Since I’ve been cleaning and reorganizing my closet, I’ve come across things I haven’t worn in a while, like the pants in today’s outfit:
The pants are from Torrid…last year? The year before? Time is a little wacky for me. I had back surgery in February 2016. I was off work for about 8 months. Since work has been my primary measure of time, I think things happened a shorter time period ago than they actually DID. Nonetheless, these pants are Tripp NYC brand, size 26. I LOVE THESE PANTS. They’re kind of obnoxious. I do need to get them hemmed (by which I may or may not mean turn under the bottom and staple them). I usually wear them with boots, but it’s kinda warm today, and I didn’t feel like boots. What I felt like was my Birkenstocks, but I could only locate one of them, so I had to pop on the Skechers Bobs in order to not be late. This particular pair is one I bought on Zulily. Like most shoes, they don’t acknowledge the existence of a women’s size 10.5, so these are an 11. They’re a smidge long. But hey, they mostly match and I was on time. They don’t have these exact ones, anymore, but they have a pair that are pretty stinking close. I also discovered these cat ones that I now want, even though I am not really into pink in the slightest. I just want them because they have a cat print. The shirt is also from Torrid, fairly recently, and was a clearance purchase so of course it’s gone now. Size 4, as usual. It’s actually a pretty substantial fabric, which surprised me…usually the mineral wash tees are thinner. I like that the cutout shows a little skin but covers my armpit dimples.
MTV led me down a little trail of thought. I’ve actually blogged off and on since 2004. I might post a link to some of my earlier ramblings if anyone really cares, but it’s pretty much a personal blog about whatever. When I started out, that’s how everyone was. It was just people talking about random shit. While of course some sites had more traffic than others, and there was a desire to have those higher-traffic bloggers reply to your comments or pimp your blog, it was also a community, and everyone had a little niche. I’ve kept up with some of my peeps from back in the day, and while we may not still blog, we all feel the connection. Since everyone was more anonymous, people were more honest about their feelings and thoughts and weirdness.
Then some people got some paid writing jobs because of their blogs.
Then some people started some fairly active plus-size communities.
Then some retailers realized said plus-size communities were a good place to promote products. So they sent the higher-traffic people some free stuff.
Fast forward. Now it seems like EVERYONE is trying to be an “influencer” and get lots of followers and lots of free stuff and the right(?!?) to shill for a company for a small commission. Hey. I have absolutely nothing against free stuff. I love free stuff. But to me, “free” implies that I can either like it or not like it, but regardless, I’m not out anything for trying it and I sure as fuck don’t need to kiss ass when someone offered something to me.
But that’s not how it really works, anymore. In exchange for products, I think it’s mostly expected that you will say nice things, and those nice things and your nice pictures taken at your expense will make people buy the things, and you will get more things from more people.
Look. I don’t have a problem with people making a living from doing something they love and feel passionately about. Isn’t that everyone’s goal, really? But I do have a problem with the system as it is now. Let’s break this down:
- Retailer sends blogger some stuff
- Blogger writes “honest” review
- Blogger’s followers (who may have their own circles of influence) buy stuff and tag it on [insert social media platform]
- Retailer features blogger on website
- Blogger gets more followers
- Blogger seeks out more retailers, more ways to monetize their blog, more ways to get their numbers up
- In the meantime, the retailers are spending a fraction of what it would cost them to actually advertise
And in the case of plus-size fashion, I personally feel like it’s driving apart a group of women who have gotten this far because they have stuck together.
If your blog is a sideline, or hobby, money you get from it may be a bonus. Or it may be an adjunct to your business. There are several media consultants and other boss babes who love the opportunity to network and tell other people about stuff they find, while still using their personal websites to grow their own brand.
But now I’m seeing a growing contingent of mean girls. They’re probably not really mean, but they’re using other people as stepping stones without acknowledging them at all. They’re most interested in themselves and their own success, whether or not they believe in what they’re saying. And I see these posts about brands that, in my personal opinion, are not what the particular blogger would pick if given a choice. Let’s say, for example, that store A caters to your mom and your grandma. They perhaps realize your mom and grandma aren’t going to live forever, and are getting older and are on fixed incomes, and they need to target the demographic that (allegedly) has more disposable income. So they pick out some younger, hipper representatives, have them pick out the three things in the store that you might wear in public if you’re under 60, and then have them write a glowing review.
Or they’re a company that has been around awhile and has a fairly broad range of consumers, but that isn’t on the top of anyone’s new and happening list.
Or they’re a slightly higher-end retailer without a lot of brick-and-mortar representation, and they don’t want to pay to really advertise.
Or they’re a mass-market brand, but it’s still cheaper to send some stuff to a few bloggers than it is to pay for TV, internet, or print advertising. (They might do those things, but they save a lot of money by using social media mavens as living ads.)
Or they’re an indie/startup who needs some exposure.
Because let’s face it. We’re much more likely to trust someone who looks like us when it comes to how clothing feels and fits.
