Care to Contribute to Some Research?

Published November 13, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

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.

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3 comments on “Care to Contribute to Some Research?

  • If someone actually wants my opinion, I’m always happy to oblige.

    1) My perception of public opinion is one of pluracy. I’m seeing at the same time more fat people asserting their humanity, their beauty and their agency whilst others are becoming more and more vehement in their vilification of fat people. It feels like people with low self esteem have been left with only one group of people to build themselves up on, and fat people is it. I wonder what happens if fat acceptance succeeds, who gets picked on next?

    In my world at least, FA is the only reason fatties have had a voice, and think there has been some backlash from that.

    2) It seems to me that fat fashion globally has improved recently, and I have no doubt that loud and proud fat folks have been instrumental in this. I think it’s also obvious that most of those fat folks are women, because fat men’s fashion is still pretty ordinary. FA has been largely a women-based movement, for good reason, but I think men may have been leapfrogged here.

    3) My answer is not too different here. I think the offerings are better than they were, but need a great deal more work, and need to be mainstream – the same for men and women, and the same for kids.

  • 1. More villification, more moral panic, more doomsdayism. Fat Acceptance is still too minor to be on the radar.

    2. Not much that affects me. (I am a US women’s 18 so I don’t have that much trouble so long as I don’t want to wear the latest fashion or a proper business suit… which I do, actually, the latter.) But it has had the effect of making me not-ashamed of shopping at a “fat people store” which widens my range of options.

    3. None that I can personally perceive, but I don’t follow fashion at all.

  • 1.) No. I do not think that there’s been any change in over all public attitude towards fat people. I think people have recently become more sensitive to bullying and this is why the Marie Claire debacle had such a backlash. I believe that FA is still far too small a movement to have any major sweeping impact on society at large.
    2.) I don’t think that FA has had an impact on any major retailers or fashion houses at all. I DO think that it has influenced, inspired and helped many indie designers and I could not be happier for that!
    3.) No. I have not noticed any changes.

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