An apparel brand is under fire for shipping diet bars along with the customers’ online orders, reports CNN. While the brand has claimed that the free test product was sent to all customers and not just to plus size customers, there has been an outrage on Twitter. The brand in question, Forever 21 has since apologised. So was it actually wrong of them to pack a snack with their merchandise? If there was no discrimination made on the basis of size, why are regular size people feeling offended too? The problem is weight is that one pin that hits a raw nerve across genders and metabolic rates. With innumerable people fit, healthy or otherwise, struggling with body image issues, we don’t need clothing brands to tell them what to wear.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Forever 21 is under fire for sending samples of diet bars with its customers’ online purchases.
  • A lot of people may find it to be okay, thinking of an Atkins bar as just a healthy snack.
  • But imagine being a plus size person and finding a diet bar in your purchase.
  • What kind of a message does that send across?

So was it actually wrong of Forever 21 to pack a snack with their merchandise? If there was no discrimination made on the basis of size, why are regular size people feeling offended too?

After getting called ‘fatphobic’, Forever 21 released a statement which read, “From time to time, Forever 21 surprises our customers with free test products from third parties in their e-commerce orders. The freebie items in question were included in all online orders, across all sizes and categories, for a limited time and have since been removed. This was an oversight on our part and we sincerely apologize for any offense this may have caused to our customers, as this was not our intention in any way.”

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Now there are many who may opine that there was nothing wrong with the company sending free diet bars with their order to customers, but that only works if you are looking for a low carb snack to binge on, and don’t mind a suggestion dropping into your laps, from a courier bag. I myself belong to that category. Always on the lookout for a snack or two, I wouldn’t have felt offended if an Atkins bar had peeked out of my online order. In fact, the middle-class girl in me would have felt victorious, for scoring a freebie. But what if someone is dealing with weight issues, and is struggling to lose or gain weight and failing at it? A diet bar dropping out from the packet of your plus size jeans could indeed mean an insult to someone. It could be a trigger to those who suffer from self-worth and body image issues.

Those who do not fit in what we call the ‘slim’ category, have to live with tags like ‘fat’, ‘lazy’, ‘ugly’, and even ‘disgusting’. It is not about being healthy; it is about the general repulsion to a fat body, because it mirrors our worst aesthetic fear.

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There’s a difference in sending a sample of shampoo or even chocolate and sending a diet bar, because there is a certain idea attached to it, which itself is riddled with controversy. Weight loss, in our society, is something strongly associated with beauty and attractiveness. Those who do not fit in what we call the ‘slim’ category, have to live with tags like ‘fat’, ‘lazy’, ‘ugly’, and even ‘disgusting’. It is not about being healthy; it is about the general repulsion to a ‘fat’ body, because it mirrors our worst aesthetic fear. Now imagine being at the receiving end of these comments.

Weight loss for a lot of people is just a measure to fit into society and meet its parameter of physical beauty. The shame and anxiety associated with failure to lose weight often pushes people to mental health issues. Diet bars thus can be symbolic of their inability to not just shed extra kilos but be social misfits. To put it simply, imagine that you went to buy a jeans (any size) and the salesman sniggered in your face and said, “You should lose some weight. Here, eat this diet bar.”

Apparel brand have no place telling its customers what weight loss bar they must try out. In times when inclusion and body positivity have become mainstream, brands have to be careful about what they are endorsing, keeping in kind their customer demographics. If I want a try a new cosmetic, I’ll look into a fashion magazine. Similarly, if I want a free diet snack I’ll expect to find it in a weight loss magazine.

Hopefully, brands will now understand that collaborations and endorsements at their end need to be sensitive to what their customers expect (or not) and tread accordingly.

Photo Credit: Catalin Apostol on Unsplash

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.

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