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Wednesday, 16 September 2015

#PlusIsEqual?

It's less than two weeks since 'that' #StyleHasNoSize saga (see here) and, already, yet another brand doesn't seem to understand that 'promoting' body positivity and diversity is not a marketing gimmick.

Lane Bryant's (a well-known US plus size retailer) #PlusIsEqual campaign launched this week, calling upon under-represented plus size women to "represent"; "67% of US women are size 14 to 34. But they’re under-represented on billboards, magazines, TV…everywhere. We believe all women should be seen and celebrated equally. See what people are saying. Add your voice and join us in calling for equal representation."

Hold up, LB; can you explain to me how using the same standard 'plus size' models as every other campaign of a similar nature correlates with "equal representation"? Whilst you're thinking about that, can you explain how you can justify excluding sizes 30-34 from your #PlusIsEqual t-shirt size range (14-28)? FYI, 'that's our size range' (pretty much the answer you gave to a fellow blogger on Twitter) isn't a valid response; especially when you were selling said t-shirts at your 'rally' (on Monday) in sizes S-XL (which is even more appalling, if that's even possible).

Speaking of valid responses, I am no less than disgusted at the amount of well-known plus size industry folk (particularly US bloggers) supporting this campaign. You might find the term 'disgusting' a tad harsh but, considering viewing the related social media on Monday was making me feel physically sick, I find it to be an appropriate term. How anyone can agree that 'plus is equal' in Lane Bryant's terms or otherwise is beyond me, but what I find even more infuriating is when people do this without even acknowledging the 'counterargument'. Granted, this isn't the case with everyone, and I was more than pleased to see Callie Thorpe bringing a dose of reality to the conversation on Twitter and reassuring me that there are still 'high end' bloggers out there that are in touch with the community.

Speaking of Twitter, if you're following me (and/or other fat activists) you may have noticed #IfPlusWasEqual. Originally coined by Alysse Dalessandro (you should totally check out her Bustle article on the subject, btw), followed by myself and others, the hashtag was used on Monday (the day of the 'rally') to express the many ways in which plus is not equal and (most likely) never will be. #IfPlusWasEqual people's body image wouldn't be used as a marketing playground. We wouldn't have to 'rally' and listen to a size 10 fatphobic woman tell us 'plus is equal' whilst also enforcing diet culture.

You can read more about Monday's rally in Virgie Tovar's article here. I'm going to leave you with this quote from said article, as it resonated with me (as most of Virgie's writing does tbh): 'Lane Bryant is not alone in their attempt to capitalize on the language of a politic that they do not in fact support. This tendency to trot out the skin of a gutted politic is not new. We have been watching Cosmo co-opt feminism for years and the spice Girls claim "Girl Power." This is just the latest in a chain of the misguided and exploitative use of hard-won language and movement growth. I don't have any problem with a company wanting to clothe a new generation of plus-size women, but we deserve better than this.'

Friday, 4 September 2015

#StyleHasNoSize?

Evans seem to have forgotten the meaning of their own slogan, if their recently publicity stunt for the 'launch' of UK Plus Size Fashion Week (UKPSFW) is anything to go by. Both brands were eagerly sharing images on social media of the live store window yesterday, encompassing (at least) 5 plus size models wearing t-shirts featuring the #StyleHasNoSize slogan. The models were provided by Bridge Models and, allegedly (as I heard on the grapevine), chosen by UKPSFW. Reality check; I am well aware that plus size models, generally speaking, still have to conform to industry standards (5'8" minimum height and aesthetically 'pleasing'). I am also well aware that plus size models, generally speaking, are not representative of the plus size community, in that the modelling definition of plus size starts at a UK12 and often ends at a UK16-18 with few exceptions. But, I digress, this isn't about modelling.

This is about Evans wanting to have their cake and eat it (yes I went there). This is about style having a size (according to this 'event') and that size being an amalgamation of 'acceptable' fatness and curvy privilege. It is about that size being the same predominantly white (or otherwise light skinned; correct terminology please?), able bodied, cis female, heteronormative aesthetic that is spewed out time and time again by the fashion industry.





I don't care what line about modelling or industry standards you want to conjur up, you cannot conform to those standards and claim to be body positive/diverse. You just can't. It's like trying to fit a square into a triangular hole, it's not going to happen however much you push it. You can't use a body positive slogan as a marketing gimmick and not back it up. You can't have one standard for your customers and another for your marketing. You just can't, okay? No. I'm not having it. I'm not going to put up with it and I'm certainly not going to be silenced or censored when your PR company asks me to delete a tweet containing a screenshot of their e-mail asking for (free) promotion of the above. I'm not going to 'excuse' you when members of your team (unofficially) give your reasons (read: excuses) with their unsolicited pat on the head, or when Beth Willis (CEO of Bridge Models) calls this faux pas a 'moment in history' (post deleted). Furthermore, it's not just me. I am so proud of 'my' community right now for standing up and saying no en mass.

