"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Should Abercrombie & Fitch Be Censored For Not Selling XXL Clothes?

Abercrombie and Fitch has established a policy not to stock anything about ‘Large’ sizes of clothing.  No XL or XXL, no specially designed dresses for the ‘Mature’ woman, nothing for what the French call femmes fortes.  The CEO said: 'A lot of people don't belong, and they can't belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.' Is there a problem with this?

Of course not.  The company is simply asserting its right to sell whatever it wants to any particular corner of the market it wishes.  There are, for example, stores that only stock sizes for ‘Big and Tall” men.  Nothing there of any interest to the slim-hipped, tight abs, and shaped torso crowd.  Although some women might like to secretly slip in to one of those frilly little party dresses in the window at L’il Tots, they are too small.

The outspoken CEO in his defiant statement is very calculated to promote his brand image – clothes for the tailored, mannered, and elegant.  He wants to avoid having XXL women stuffing their fat into his hip little outfits and sending the wrong message to his core clientele.

Looked at another way, Abercrombie & Fitch is playing a small but important role in the War Against Obesity.  The current PC campaign to include fat people into the pantheon of protected species and to eliminate all ‘discrimination’ against them is wrongheaded, for it perpetuates the belief that being overweight is OK. Sociologists have long understood that the real target of  of behavior change are the social norms that perpetuate bad practice. Whereas in the days of Mad Men, smoking was an accepted social norm, it no longer is.  Anyone who lights up now is looked at with opprobrium and disgust.  It is not only that smoking is bad for your health, it shows a lack of discipline, anti-social behavior, and a retrograde self-indulgence.  Anyone who does not pick up after their dog is put in the same category.

As much as Michelle Obama may hector and cajole, as long as XXL remains the new M; and until the social norm changes so that XXL women – and men – become the objects of scorn, ridicule, and censure just like smokers, not much will change. The overweight will continue to fill their gobs with corn chips, devil dogs, ice cream, and pizza with nary a thought to slimming.  As in the case of smoking, health reasons will never be enough to wean people off of an addictive salt, fat, and sugar diet.  It will take a lot more, and social opprobrium is a good place to start.  Now this is what you should look like:

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