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Clown Tears —

November 20, 2013

Weight LossFat HealthFat FashionExerciseFat NewsDickweedDiet Talk

I’m sad.

I’m really sad.

You guys, I think we’re being too hard to Lululemon. I mean, sure, their stores are accused of hiding its size 10 and 12 “fatty” pants in the back of the store. Yes, Lululemon founder Chip Wilson diverted blame for the recall of his see-through pants by telling Bloomberg News the problem is “really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, and how much they use it.” And yes, Wilson said that he named the company Lululemon because he thought it would be funny to hear Chinese people say it. But are those reasons good enough to boycott a company?

Consumers seem to think so, as Lululemon is expected to lose $67 million in revenue this year.

In response to the recall, Lululemon literally covered their ass by sewing more fabric over their ass windows.

Second Chance

But Wilson’s message on women’s bodies is still the same: it’s you, not me.

If Chip Wilson and Lululemon want to market their products solely to thin women whose thighs won’t chafe his sacred pants, that’s their prerogative. But as with Abercrombie & Fitch, Lululemon has found that even its thin patrons are put off by a manufacturer that denigrates two-thirds of the female population who aren’t a size 12 or less.

And here’s the thing that’s really galling about Wilson’s comments in the Bloomberg interview: even though Lululemon’s largest available size won’t fit a body that is demonstrably fat, he’s still suggesting that a woman with “fat” thighs that rub together is the real problem. It’s not like Lululemon is selling size 24 yoga pants and only the fattest of the fat are experiencing this problem, so Chip Wilson is saying that size 12 women are too fat for his pants. He is, in essence, normalizing the runway definition of “fat” as any woman whose thighs touch, God forbid!

But this definition of fat only applies to women, mind you. Women are constantly reminded that life begins at size 0 and that anything above a 12 is an obese abomination. We’re also taught to mistake what “obese” really looks like by referring to headless fatties in news stories like this:

Headless Fatty

The woman pictured above (as with virtually all headless fatty photos) has a BMI over 50, easily. To put this woman’s body in perspective, this is a screencap from an interview I did for the local news last year.

Atchka Fatty

Fattin’ it up.

My size has been the same for over a decade: 5’7″, 265 pounds, with a BMI of 41. To have a BMI of 50, I would have to weight 320 pounds. If that headless fatty above doesn’t have a BMI greater than 50, then she’s pretty damn close. And according to a study tracking higher BMIs, people with a BMI of 50 make up less than one half of one percent of the population.

And yet, time and time and time again I get into arguments with dudebro redditors who want to cite sumo wrestlers to refute Health at Every Size®, as though all fatties weigh 300 pounds, practice gavage and can barely walk. In fact, I find that most of the time when I’m debating whether someone can be fat and fit, that person’s baseline reference for “fat” is the fattest of the fat, even though most people in the “obese” category aren’t that large (see Kate Harding’s excellent BMI Illustrated project to have some context on what the terms “overweight,” “obese” and “morbidly obese” actually look like… having a BMI over 40, I am morbidly obese).

Society in general, and Lululemon specifically, encourage an exaggerated reality where “fat” refers to people who aren’t actually fat. For example, Lululemon stops at a size 12, which is considered “plus-sized” in modeling. We often hear about how Marilyn Monroe was a size 14, which is then rebuked as “sizes were different then.” But let’s compare Ms. Monroe’s most famous swimsuit photo to Tara Lynn, a “plus-sized” model who wears a 14/16.

Marilyn Tara Lynn

These are not terribly different bodies, yet one is considered an iconic beauty and the other is considered a fatty fatty boom batty by Lululemon standards.

Another way to look at it is to compare women’s sizing to men’s. On Lululemon’s website, women search for pants by choosing a size between 2 and 12.

Women Sizing

Meanwhile, men can pick between small, medium, large, extra large and extra extra large.

Man Sizing

It’s a small, but subtle reminder than men’s sizing does not play on a fear of being labeled “fat” by your clothes. But here’s an even greater comparison by a weight loss blogger named Tony Posnanski, who calls himself the Anti-Jared. Typically, I wouldn’t link to a weight loss blog because nobody here wants to read that shit, but Tony had a great anti-shaming piece about the Halloween fat letter and I respect the fact that he actually seems to respect everyone, regardless of body size or whether they’re healthy or not. That’s not a very common attitude among weight loss evangelists, so I give props where deserved.

Anyway, this is Tony…

Tony

From a starting weight of 420 pounds, Tony lost 200 pounds and now he is not fat, clearly. So when the whole Lululemon thing blew up, Tony thought he would try on a pair of size 12s to see what the big deal was about these yoga pants. Turns out, Jared couldn’t squeeze his “fat” ass into their largest size. So, then he took it a step further:

I now knew I was a “plus size” woman. So I needed to go to a “plus size” store. I went to a store called The Avenue Plus. I walked in and they were not busy. I am glad they were not busy. I went right up to an associate and asked her a simple question…

“What size do you think I am?”

I did not have a chance to tell her I was a writer or I was trying to write about the Luluemon yoga pants. She quickly said…

“Size Twenty”.

TWENTY!!! I got mad and told her she was crazy. There is no way in the world that I was a size twenty! I wore all medium clothes. I ran ten miles and I lost over 200 pounds.

She told me I had large hips and big legs. She said that with my shoulders there was no way I could fit into anything but a size twenty. She held up a few dresses to me to prove that she was right.

She was right.

Size 20? That’s pure fatty territory. A woman who wears a size 20 should feel shame and remorse and she should immediately begin a Biggest Loser-style intervention to redeem herself from the Morbid Obesity!

And yet, as a man, Tony knew he was not fat. And despite wearing what Lululemon would have to label an XXXXXXL, Jared still sees himself as not fat because he doesn’t get daily reminders that he’ll be called a hamplanet if his thighs dare touch.

