Sunday, May 12, 2013

I'm Tired of Hating Myself, Mr. Jeffries

If you're anything like me - that is to say, an unemployed 20-something who spends a great deal of time dilly-dallying around social media and pop-culture news sites - you're sure to have seen the interview with Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries where he openly states that he doesn't want fat people wearing his brand.

In case you have more important things to do than derp around the internet, here's a brief summary: Abercrombie & Fitch doesn't sell women's XL or XXL clothing because Jeffries wants "good-looking people" to be the face and bodies of his clothing. He speaks about exclusion and how there are kids who are cool and those who aren't, and only the popular, pretty crowd are idyllic enough to proudly wear A&F garments.

There have been countless outraged reactions to Jeffries' interview: women and men refusing to support a brand with a "creepy, predatory, bug-infested, bigoted, racist" CEO; major news sites offering scant analysis with appallingly lame titles; and a "Former Fat Girl" (who is keen for us to know that she is no longer fat) repeatedly demanding that Jeffries be ashamed of himself, just to name a few.

These and the many other editorial and opinion pieces written in response to Mr. Jeffries are all well and good. They correctly point out the problem of fat-shaming and the growing number of young girls and boys who have self-esteem and body issues, and they call for reform of the way clothing companies - and their leaders - perpetuate the cycle of shame and self-abuse by ensuring that "outsiders" continue to feel like there's something wrong with them, and they don't belong.

But, quite frankly, I think a lot of this noise in reaction to Jeffries is doing more harm than good.

A day or two ago, my roommate had plans to go downtown in the evening, and she and I were rifling through both of our closets, trying to piece together an appropriate outfit. We started talking about how we hate a lot of our clothes, because when, as a plus-sized shopper, you basically have to take what you can get to cover up your skin. This turned into a goodnatured "hate-on" for our bodies, listing everything that was too big or out-of-proportion or didn't allow us to wear a certain style or cut of clothing. It wasn't just hate for our clothing options; it was hate for ourselves.

And it occurred to me, as we were talking, how insanely arbitrary the clothing market is. Why do we let an arbitrary system of numbers stitched into the back of a shirt or pair of trousers dictate how we feel about ourselves? Why does the difference between a 12 and a 16 mean that I have moved from a "regular" sized woman into a plus sized? And why does that even matter? Why do I let two digits determine my self-worth?

As I read Jeffries' words and the people who raged against him, all I felt was exhaustion. It is so tiring to be constantly reminded about what's "wrong" with you and why these reminders are making your self esteem slowly seep into the ground. It's exhausting to hear people say "it's ok to be fat, we're all different" instead of just saying "it's ok to be."

It's exhausting hating yourself.

What bothers me most about the reactions to Jeffries is that they all make it seem like he's the most powerful man in the world, and that he - and he alone - is the reason young people hate themselves for not fitting in. I find it troubling and annoying and sad, because the main reason teens and young people are uncomfortable in their own skin is because they see that we, the general mass of adults, hate ourselves, too.

We hate ourselves because we don't fit into the clothing we want, or because we can't find a job that we like, or because we don't have enough or the right education, or because we can't find true love, or because our friends are cruel or stupid sometimes, or because we can't stop eating chips before bed, or because we don't make enough money, or because our Facebook friends have better lives than us. We hate ourselves for completely arbitrary reasons.

I don't know when, as a society, we decided we were supposed to loathe ourselves. It's amazing that the United States, a country obsessed the opposing ideals of extreme Christianity and narcissism, has somehow lost track of the fundamental Biblical command: "Love each other as I have loved you" (John 15:12). Surely, if we were loved into creation, and are told to love others in the same way, there is no room at all for despising the self.

But yet we're supposed to be self-deprecating and apologetic about ourselves. We're not supposed to be self-aware or honest about our strengths because it's not the norm. How dare we not think we are terrible, underdeveloped humans! Do not know yourself and what you can accomplish; feel consistently unworthy of love and praise.

