I think every girl is guilty of mindlessly scrolling while online shopping. Whether you’re in class, taking a study break, or simply just trying to find the perfect dress for your next date party, everyone wants to be caught up on the latest trends and splurge on new pieces. But the very last thing anyone wants to see during their afternoon scroll is a statement like “Being fat isn’t beautiful, it’s an excuse.”
Yes, this actually did happen, in a VERY questionable marketing move that aimed to reclaim fat-phobic messages and has led to huge controversy. Online retailer Revolve stated that their intention with the sweatshirt, made by popular brand LPA, was to re-appropriate this common phrase allegedly said to plus-size model Paloma Elsesser. However, they astonishingly decided to display this sweatshirt on a very petite and skinny model, and the design of the sweatshirt featured “as said to Paloma Elsesser” in minuscule font. Revolve’s defense was that their goal was to provide “direct commentary on the modern-day normality of cyberbullying and the shared desire to create a community for those most affected by the epidemic.” I still wonder how they got this piece approved—through the designers, then through the photographer, model, and web design team. There were so many steps and people to go through in order to showcase this piece; how did one person not say anything?!
The collection was eventually pulled from the website as Revolve released the following statement:
“The prematurely released images featured on Revolve.com was not only included without context of the overall campaign but regrettably featured one of the pieces on a model who’s [sic] size was not reflective of the piece’s commentary on body positivity. We at Revolve sincerely apologize to all those involved – particularly Lena, Emily, Cara, Suki and Paloma – our loyal customers, and the community as a whole for this error. The collection has been pulled. We are proud to donate $20,000 to Girls Write Now in the hopes that those who need it can still benefit from what was to be a meaningful, insightful and impactful collaboration by LPA.”
This proved to be too little too late, as the internet exploded with criticism. The piece had a 1.2 star rating with many negative comments in the comments section, saying that this article of clothing perpetuated body shaming and body negativity. One comment stated “Zero stars weren’t an option so I had to go with one. I can’t decide if you’re fat shaming or skinny shaming or both. Whatever it is, it’s disgusting, why are you sending negativity messages to women about their bodies?’
At a time where social media and advertising are so impactful, especially on youth, brands must be particularly careful about what messages and products they are releasing to the public. The power of media is astonishing and honestly terrifying at times to think about. This viral mistake just exposed the role that cyberbullying and body shaming has in society. This is just one small instance in this larger issue in our culture that continues to perpetuate through instances like this. The good news is that the attack against this sweatshirt shows that people care, and that people are trying to make a change. Revolve apologized and at the end of the day, they poorly executed this product and admitted that they featured the “piece on a model whose size was not reflective of the piece’s commentary of body positivity.”
So, what now? The drive to move forward and change standards of what is considered beautiful is so important. Having influential people and companies that stand for positive values is crucial in order to promote self confidence and to eliminate some of the insecurities that stem from social media. Next time you’re mindlessly scrolling, find something positive and encouraging rather than another skinny model on Instagram that you’re just going to compare yourself to.