[Guestblog] Fatshion and The Sartorialist

By | August 31, 2009

I love the Sartorialist. Almost more than any other blog that I read (and maybe read isn’t the right word because its mostly photos). Yeah, I get down with Jay Smooth for thinky bits, Warren Ellis for shits and giggles and Afrobella for cosmetics but nothing really piques my curiosity and creativity like the Sartorialist. The blog is diverse, exciting and beautiful. Well, diverse in terms of race and diverse in terms of style and diverse in terms of gender… but what about size? A couple of days ago, in the Fatshionista LiveJournal community, a member indicated that she would like to start a plus sized version of the Sartorialist. Lots of of people jumped in to say “Oh, but there aren’t fat people in the places he shoots.” or “Oh, he’d never think of shooting fat women because he’s from the micro-person fashion world. He gets a pass.”

Then today the man behind the Sartorialist wrote this:

When I am shooting on the street ,older women and larger size women often say “no” to my request to shoot them. Actually, much more than any other category of people I shoot. I think they have a deep but real suspicion about how the image will be used. I also think there continues to be a growing disconnect between the fashion community and “average” women in general. However, do you think that this economic crisis has forced the fashion community to open it’s eyes a little bit to want the customers want?

And I tend to believe him. Sometimes, I see a woman out on the Hill and she’s done up in a black sheath dress, black tights, neon pink shoes, a furry neon pink hat and giant movie star sunglasses and I think “Damn! I wish I had my camera!” and on the occasion that I do? They freak out. And I get why. I know anyone reading this that is fat has had strangers approach them to tell them how they can lose weight (and many, like myself have gotten into arguments that perplexed said strangers when it was revealed that we don’t want to lose weight). And although I hate it, I have gotten into the mindset that if anyone approaches me for anything not immediately identifiable– I am pretty sure it is about judgment on my body. 

I’ve been thinking about it for a bit though. I don’t get approached a bunch these days (I personally think its my hair– the less straight my hair is, the more intimidating I am to the general population) but when I did, the things that made me receptive was the the race of the person approaching, the age of the person approaching and the gender of the person approaching. In that order. If a young white guy approaches me on the street for anything (and they do, usually for money or a light) I usually just walk faster. I’m not sure about people of other races– but my kind of femininity, my sort of body, my kind of hair and my kind of beauty has been villified by white people so why should I expect anything else from them? And for people who’re just fat and don’t face the hits of intersectionality (the race/body/gender/orientation quadruple whammy)– their bodies being fatter, softer, bigger… what have you have been made into a moral issue. You’re bad if you’re fat. Jesus would want you to be skinny. So yeah.

So for him, and anyone else who is actually trying to reach the entire spectrum of women, I suggest getting your story straight with your message bearers. Don’t put a giant cake on the cover of your magazine and then have the headline be LOSE WEIGHT QUICK. Don’t keep pushing the size 4 as the curvy size (when a 16-20 is more of a curvy size, depending on height) and start actually, y’know, interacting with some of us fat hordes. Even if we are skeptical about your motives you know us. We’re your wives and daughters. We’re the makeup artists, struggling actresses and well, everyone else.

Also, there’s been some new discussion in the Fatshionista! Livejournal community regarding the above comment (by the Sartorialist) about assumptions and intent. Interesting things.

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