Got that, you 'two'? WE SAID NO. "I think most of us accept that when it comes to plus size fashion, models aren't quite where we want them to be. The world of plus size is changing and making baby steps forward and for the most part we are accepting of the very small steps that are happening. However this wasn't Evans selling clothes, it was showcasing that style belongs to everyone; to really show that in an effective way it needs to be on a varied canvas and as beautiful as those models undoubtedly are they don't showcase the campaign in the way that it deserved and that's nothing less than a massive shame" - Debz of The Not So Secret Diary of a Wannabe Princess























Tweets by Leah from Just Me Leah (@JustmeLeah_blog), shared with permission

I had to write this post, but in all honesty I'm getting a bit tired with the situation; or at least I'm getting tired of people's excuses and explanations. Is expecting body positive/diverse campaigns/brands to promote said body positivity/diversity too much to ask? Body image is a precious thing, not a marketing tactic; so is customer (and blogger) loyalty, funnily enough. I am well known for standing by my morals and boycotting brands that engage in body shaming, perhaps I should extend this to include hypocritical brands, too. Particularly ones that don't seem to wish to respond to any criticism, which UKPSFW is well known for (in my experience) regardless.

Feature: Murder of Goths,
Illustrator of Awesome

I've been meaning to write this post for, oh, only about 3 months; sorry MoG! That's what a few friends and I call Kat, AKA Murder of Goths. It reminds me of a moogle (don't worry if you don't know what I'm talking about, but if you do then kudos!). Anyway, I was originally chatting to MoG at the beginning of June about writing a feature post on her artwork, blog and general awesomeness, and since then she's turned into a bit of a superstar so I'm a tad 'behind with the times' now. Still, I'm going to claim that I got in there first (signature please) ;)

Since then I've not only had the pleasure of being drawn by MoG, but I also got to meet the wonderful woman herself at Style XL. Yes, she is as adorable as she looks! Hopefully you can just about make out the postcard that I'm holding, which is a print of the illustration that MoG did of me; she brought postcards for every plus size blogger that she had drawn, because she's awesome like that. It was really lovely.











































I asked MoG a few questions. It wasn't really an interview as such, but here's her replies...

When did you first start drawing/artwork, what sparked your initial interest and what inspires you?

I've always loved drawing, when I was little the answer to the question, "what do you want to be when you grow up?" was always "an artist". I was always drawing, then when I was about 14 we got our first computer and I discovered digital art. I'm inspired by all sorts, I especially like drawing portraits though, which was sparked when I did my first life drawing class. I thought I'd hate it, I was painfully shy and thought I'd panic at the sight of a naked person, but I loved it. There's something very pleasing about drawing a human figure and face.

How can we purchase your work or request a commission?

I've just launched a Redbubble store selling my designs (http://www.redbubble.com/people/murderofgoths). You can buy anything from stickers for a couple of pounds to prints to duvet covers! It does include some clothing, but unfortunately not in plus sizes, so I'm looking for another site to use. I found one, but they don't go too large and they were ridiculously expensive. I also do commissions if anyone wants a custom portrait, the price will depend on what you are looking for and if you need prints or prefer to print it yourself. If anyone wants anything like that they just need to send me a message on email (murderofgoths@gmail.com) or through Twitter (@murderofgoths).





© Murder of Goths (L-R: Leah of Just Me Leah, Stephanie of Nerd About Town, Lucia of Ucantwearthat and me)

If you could be commissioned by anyone to draw their portrait, who would it be and why?

Ooh tough one. I think I'd be utterly thrilled if Dirty Martini, the plus size Burlesque star, wanted one of my portraits. But in all honesty I'm actually incredibly flattered by any portrait request, right now I'm drawing a portrait of an incredible woman who raises awareness of invisible disabilities and who has created a hashtag for spoonies to chat under. She's no celebrity, and isn't the most well known on Twitter, but she's an inspiration to me and I'm honoured to get to draw her.

Is there any link between your artwork, your blog and your interest in plus size fashion/the community?

There is a huge link. Both literally, as seen in my latest project of fruity plus size pin-ups, but also more emotionally. I'd stopped drawing because of chronic pain and low self esteem, and getting involved in the plus size community has been such a huge boost in my confidence that's had massive ripples in my life. It's no surprise that when I first started drawing again after a long hiatus it was to draw plus size women who inspired me. The response I got from these amazing women was very emotional for me. I nearly cried when they all said they loved their portraits. The plus size community has taught me I don't need to hide, not my body, and not my talents.