this point, I am not sure why I constantly hold out hope that they will be more inclusive. At this point, I share my discount code for those who love their products, bt purchase for myself less and less.

Am I rooting for the brand because they’re Canadian? Have a female founder? Once gave me a life-changing experience?

Yes.

But does that mean they can be excused from this discussion and given infinite extra chances to be inclusive?

No, it shouldn’t.

They were the second of the Canadian brands mentioned to me, and I couldn’t help but be frustrated that the brand was named so quickly.

What makes it even harder, and this was echoed by other women, is that they use women of all different ages, sizes, and shapes and you can very easily see yourself in the brand. I even ordered the bodysuit purely because of one of these ads that featured a woman that looked like me – for me to not be able to even get it on.

Could this just be a mistake? I would like to think so. But at this point, it’s too constant.

And I, or anyone, shouldn’t have to repeatedly beg brands to make different sizes.

Our fat bodies are more than a buzzword

Has it come as far as ‘fat sells?’

No, I don’t think so. But when I’m looking online, I gravitate towards campaigns that are using fat bodies similar to mine. I know it’s a marketing tactic, and I know I’m getting snagged to be bamboozled. Heck even with beauty I jump on it which is ridiculous because a lipstick literally fits anyone – and yet it’s so rare to see makeup ads with fat people!

But what I think body positivity is coming down to. Which I’ve said again and again, and now it’s like a marketing must.

Even right now, if you scroll social media, you are met with thousands of photos of people folding themselves so they can talk about the rolls that appear. See when I sit, I have folds.

When I stand, I have folds.

I do not walk around with glitter etched into me because my stretch marks are fine as is. I don’t need them to be called ‘tiger stripes’ or some other name because I’m comfortable with the fact that they are just stretch marks.

And I’m fine with my stomach now, even though it does not get the same praise as a body that has become larger after giving birth. Yes, I haven’t carried a baby. But I’ve carried myself and that’s a victory too.

If you want to use fat bodies in your campaigns, do it. A million times yes!

But my god, please stop if you’re sharing the photos and demanding that you’re different, and stopping at an XL.

We deserve so much more respect than that.

Editor’s note (is it editor’s or writer’s note if I’m the one writing?): Within the last year or so, Knix did release an XXXL – but it needs to be noted that while the size chart says it is a 24-26, they are very tight and just fit myself, a size 18/20 in other brands. Please keep in mind all bodies are different, and they do have sizing charts

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10 Comments

  1. Colleen Johnstone
    December 15, 2020 / 9:33 PM

    Excellent article and you are so right many consided a 2XL as being inclusive. I personally have had good luck with ordering off Old Navy…however they do not carry plus sizes in there stores. I’m glad I’m not the only one that Knix doesn’t answer…I have given up on them even though I have heard their products are great.

    • bri
      Author
      December 16, 2020 / 10:00 AM

      Yes – I have been able to find Old Navy online too but I wish they would carry in store! Sometimes I even go down a size (if I can) to try and save the difference in price.

      More and more I’m hearing the same comments about Knix not answering, it’s beyond disappointing. I am on the hunt for a more inclusive, similar brand and I’ll be sure to share with you!

  2. Emma
    December 16, 2020 / 11:09 AM

    Oof I was about to tweet you a response, but I feel like it will be too long, so I’m leaving it here haha

    This whole post is SPOT ON and I’m glad someone is saying it! I feel like there’s lots of grumbling that happens, so it can often feel like you’re the only one with the problem until a post like this exists. I’ve had terrible luck with my few Knix purchases because according to their size chart I should wear their biggest size, but nothing I’ve bought has fit (and some were sale items that are non-returnable, so I’ve just donated them.) If I search for Knix there are so many amazing reviews and people hailing them as size inclusive, but it feels like it’s a lot of people who fit in their smaller sizes who are just commenting on the existence of larger sizes without realizing or experiencing the fact that their larger sizes don’t always fit people, and that their sizes still don’t include many people.

    It’s definitely disappointing to see companies use inclusivity or even body positive messaging as a marketing tactic without actually creating products that exist for the bodies they are using to sell their products. It feels like they are using it as a way to trick straight-sized people into feeling good about supporting their company, because it’s pretty consistently straight-size people who suggest certain places to me and then are shocked when I explain they don’t ACTUALLY carry my size lol It’s always “Oh really? I swear on Instagram I saw a model who looks like you” or whatever. And I’m just like, ok cool, so they used someone who looks like me to market a product that won’t fit me to their target demographic of people with smaller bodies.

    This isn’t to say I’m not happy for people whose needs are now met by these companies, like the people who do fit into the larger sizes available that may not have been before, but I think there is a long way to go.

    • bri
      Author
      December 16, 2020 / 12:13 PM

      Emma, you completely nailed it.

      I get friends sending me clothes ALL the time that truly, the body does look like mine! Like I get why they would send it! And then the size range just doesn’t add up. It is beyond frustrating and leaves me feeling so mislead.

      I think a lot of companies have started heading in the right direction, but you’re right – a loooooong way to go.

  3. December 16, 2020 / 8:50 PM

    Really glad someone shared this on Twitter and I got to read it. I too have felt disillusioned with a certain Canadian body positivity influencer. I’m tired of seeing thin girls contort their bodies to hijack the views. I’m frustrated that the only affordable places to buy things over a size 12 in Canada are online only and always seem to be excluded from sales or not come in the same styles.

    • bri
      Author
      December 17, 2020 / 9:58 AM

      You and me both! I really do love shopping at Penningtons, especially their sales. I don’t have one near me currently, but I can’t think of another store that I can go into and have fun browsing versus being worried about sizing/comfort.

      Thank you for reading!!

  4. Trysh
    December 17, 2020 / 1:14 PM

    This is a phenomenally written post and I really feel like it needed to be said. The answer of “Well, shop somewhere else” is extra annoying when you’re talking about brands that are marketing to look like they include you, but don’t actually. Faking inclusivity for marketing purposes is actually worse to me than brands that aren’t inclusive and don’t pretend to be. I’m also really glad to know this about Knix, I’d been thinking about ordering but now I suspect that nothing would fit my pearshaped size 18 booty. Sigh.

    • bri
      Author
      December 17, 2020 / 1:17 PM

      Thank you so very much! I totally agreed – the pretending stings more, I think. Right now I am a size 18 as well, and I can fit into somethings (the largest size for their henley romper, for example) but the underwear just isn’t as comfortable as I want it to be.

      Thank you for sharing, Trysh!!

  5. Denise
    December 17, 2020 / 3:10 PM

    Reading this felt all too familiar. I am a shopper, I have done some crazy things in the name of obtaining the right pair of jeans, sweater or winter coat. Travelled over the boarder because the selection, range of sizes and at times the prices were all far superior to what was available in Canada. Not only do we lack with clothing women, but children who don’t fit a certain size are very hard to dress. Wide shoes, and what they call “husky” is very rare in Canada.
    I have definitely seen ads and when I get to the store they don’t go up too my size, or they do but the fit is super small, it’s so disappointing. When your ability to buy clothes is so limited, it drives me crazy, I feel like you are either going to find good quality for a ridiculous price or if the clothes are affordable they are cheap and fall apart after a few washes! Urgh! Thank you for making me feel like there are others out there experiencing the same bs!
    Thank you for sharing!

    • bri
      Author
      December 18, 2020 / 10:28 AM

      There are SO many others!! And I am hoping that is a sign that things need to change, even if this isn’t all new and we’ve been waiting.

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