I was engrosses in an exhibit today at the Children’s Museum about discrimination. It featured the stories three children who were victims of discrimination. Ann Frank was the victim of religious discrimination as a Jew in Nazi Germany. Ruby Bridges suffered racial discrimination as the first black child to attend an all-white school in the South. Ryan White was shunned because he had AIDS.
This evening I pondered size discrimination in light of the media frenzy around Abercrombie & Fritch CEO Mike Jeffries.
Abercrombie & Fritch CEO Mike Jeffries doesn’t want size XL and above women wearing their clothes. Abercrombie & Fitch does sell XL and XXL men’s sizes. But that’s only to cater to the athletic and toned beefcakes that fit the brand’s intended image.
Thin and beautiful is their target market and Jeffries is unabashedly rude in voicing those very facts. The latest claims of size discrimination come from Robin Lewis, a retail industry analyst, who said Jeffries doesn't want larger people shopping in his store, he wants thin and beautiful people.
In an interview with Salon.com, Jeffries admitted that his business is built around sex appeal. “It’s almost everything. That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.”
Jeffries went on to say “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don't belong [in our clothes], and they can't belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”
Intrigued by his comments, I had to see what this Mike Jeffries looked like. Well, at a haggard 68-years old, he is far from fitting the demographic to which the company markets. Reddit pointed out to the world that hypocrite Mike Jeffries may be too ugly to wear his own clothes by digging up the most unflattering photos of him.
With about two-thirds of America's clothes-buying population now falling into the plus-size category, generally deemed to be US size 14 and above, Abercrombie's policy of excluding overweight women may turn out to be bad for business. There are no women's trousers larger than a size 10 on offer at A&F, whose size chart runs from Extra Small to Large. While it’s leading competitors H&M and American Eagle offer up to sizes 16 and 18 respectively.
Still I ponder, what if Jeffries had said he did not want Jews shopping in his store? Or black people? Or people with AIDS? There would be protests, lawsuits, and other actions taken by the various coalitions and agencies that defend people in a protected class against discrimination. Characteristics such as religion, color, and disability among others are considered protected classes and people cannot be discriminated against based on these characteristics.
But to treat fat people prejudicially remains acceptable.
Isn’t it time to add obesity to the list of protected classes?
And to Mr. Jeffries, take a good look in the mirror.
Living life well-fed,
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Published On: May 11, 2013