I've decided I'm done. I am through with hating myself because of my pant-size or one wonky tooth or my weird giggle. Because I am loved - not because of a pretty dress or a red lipstick or curl in my hair. I am loved because I was created to be loved. And I refuse to stand in the way of others anymore. I refuse to hate myself so that others can maybe see that they don't have to hate themselves, either.

So thanks for sharing your thoughts, Mr. Jeffries; I'm going to have another cookie and forget everything you've ever said. I hope others will too.

Jillz
___________________
Current book: Eating the Dinosaur - Chuck Klosterman
Current TV series: Lost - season 5
Current nail colour: OPI's "Red Lights Ahead...Where?"

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is so wonderfully written! I caught myself in the same self-loathing place not too long ago, and I have made the same choice as you. We should all stop focusing on our flaws and start enjoying life!

I love reading your blog :)

Heather

Dayna Spanos said...

Preach it sista!

Anonymous said...

Western society is very interesting. Individuals are completely blameless for their personal choices and consequences. Someone else must always be blamed. Do not be deceived, God can not be mocked, whatsoever a man or woman soweth that they shall reap. So as you take more of the sugary cookies, accept the consequences as your own choices. For that is what you have made a choice to sow.

On the other hand, I totally agree with you in the love part! If Mr Fitch said evil of bigger people he is completely weighed and found wanting, even by God's law. If however, he spoke of a personal preference, then it is simply his choice and nothing personal!

Let us be carefully while pointing at logs in the eye of others including Mr Fitch we neglect our own of careless personal eating habits.

Love, all must be loved but let the truth be told on both ends of a matter.

PS: Regarding America and Christianity, that nation became apostate ages ago.

Anonymous said...

I read about that. It's crazy. If Mr. Jefferies wants only "pretty" people wearing his clothing, then obviously he's not wearing them himself. Have you seen his picture?.... enough said. But you are right Jillian, we need to love ourselves first and foremost and that does NOT depend on a number. Thanks for the reminder! Hugs!

Aunt Glenda

P.S. Great blog!

Anonymous said...

But how healthy is it being plus size and eating chips before bed? I know I'm stepping away from your point, but if you are XL or XXL you have more to be concerned with than your body image. You have a rising amount of health concerns as you age.

Jill S. said...

I'm not addressing eating habits in this post because it's not the point. The point is our culture demands that we hate ourselves for arbitrary reasons, so we attach our self worth to a number or a size which can say nothing about our value as a human.

I do think healthy lifestyles are important, and I think we have to be aware of health concerns, but wearing an XL shirt by no means reveals how healthy you are. Some women wear XL because they are tall, or they are muscular, or because they have larger breasts, or because they prefer to wear a looser shirt. Which is my point: clothing sizes are arbitrary in relation to your health, or for that matter, your beauty.

Also, your shape and size often don't have anything to do with your level of cardiovascular health. There are slim, wiry people who cannot run to save their lives, and there are large women who can bench press 300 pounds. Again: your size is arbitrary to your health.

Anonymous said...

Besides the small group of people how have to buy larger clothes for height or boob related problems, there is a huge correlation between dress size and health issues. Many (MANY) papers have been done on the issue, mostly due to the rising heart related issues in the western world.

And yes, there are those lucky naturally skinny people who can't run a meter, but I'm not hating on them because they have good genetics.

But people are beautiful no matter their size as long as their healthy. So if you can admit to yourself, that you are infact healthy, with great clean eating habbits, good cardio vascular health... Then great! If not, throw away those chips, pick up some carrot sticks and go for a long walk!

Gail said...

Great blog as usual. Enjoy your birthday cake. :)

Moulie.

K @ Ototheno said...

i really appreciated this post. very well-written and compelling.. and i agree that it is exhausting constantly despising oneself and apologizing for who/ how we are. the disease of it really knows no limits- i know people all along the gamut of pant sizes and it's a common sad theme: feeling inadequate.

thanks for taking the time to write out such a good response.