Here’s the problem, though: when retailers start making people compete for the right to basically advertise for minimal compensation, it pits women against other women. Retailers have created an environment where there’s an artificial sense of popularity. They’ve provided people with a hobby with enough money to think they can make a living at it. Some of them can. But most probably cannot. Instead of encouraging women to tag others and promote their friends, they make it a numbers game…a game where, if you know that people maybe like your friends more than you, promoting your friend may mean you lose your gig.
That’s not okay. For fuck’s sake. Plus-size women are ALREADY shit on by the fashion industry. We’ve made progress, leaps and bounds since I was a fat teenager trying to buy clothes at Sears (remember “Pretty Plus?” *shudder*) and Lane Bryant when those were the only options for anyone who wasn’t skinny (unless you bought men’s clothes…and believe me, my first McJobs required me to wear the man-pants because the girl-pants didn’t come in my size, and I was only like an 18). Now we have more than one option. Now we can order pretty things, and sexy things, and business things, and quirky things, and have brands that at least make an effort to cover us in something that makes us feel good. But now the brands that have made the effort want to cheap out on advertising and pick out a popular crowd upon which to bestow their favor. They want it to create an elite and have people clamor to be a part of it. It’s like they’ve forgotten that we’re still the fat kids who don’t get to sit at the cool table. We still face trolling comments and personal scrutiny and loss of opportunity because of our size. We still can’t walk into any store and (a) feel comfortable (b) find at least one thing that fits. Most brands are still not size-inclusive, even though the financial benefits to being so have been pointed out more than once.
Personally, I feel like more exposure is more exposure. You get further along in life by treating other people nicely. Don’t get me wrong, I can release the flying monkeys when it becomes necessary to do so, but I prefer to be the GOOD witch.
Blogs don’t have blogrolls anymore. It’s like they’re afraid if they point you in the direction of someone else, you won’t ever come back.
Almost every job I’ve had in the last 15 years was because of someone I know telling me about it. Almost every blog I read is because I either saw them mentioned on another blog, or saw them comment on another blog, or saw them tagged somewhere. The ones I still follow and read are the ones I LIKE reading. If I like someone or something, I want other people to like them too. I want to be the kind of friend/ally that I want to have.
Fat peoples, whether you are women or men or otherwise identified: we are still at a stage where we can decide which direction we want to go. We do not have to turn this into a popularity contest and we do not have to turn on each other. We saw this in the Presidential election, y’all. Women didn’t want to vote for Hilary because they didn’t LIKE her. She got shit on for her clothes, her hair, her body, her husband, every life choice she ever made, and a lot of the people doing the shitting were OTHER WOMEN. If we had put aside personal differences and superfluous crap in favor of our own best interests, the Treasonous Cheeto would not be fucking President.
Pretty much every woman I know thought junior high was the worst time in their life. But somehow, we keep recreating it. We keep setting up situations, hoping that this time we get to be the one with the bigger hair and brighter lipstick and braces off and boobs that grow. We keep trying to make a “cool group.” We need a different paradigm. We need a different definition of success. We need to support each other. If retailers stop having a stable of yes-people to promote their ill-fitting, ill-made, overpriced, ugly crap, perhaps they might improve…and then we would ALL win.
As women, we are raised to say yes and not make waves and not cause trouble and not bite the hand that feeds us. However, we’re getting fed a bunch of crap, when we deserve better than that. Telling retailers what they want to hear–and for basically free–is not going to improve our options. Our options will only be improved when we stop acting pathetically grateful for every crumb thrown our way.
The women I love the most in this world are the ones who taught me that being happy for other people is better than hating other people because they have what you do not. They are the women who taught me to stand up for myself, ask for a damn raise, to tell that dude to go fuck himself, to go after the dude if you want him, to be yourself and quit apologizing for being yourself. They were the ones who taught me how to fake it till you make it….and the ones who answered the phone in the middle of the night when I needed them. They have taught me to be a better person and a better friend.
It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to express a negative opinion. Will that have consequences? Maybe. But I’d rather have the consequences of following my own conscience than those of being someone’s bitch.
We’re worth more than that. YOU are worth more than that.
So how the fuck did an MTV t-shirt lead me here? Think about it. The first song on MTV was “Video Killed the Radio Star.” It did. Now reality TV has killed the video star. MTV doesn’t have music, it has stupid teenagers doing stupid shit so they can get famous. Do we want to kill the fashion market we’ve only just gotten started? Do we want to respond to a lifetime of being excluded by excluding other people?
I went on a major self-improvement kick when I hit 30. Started a big weight-loss plan. Welp. It worked…for a while…but while it was working, I felt like a big, fat, loser. I snarked on fat people who were daring to be fat in public in tank tops and short-shorts, because I didn’t want to be one of THOSE people. I told myself I wanted to be noticed, but what I really wanted was to fit in. I was round and trying to cram myself into a square box that was too small, so I felt squeezed and insecure and pointy around the edges.
My pointy edges didn’t make me happy, and being squeezed somewhere I didn’t fit made me feel cranky and pissed off most of the time. I finally had to allow myself to be MYSELF, not the version I thought I had to be. Do I love my body all the time? Negative, ghostrider. Do I sometimes hate the way I look? Yes. But I do not have to think I am perfect in order to think I am worth it.
Neither do you.