Vivenne Westwood: Even Visionaries Can Be Insensitive
Trigger warning: Telling poor people to “eat less” is disturbing..
Two summers ago, my daughter Adrienne and I visited New York City and went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. One of the highlights of that trip, for me, was the display of Vivenne Westwood’s 1970s punk clothes. The woman was a visionary.
If you look at these clothes and think about what most people were wearing in the 70s — she had her mind wide open. She just did.
So I’m not sure how this woman who was (and I’m willing to bet still is) so able to look outside the fashion box, could be so very, incredibly wrong this week when she made some remarks about poor people and fat people and organic food.
From a Huffington Post article about the incident: When a BBC Radio 5 Live interviewer pointed out to the catwalk icon that “not everybody can afford to eat organic food,” she replied: “Eat less!”
Here’s the thing. If you’re a wealthy white woman — very wealthy — chances are pretty good there isn’t an appropriate time to tell poor people to eat less. Even if your intent (if we’re giving Westwood the benefit of the doubt) was to show that they don’t have good choices (it’s GMO or nothing for them, seemed to be what she was going for). Even if you have a history of doing good work for the poor.
Here’s what else she said: “You’ve got all these processed foods, which is the main reason people are getting fat. They’re not actually good for you — they don’t give you strength; they give you weight.”
Vivinne Westwood has solved the obesity problem for us! Eat less. No one else, on earth, ever, has ever, ever thought of that before.
I want to be kind. I want to believe that she had good intentions. That she just had a problem with the delivery. I mean, surely she knows there are fat people who don’t eat any processed food? And surely she knows that a person can get fat eating organic, non-processed food. I mean, a calorie is a calorie. And she has to know that things like food deserts and food insecurity exist, and that telling people who don’t have access to the kind of high-quality, non-processed, organic food — and who are living with food deserts and food insecurity — to eat less kind of makes you a jerk.
I’m deeply upset if anyone would think I don’t care about starving people or don’t understand the terrible situation some people are in, quite the opposite, I have spent years campaigning for social and human rights issues.
That’s the equivalent of “some of my best friends are black” isn’t it?
It’s great that she’s campaigned for social and human rights. And that she cares about starving people. What she needs, though, maybe, is some sensitivity training.