Somehow I missed the Lululemon controversy which erupted earlier this month. But here’s the skinny: The company’s founder, Chip Wilson, was discussing his product in an interview. Specifically he was addressing complaints that Lululemon’s yoga pants were subject to pilling. But instead of discussing the product he blamed the body types of his female customers. In an interview on Bloomberg TV he said:
“Quite frankly, some women’s bodies just actually don’t work for it. They don’t work for some women’s bodies. … It’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time and how much they use it.”
I’m not a savvy business woman nor do I have an MBA, but I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that insulting your customers is not a great way to do business.
His comments have women across the globe all sorts of fired up. It’s not just insulting but it feeds into the notion that women can be reduced to body parts, in this case the space (or lack thereof) between a woman’s thighs. And it perpetuates the notion that there is but one acceptable type of beauty, one body type to which all women should aspire and that if you somehow fall short of that notion of beauty and body type you are woefully inadequate as a woman and a human being so kindly remove yourself from society at large.
Confession: I have struggled with my body image. Since I am a woman born in the United States this doesn’t really qualify as a shocking revelation. It was cultivated through media messages while I was growing up, reinforced unknowingly with female friends as we all sat around and talked about how much we hated our bodies and cemented by a few guys whom I never should have dated in the first place
They say that as you know better, you do better. And one of the blessings of waking up my inner athlete and falling in love with triathlon was the ability to see my body for the strength it has, not for the aesthetics is lacks. The more I lean into what I love, the less I define myself by numbers (see, specifically, the scale and my 5K time) and the more I embrace the awesomeness of being who I am in the moment I’m in. This awesomeness of being often comes with a side of sass that says, “screw you” to guys like Chip Wilson who think I should have a certain body type in order to wear the clothing from his story.
Confession No. 2: I don’t always stay in the strong, awesome place. I still catch myself criticizing my body. My unworthiness gremlins are still fed by comments from people like Chip Wilson and every so often the gremlins who like to tell me that I’m fat and ugly shout out through their dying last gasps.
But here’s the thing — if I want the world to change how it sees women, I have to change how I see myself. This is not to discount the need to change to institutional structures, but personal actions can have a collective impact. Why am I giving my power away to people who, for lack of a better term, are neanderthal assholes? What if my female friends and I stopped the fat talk amongst ourselves? What if I stopped the internal fat-talk dialogue and countered it with reminders of times when I was awesome?
No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.
Maybe I finally ran out of permission slips.