February 09, 2014

On everyday sexism on the internet PT 1

I try not to get too involved in online commentary. I can't handle the infinite level of ignorance people choose to freely put on display. My hands shake and my neck tenses as I get more and more involved and evenly frustrated, so I try to stay away.
It's a very soothing experience to deprive oneself from social media, but I found that once back online, the lack of manners and sensibility knocks you out cold. And then...you can't NOT throw your thoughts in the mix. You have to reiterate people's statements and dissect what was clumsily worded, ignorant, lacking a factual basis, hypocritical. We have so little say in our actual lives, being heard online and triumphing in a discussion, may its topic be as mundane as denim shorts, feels like a big achievement.

I got into two online kerfuffles in the last month (and mind you, that's more than the entire last year), both evolve strongly around what I am most passionate about, namely feminism and gender equality.

The first one I will talk about today. It started on a harmless ten minute break at work. I browsed my facebook feed, spotted a bikini I liked and, being on no-spend-January and all, opened the link to strictly have a look only at price and sizing. 

It was a $ 119 two piece by a young fashion label, that had been hyped by a couple of instagram famous models/entrepreneurs over the last year or so. I know this because I used to follow one of these girls on said social media platform, but stopped doing so when I did my social media detox at the beginning of this year.

In the process of trying to justify spending a whole weeks worth of my disposable income on a bikini, my eyes wandered down to the sizing chart. That's where they remained for a good thirty seconds, trying to make sense of what was optically processed.
Please note that the tops and bottoms cannot be purchased separately. 

At first I felt this horrible yet all too familiar feeling of inadequacy. According to the size chart I could barely fit my size 12 butt into the L bottoms, while needing the medium or even small top (I am a small C cup). 
My body is obviously not the RIGHT size or shape. 
I either need to lose weight or save up for a boob job.
As always, feelings of inadequacy go hand in hand with self-hatred....
"They don't want me to fit their swim suit, because I could buy it, then upload a photo of me wearing it and tag them on instagram, and I am clearly not their target group, they wouldn't want someone of my size associating with them. I'm not right. There's something wrong with me, the way I look, the way I am."

But hold on a second, I am not fifteen anymore. I actually feel quite good in my skin.
So seriously, it's not me who is in the wrong. It's them.

What they're doing is clear discrimination against body diversity. By determining that, for example, a size 6-8 bottom has to be accompanied by an A - B cup, they are discriminating against petite women with boobs bigger or smaller than that. They are discriminating against women like me, who wear a size 12 along with a C cup. They discriminate against any and all women who are larger than a size 10 - 12. They discriminate against any and all body types that don't fit these top/bottom combinations.

So what's the big deal here, you wonder? After all, most clothing lines don't offer sizes 12 or above, so why loose my lolly over this particular one? Why pick on one label, when they're all part of the complex issue that is the fashion industry and its sick mind fuck of a marketing machinery.

My problem with this particular sizing chart is that, no matter what size we look at here, it promotes one body type only: The large boobs on skinny frame type. The type we see on Victoria Secrets runways, in swim wear ads, most recently in gym attire ads, heck even cartoons. The only type that is glorified by our patriarchal society as the perfect female shape, while all other body types are ignored, mocked, shamed, considered failures or called "works in progress". And while the "skinny on big boobs" body type is JUST as gorgeous as all others, it is also uncommon (after all, hormones and freaky genes aside, boobs are generally made of FAT tissue, guyssss). It's expectations like these that make even the most sensible of all women feel inadequate. We as females end up censoring our lives because of not fitting that body bill. We catch ourselves buying clothes we love, but never have the confidence to wear. We feel like failures whenever the colourful women's magazine covers at our local news stand suggest we should finally get that damn bikini body THIS year. Every single one of the thousands of instances, in which we get bombarded with that image of the perfect female shape daily, turn into small self esteem wars.

At the end of the day, it doesn't make ANY sense to make a shape so uncommon, the standard for ALL women. In fact, it's a complete ludicrous expectation. It's like expecting everyone to be born with blond hair, and then shaming the crap out of tiny black* haired humans. It's boring, it's self-destruct and unhealthy, it's using up our energy; an energy we should really devote to bigger issues like equal pay or the fight against rape culture. Do you get me?

I posted the above picture on my private facebook and instagram pages. Needless to say it sparked a few discussions and "BS" was called on the sizing chart by more than a few female friends. I had comments such as "no one I know would fit these" and similarly angry statements flooding my feed. The most interesting response, however, came from the label itself. Of course I had to hash tag them on my instagram post. I wanted a response, even if it was a dissatisfying and cheap one.
So here there were, claiming that due to the size of their label they have to cut down on size diversity, catering to the general female public as best as possible by choosing the sizes above. (You can read the full response by following me on instagram). They didn't respond to my question about why they wouldn't offer tops and bottoms separately, seeing as they only take pre-orders anyway and it would probably increase their amount of orders, as well as my question about corporate responsibility...
 But hey, they're already catering to the general female public.

BTW: The average Australian female wears size 14 bottoms along with a C cup.

*you can, of course, insert any hair colour other than blond in here. Not discriminating against hair colour diversity on this blog!