This is the cultural context for Chip Wilson blaming women’s bodies for ruining his beautiful, beautiful pants. It’s not just that his product is incapable of dealing with the reality of human thighs, it’s that the expectations surrounding women’s bodies has become so distorted, so unrealistic, so detached from reality that when forced to defend his views, Wilson sounds positively deluded.

The problem isn’t women’s bodies, as Wilson claims; the problem is a culture that values slender women at any cost, such that bodies that were once deemed normal — nay, ideal — 50 years ago are now considered problematic and flawed.

And this brings me to my favorite part of this whole Lululemon debacle. In response to the fierce backlash against his comments to Bloomberg News, Wilson issued the following non-apology apology:

Wilson wants to talk to us because he’s sad. Really sad. Specifically, he’s sad for “the repercussions of my actions” and for his employees who “really had to face the brunt of my actions.” But even though he takes responsibility for his toxic opinions, you’ll notice that he never actually apologizes for what he said. His entire apology comes down to “I’m sorry to have put you all through this.” Considering the thing that made him sad was the repercussions on the company, we can only assume that the “you all” he’s referring to are these same people who are burdened with a Cro-magnon for a spokesperson.

Then, after  his apology fades to black, Wilson returns with a combative appeal to “all of you that have made Lululemon what it is today” (i.e., thin women) and asks them to “stay in a conversation that is above the fray” (i.e., ignore the whiny thunderthighs). This combination of non-apology and defensive posturing has led to Wilson earning the title of Worst Apology Ever. Meanwhile, Lululemon’s stock has plummeted and he’s became the laughing stock of Twitter.

So in an effort to help dig Lululemon out of this ditch, I have revamped Wilson’s apology to be more honest, more sincere and more realistic. I hope you enjoy.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. November 20, 2013 1:30 pm

    My first reaction to the Chip Wilson with Hair video…*GIGGLESNORT* That was priceless! Thank you for making me laugh with that more realistic and more honest non-apology. I promise I will keep my fat ass, fat hips, fat thighs, fat stomach well away from Lululemon yoga pants. Because really, who wants to pay over $90 for a pair of yoga pants that’s going to rip the first time you wear them because they are so cheaply made but exorbitantly priced so the owner and stockholders can reap in the big bucks? Yeah, the only fat thing Chip Wilson likes is a fat wallet.

  2. November 20, 2013 3:36 pm

    Well, if we’re being petty and judging by appearances alone, I’d say Chip Wilson looks like a douchebag.
    I weigh 300 pounds. Except for navigating stairs with my probably permanently messed up knee (thanks to a work injury) I don’t move any more slowly than most people.

  3. gingeroid permalink
    November 20, 2013 9:43 pm

    So that’s how it’s pronounced… What I don’t understand is why people keep buying the pants. It doesn’t matter if I’m a size 4 or a size 24, I expect my pants to provide opaque butt coverage. Surely they’re not the only manufacturer of yoga pants for the size 2-12 woman.

  4. constantirritant permalink
    November 20, 2013 11:10 pm

    Good post. I just wish you didn’t feel like you needed to separate yourself from THOSE OTHER fat people. You know: that less than half of 1% fat people with a BMI of 50 or over. Because you’re not like THEM at all, are you? Of course not.

    • November 21, 2013 10:24 am

      It’s not at all about separating myself from them. It’s about context. When people talk about a third of the population being obese, they picture the fattest of the fat. When we’re talking about the health consequences of high weight (and because increased body fat exacerbates insulin resistance and vice versa, there are health consequences for some fat people), it is important to know what “obese” looks like. Yes, it includes the fattest of the fat, but the vast majority of people in the obese category are my size or smaller. Even people who are morbidly obese (with a BMI of 40 or more), like myself, make up just 6% of the population. It’s not about segregating anyone, it’s about understanding what the terms mean and how they apply in the real world. When the people you’re debating think HAES is all about saying every 500 pound person is healthy no matter what, it is helpful to remind them that a) there aren’t that many 500 pound people in the world and b) it’s their lifestyle that matters in terms of health.

      As I said, I’m not too far from being in the over 50 crowd myself, and there are people I love very dearly who are in that group as well (including my wife), so I’m not trying to other them at all. I simply want to put the data in perspective for those who have a kneejerk reaction to the terms “fat” and “obese.” It’s more complicated and diverse than the headless fatties we’re trained to see.

      Peace,
      Shannon

  5. November 21, 2013 6:43 am

    LOL good video representation! 😉

    • November 21, 2013 6:44 am

      ^^ Ummm… I meant the 2nd one… the first one didn’t impress me much!

  6. November 21, 2013 9:51 am

    [snerk] About two years ago, I temped at another fitness fashion place that also served the mega-thin and rich. (No names, please. I can’t afford a lawsuit.) All I can say is that the cult-like behavior and chronic self-absorption of Chip the Clown and his cohorts has a reeeeeeal familiar ring to it. :/

  7. Dizzyd permalink
    November 21, 2013 4:03 pm

    I believe it’s actually ‘crocodile tears’, cuz there’s NOTHING funny ’bout this clown! That said, I liked Anti-Jared’s (now that IS funny!) anti-shaming letter. And by the way, CHIP (snark intended), that’s a STUPID reason to pick a name. But what would you expect from a guy who lives his life with his head up his ass?

  8. A.P. permalink
    January 15, 2014 10:15 am

    I’m a size XL/1X and I buy and LOVE all of the Zella products sold at Nordstrom. The quality of their pants is waaaaaaaay better than lululemon. They make regular AND plus size workout clothes for women that are cute and, miracle of miracles, they charge the SAME price for plus size 3X as they do for 00. Yay Zella!

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