A few days ago, online retail giant Revolve released a piece of clothing with a message that many people (and the internet as a whole) is considering highly offensive. The gray sweatshirt in question (priced at $212, and modeled by a straight-sized white woman) had the words "Being fat is not beautiful, it's an excuse," emblazoned on it. (Insert eye-roll here.)
People on social media were quick to call Revolve out for fat-shaming and being extremely insensitive to women of all sizes. Body-positive activist Tess Holiday was one of the many influential women to give the brand a piece of her mind. "LOLLLLL @REVOLVE y'all are a mess," she wrote on Twitter alongside a screenshot of the sweatshirt. (Related: Fat-Shaming Could Be Destroying Your Body)
— Tess Holliday (@Tess_Holliday) September 12, 2018
Katie Willcox, on the other hand, took to her Instagram stories and said: "This is not acceptable and I won't support companies who believe it is."
Photo: Instagram/Katie Willcox
While body-shaming is still an issue in our society, it's safe to say that we've made some progress when it comes to accepting women with different body types. That's why it seems a little (actually, a lot) shocking that someone from Revolve would ever approve a clothing item like this.
— me, a fat (@SimoneMariposa) September 12, 2018
Turns out, there is an explanation—albeit a questionable one. The sweatshirt was actually intended to be part of a clothing line meant to draw attention to the realities of cyberbullying. In fact, designer Pia Arrobio partnered with celebrities like Lena Dunham, Emily Ratajkowski, Cara Delevingne, Suki Waterhouse, and Paloma Elsesser, to create a series of slogan sweatshirts that featured hateful or negative comments each woman had received online. (ICYDK, Body-Shaming Is an International Problem)
But when one of the sweatshirts was put on Revolve's website, it didn't have any context of the surrounding campaign—so, naturally, a lot of people took offense to it.
Dunham has since taken to social media to share her frustration with the brand, explaining that she never approved for the sweatshirt to be put up on the website without debuting the overall campaign. "I cannot support this collaboration or lend my name to it in any way," she wrote on Instagram. "I am deeply disappointed in @revolve's handling of a sensitive topic and a collaboration rooted in reclaiming the words of internet trolls to celebrate the beauty in diversity and bodies and experiences that aren't the industry norm."
For months I’ve been working on a collaboration with LPA through parent company @revolve - sweatshirts that highlight quotes from prominent women who have experienced internet trolling & abuse. This is a cause very close to my heart and the proceeds were meant to benefit charities that help young women by empowering them to express themselves through writing and art. Without consulting me or any of the women involved, @revolve presented the sweatshirts on thin white women, never thinking about the fact that difference and individuality is what gets you punished on the Internet, or that lack of diversity in representation is a huge part of the problem (in fact, the problem itself.) As a result, I cannot support this collaboration or lend my name to it in any way. I am deeply disappointed in @revolve’s handling of a sensitive topic and a collaboration rooted in reclaiming the words of internet trolls to celebrate the beauty in diversity and bodies and experiences that aren’t the industry norm. *** I’d like to especially extend my love and support to @palomija, whose quote was the first to be promoted and mangled. She’s a hero of mine. Like me, she gave her quote in good faith and shared her vulnerability in order to support arts education and to spread her message of empowerment, and she wasn’t consulted in the marketing. Not an ounce of negativity should be sent her way. *** My only goal on this planet is to empower women through art and dialogue. I’m grateful to every woman who shared a quote and so disappointed that our words were not honored. As a result, I will be making a donation to the charity of every woman’s choice who was wronged with me and I hope that @revolve will join me with a contribution of their own. *** P.S. This Rubens painting makes me happy because it’s about women joining in love, but he didn’t recognize diversity at all- he just loved curvy butts. Problematic fave.
Revolve has also addressed the backlash and released the following statement to E! News yesterday: "The prematurely released images featured on Revolve.com was not only included without context of the overall campaign but regrettably featured one of the pieces on a model whose size was not reflective of the piece's commentary on body positivity. We at Revolve sincerely apologize to all those involved–particularly Lena, Emily, Cara, Suki, and Paloma–our loyal customers, and the community as a whole for this error." (Related: The First Plus-Size Supermodel Talks About the Evolution of the Body-Positive Movement)
What's truly ironic—and something social media users were happy to point out—is that Revolve only offers clothing up to a size 10. So women who may have felt empowered by this campaign likely wouldn't have been able to purchase a sweatshirt in their size anyway.
so the brand that doesn’t cater to women above a size 10 @REVOLVE made these sweatshirts to combat “internet trolling” but decided to put the sweatshirt about fat shaming on a skinny model. pic.twitter.com/4WaeVHDjn2
— tiffromthe6 (@tiffromthe6) September 12, 2018
In an effort to make up for their lack of better judgment, Revolve has promised to donate $20,000 to Girls Write Now, an organization that provides mentoring to underserved young women and helps them find their voices through the written word.
Misunderstandings aside, there's something very problematic about Revolve's decision to model the sweatshirt on a straight-sized model, not to mention their limited size range. It just goes to show that we have a long way to go when it comes to practicing true acceptance and inclusivity in the fashion world—and not just doing it for show.