A bit over a week ago I received a message on one of my posts asking if I would answer a few questions on a research project about fat acceptance and it’s influence on changing the consumer market. I contacted the commenter and she sent me some information and questions.
Daiane Scaraboto is a Ph.D. candidate at York University, in Canada, and I have offered to share the questions here, so that you may answer them as well, as I would love to see some contributions from other bloggers, fatshionistas and anyone else interested in contributing, and I’m sure they would be of use to Daiane. The more we speak up about what we want, how we think things are working and what else we can do to shift the market, the more influence we can have.
Here are the three questions Daiane sent me:
1) Do you believe there have been recent changes in the public attitude or opinion in relation to people who are fat? TO WHAT EXTENT DO YOU THINK THE FAT ACCEPTANCE MOVEMENT MIGHT HAVE INFLUENCED PUBLIC ATTITUDES ON THIS MATTER?
2) In your opinion, what impact has the Fat Acceptance movement had on the fashion and clothing industry (i.e. designers, manufacturers, brands, retailers, and consumers)?
3) Have you noticed any recent changes in the market offerings available to people who are fat (in general, and specifically in relation to clothes/fashion)?
Please feel free to answer them in the comments below, I’ll send them on to Daiane, or you can send an email to this email address (linked to minimise spam).
And just for interest’s sake, here are my responses:
1. I actually can see two changes over the past few years. Firstly in the general public, I have seen a growing panic about the “obesity epidemic”, mostly fuelled by the mainstream media. I think that the term “obesity epidemic” is being thrown about more liberally than it has been before. But just recently, say over the past six months, I am starting to see another change. Mainstream media outlets are asking for response from a) academics in fat studies b) fat acceptance activists and c) real life fat people. As a consequence of this, and coupled with years of hard work from fat acceptance activists which I believe has driven this change to start happening in the mainstream media, some of the average population, especially those who have suffered at the hands of obesity panic and fat loathing are starting to question the status quo. Average Joe’s and Joanne’s are starting to speak up albeit still tentatively at this stage.
2. I feel that the Fat Acceptance movement is just starting to make some inroads in changing the fashion and clothing industry. We’re still pushing uphill, but there are inklings of change. Some progressive retailers are easing up on the euphemisms (“real women”, curvy, etc) and just refer to their clothes as “plus-size”. They’re not using the word fat yet, but at least a few are starting to get rid of the euphemisms and realise that their customer is generally quite aware that she is plus-sized. We’re also seeing a few retailers utilising the word-of-mouth of visible Fat Acceptance activists, be they Fatshionistas or otherwise, to promote their wares. I also believe the Beth Ditto line is a direct result of the retailer listening to those in Fat Acceptance talk about wanting actual fashionable, on-trend plus-size clothing at a comparable price to straight sizes. Fat Acceptance is also opening doors for many fat women (and indeed fat men too) to enjoy dressing, take pride in fashion and style where they once would have felt shame and a lack of confidence. The number of plus-sized bloggers sharing their styling is growing rapidly at the moment.
3. As I mentioned in Q2, there are some changes filtering through. Not a huge amount, but some. The aforementioned Beth Ditto line from Evans is a good example. Online retailers are those who are getting on board first with treating their plus-sized customers the same way that they would treat a straight-sized customers. More brick and mortar retailers are offering an online option to those who are not able, or don’t wish to, shop in store as well. Not all of them with a lot of success, but the fact they’re offering it is significant. However I think we have a long, long way to get the brick and mortar stores changing their game much when it comes to what they offer in store and how they present their marketing.