I am thin, white, and socially attractive – and you should listen to me about body positivity.
I am privileged. On a lot of levels. I’m a white woman, who is thin – yet still has curves “in the right places” (Thanks Meghan Trainor for that BS.), I have a symmetrical face, healthy hair, clear skin – all the makings of someone who is socially attractive – above average. In fact – people have paid me to model their clothing. I’m cis gendered and identify as heterosexual. I am not attempting to brag – none of these things are aspects I personally value highly – I’m just stating facts. I have all of this privilege – and here’s the important statement – I know it.
Recently, I got into a semi heated discussion within a like minded circle about privilege. The opposing view point was that privilege exists because privileged people don’t know they are privileged. And while that might be a true statement – (a lot of privileged people have zero clue) – that is not, in my opinion, why it exists.
I believe that privilege exists because the people who are privileged are not doing anything to change it. (And let me amend that to say – not enough of them are doing something to change it.)
Beyond my physical privilege – I am also privileged by having a supportive family, by growing up in a healthy environment, by being able to get an education, and by possessing certain talents and skills.
I could take all of those things about myself – facts and circumstances alike – and choose to only help myself. I’ve actually been told to do so in the past. I’ve had exes tell me to “use my looks” to get jobs, make money, and get other people to do things for me – instead of simply putting the effort in. I’m often addressed with my appearance as everyone’s first comment, and not much coming after that. And it’s a shame. Not because I am not flattered when people are kind – but because I have a whole hell of a lot more important things to offer.
At the same time – I’ve also had a lot of assumptions made about me – and thrown onto me by people who do not know me past the physical aspects they can see with their eyes. (Id also like to take a moment to note that people with thin privilege also have insecurities – and all insecurities are valid. Feelings are feelings – and they are all equally valid.) And I’ve even been told by another woman that since I’m fashionable I probably haven’t read the same books as she had – you know, who can find the time to read when you’re consumed with thoughts of what shoes to wear with what dress?!
Growing up – I always thought I’d be a math teacher – simply because I’m good at math and like helping others. But then I learned in high school – that you could choose a career in fashion design and choose I did. (I’m also privileged in that I attended a “Title I” school in NY state with “Title I” funding that I was aware of the importance in taking advantage of.) For me – choosing to go to artistic colleges instead of following a purely academic future – was a risk, challenge, and against the grain. But again – I was privileged with a family who supported me no matter what and embraced all of my “weird” qualities.
I could have – and still could now – work my way up a corporate design ladder and end up making a great salary with great benefits designing for large corporations that manufacture in sweat shops, sell to sizes XS-L, copy others’ designs without shame, and contribute to our detrimental culture of fast fashion.
Instead – I chose to use my privilege, my knowledge, and my passion – to help other women.
Before I started my company – I pitched the idea to a lot of different groups. One of which was my now fiancé and his male friends. At the end of my speech – my fiancés friend looked at me and said “this all sounds great – but you’ve got to find someone else to be the face of it.” My response was – “if you think that – you weren’t listening.”
Unfortunately – my response was premature. And I was being idealistic. Because in a world where appearance is king (so much so that I’ve created a company to fight against it), why should I be surprised that others can not look past my appearance when I try to talk to them about it?
In the past almost 2 years that I’ve had my company, I’ve had people assume many incorrect facts about me: that I’m larger, older, multiple people, or even a large corporation. Fortunately – upon actually meeting me – a lot of people are happy and thankful. On the other hand – some people are disappointed, confused, and/or skeptical to find a thin white woman on the other end of the line.
The fact is – we live in a society where someone is being oppressed in almost every situation. And there are those who are the oppressors and those who end up with privilege because they have something in common with them. Another reality – is that because they are not feeling the oppression, a lot of the privileged ones can’t or refuse to see it.
I see it. And I’m trying to fix it. I do not want your “pity” – or even your understanding. I am not asking for anyone to feel badly for me for having a pretty face and fast metabolism. I appreciate and love my body for what it is. But I appreciate and love my dedication and drive more.
What I do want – is your trust. Trust that I’m an ally who is spending all of my energy, passion, motivation, money, and quite frankly – life, to do the right thing and make a difference. Make a change.
I am not here for money. Or fame. I am here for women. Be here for me.
I know, especially deep within the feminist and body positive communities, we are often skeptical of brands or companies that preach “all bodies are good bodies.” It’s a trending topic – so are they simply cashing in?
To that point – look at what the brand is selling – does their product actually promote their message? Are they following through? Are they listening to what customers want? It’s easy for a giant corporation to dip it’s toe into an activist issue in order to push a campaign – they have the money to burn (looking at you Dove and Lane Bryant). But can they back it up?
Consumers – use your voices! Ask for more! Do your homework. Support companies that are truly supporting you. My products are a tool to be used on your self love journey. This has been the message since day 1 – and will never fade away. The day I stop fighting for women’s empowerment and positive self image is the day my company closes it’s doors.
When choosing a career in fashion design in high school, my goal was to one day own a small boutique where I sold my designs. This was before I realized how the beast of the fashion design industry actually works from the inside out. So now over 10 years later, I’m trying to change it – every aspect of it. I always knew I would never design a clothing line then only sell it to a fraction of women. And now that I make clothes for everyone I am always asked what kind of magic I employ to take my designs into plus size. It is not magic, or design tricks, that allow me to design clothing for all women. It’s knowledge and care. All women come with different sets of proportions – no matter what size you fall under on someone’s chart – and deserve to be treated accordingly. And I’m going to keep using my privilege and do just that.