By Gillian Singer
Author of the wildly popular blog, The Militant Baker and the truly inspiring book, Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls, Jes Baker has a message to pass on to the entire world and a passion that will ignite the wildfire to spread body positivity.
Baker is widely recognized for her campaign “TO: MIKE JEFFRIES, C/O ABERCROMBIE AND FITCH”, in which she called out the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch saying the following:
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he says. “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. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”
Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, refused to sell clothes with labels that said “XL” or “Size 10”. Jes Baker had a problem with that. In response, she posed for a photo shoot focusing on the motto: Attractive & Fat (a spin off of Abercrombie & Fitch). Baker chose to reclaim the adjective, “fat”, as simply just an adjective, eliminating the social connotations surrounding the word. Baker penned the following excerpt from a letter and attached it to her photographs:
I know you’ve been flooded with mail regarding your comments on sizeism, but I wanted to take a second to write you about a project I’ve been working on.
As a preface: Your opinion isn’t shocking; millions share the same sentiment. You’ve used your wealth and public platform to echo what many already say. However, it’s important you know that regardless of the numbers on your tax forms, your comments don’t stop anyone from being who they are; the world is progressing in inclusive ways whether you deem it cool or not. The only thing you’ve done through your comments (about thin being beautiful and only offering XL and XXL in your stores for men) is reinforce the unoriginal concept that fat women are social failures, valueless, and undesirable. Your apology doesn’t change this.
Well, actually, that’s not all you have done. You have also created an incredible opportunity for social change.
Never in our culture do we see sexy photo shoots that pair short, fat, unconventional models with not short, not fat, professional models. To put it in your words: “unpopular kids” with “cool kids”. It’s socially acceptable for same to be paired with same, but never are contrasting bodies positively mixed in the world of advertisement. The juxtaposition of uncommonly paired bodies is visually jarring, and, even though I wish it didn’t, it causes viewers to feel uncomfortable. This is largely attributed to companies like yours that perpetuate the thought that fat women are not beautiful. This is inaccurate, but if someone were to look through your infamous catalog, they wouldn’t believe me.
I’ve enclosed some images for your consideration. Please let me know what you think.
I’m sure you didn’t intend for this to be the outcome, but in many ways you’re kind of brilliant. Not only are you a marketing genius (brand exclusivity really is a profitable move) but you also accidentally created an opportunity to challenge our current social construct. My hope is that the combination of these contrasting bodies will someday be as ubiquitous as the socially accepted ideal.
Ever so sincerely,
P.S. If you would like to offer me a “substantial amount” to stop wearing your brand so my association won’t “cause significant damage to your image”, don’t hesitate to email me. I respect you as a business man, and my agent and I would be happy to contribute in furthering your established success.
P.P.S. You should know your Large t-shirt comfortably fits a size 22. You might want to work on that.”
Jes Baker wouldn’t take Jeffries’ discrimination, and for that, I truly admire her. Baker had the guts to publicly stand up for what she believes in – and what millions of other girls around the world believe in. Thank you, Jes Baker, for standing up for women and girls everywhere.