Evaluating FATshion Blogs: A Body Equity Checklist

Ji!! Andrew PHOTO Close Up
Jill Andrew is founder/director of BITE ME! Toronto Int’l Body Image Film & Arts Festival and co-founder of the fatshion/plus fashion blog http://www.fatinthecity.com/.
For more on Jill visit Soroptimist Foundation of Canada: http://soroptimistfoundation.ca/grantwinners.html#jill
BEDA promotes cultural acceptance of, and respect for, the natural diversity of sizes, as well as promoting a goal of improved health, which may or may not include weight change.  The views expressed by our featured bloggers are their own.

By Jill Andrew (edited for length by Lizabeth Wesely-Casella)

Weight stigma occurs when a person is told they are not beautiful, and successful weight stigma is when that person believes it.  DON’T LET BODY BIGOTS TAKE AWAY YOUR STYLE! 

One good way to combat feeling ‘less than’ in a world that tells you your body isn’t right is to dress to feel amazing, and one of the best ways to do this is to follow smart blogs to promote “Fashion” at Every Size!  In order to find high quality blogs and highly wearable fashions, hold your favorite beauty and clothing sites up to a Body Equity Checklist.  It is a great way to begin to ‘evaluate’ whether or not a particular fashion blog is part of the problem perpetuating anti-fat rhetoric (and therefore weight stigma) or if a particular fashion blog/blogger is part of the solution by creating spaces and supportive opportunities for critical dialogues–dialogue dedicated to re-imagining fat embodiment outside of the traditional scripts of illness and the grotesque. 

So take a moment and visit your favorite fat fashion (FATshion!) blogs!  Review them against some of the checklist tips suggested below and share that priceless information with the world! Body Equity Checklists are a great way to sharpen our critical media citizen skills because, goodness knows, but the most important thing (aside from the bright colors, fancy clothing and commerce opportunities) is the message. Down with fat shaming and weight stigma and UP WITH SIZE DIVERSITY!!  Happy reading! 

Body Equity Checklist for “Plus Size” Fat Fashion (“FATshion”) Blogs Some tips for analyzing FATshion blogs through a fat studies/activism, HAES (Health at Every Size), ‘FAES’ (Fashion at Every Size) lens:

  • Is the word FAT present or is it routinely masked by words such as, “voluptuous,” “misses,” “above average,” “grand,” “curvy,” “plus size” etc? Language can both affirm and disqualify fat bodies. The function of language on a blog is in no way different or less powerful than its function in our larger society. It can both empower and oppress. 
  • Are FAT bodies present?  Yes, it’s a blog so having pictures appears to be obvious but the critical question is: What types of pictures?  Are fat bodies a) animated, engaged, fashionably dressed, and visually represented as the sexual and sensual bodies they are? b) Pictured as FULL bodies not disembodied, dismembered “pretty face” headshots with “inherently” great personalities? Are there “fashion rules” that fat bodies must follow?
  • What sorts of advertisements are on the blog? Do these perpetuate or challenge mainstream gender and body ideals? Is the blog in alliance with the advertisements?
  • On the issue of (re)presentation of FAT bodies is there a diverse range-of-sizes represented or at least noted? And yes, one might say, “but the blog will likely only represent the size of its blogger.” This might be primarily so but if a blogger is interested in challenging the status quo, being inclusive can also include listing whether an item comes in a diverse range of sizes. It can also include calling out designers, fashion houses etc. for perpetually producing limited sizes or “smaller” FATshion sizes. Considering the average North American woman’s clothing size is a 14-16, blogs within these categories may not be deemed as ‘transgressive’ or oppositional as ones that are inclusive of 18 or 24+ options for instance.
  • Does the FATshion blog offer unsolicited “body modification” messages on “weight loss tips,” PSP (plus size princess) fitness, PSF (plus size fitness), or “tricks to hide the bulge” masked as “healthy living” “wellness” suggestions? Is the blog homage to their cosmetic, bariatric surgery or diet aspirations/achievements? This may come across as kind-hearted, transparent, “courageous,” socially responsible and neutral blogging but what it does is it contributes to the largely unfounded dominant medical discourse on “fat as dangerous”, pathologized, undesirable and unsightly.  Expectation: To be at fashion’s peak one must be thin(ner) even if still “plus.”  (Note: fitness is not wrong. It’s the context in which it is messaged to us we can be critical of).
  • Is the ever-lauded Foundation Garment (FG) the cat’s meow? While I’m not trying to burn the foundation garment at the stake, a critical eye must recognize the FG for what it is:  The physical embodiment of a disciplining tool which seeks to regulate, make ‘invisible’ (smaller than), ‘tame’ and control fat bodies’ rolls.
  • Is the blog in perennial worship of designers and corporations or is there a sense of independent analysis separate from what the designers ‘want them to say’ to ‘promote’ brand fashions?  Has the blogger indicated which items are “gifted” or “sponsored” (not paid for). Do they a) engage in conversations on the ‘quality’ and ‘wearability’ of the garment?  b) Promote sales, DIY fashion ideas or FATshion swaps? c) Organize events, demonstrations or petitions to raise awareness of FATshion issues? d) Mix seasons i.e. used pieces with new ones? Fat fashions are routinely overpriced so these strategies and other ‘creative’ ones save wallets! Irony: It’s a shame to have to be so ‘creative’ because of an industry that often overcharges or makes finding FATshions largely inaccessible ($$, location i.e. “specialty” stores, smaller sections in department stores next to luggage or children’s wear(!) or online with hefty shipping costs when not everyone has access to credit cards for online purchasing power).
  • Does the blog ever engage in conversations outside of FATshion that may also help to shift the way fat is popularly perceived?  For instance, does the blog link to or discuss events, news or opinions expressed through a fat activism, size acceptance, HAES or ‘FAES’ lens? Or is it primarily consumer/consumption driven?
  • Does the blog publicly address anti-fat comments or are they quickly removed, ignored or neutralized by responses such as, “everyone has the right to their opinions.” Everyone does have the right to speak their truth but we must recognize our ‘truths’ can help mobilize mistruths and further deepen anti-fat sentiments.

(This is one of many Body Equity Checklists Jill is currently creating. Others include workplace, public transit, schools and shopping spaces. The goal is to address what she calls the ‘structural inequities’  which often exclude fat bodies.)