Notoriously fatphobic and supremely douche-y clothing retailer American Apparel is conducting a search for an XL model. While the part of me that has never been able to fit into anything beyond an oversized t-shirt at American Apparel is skeptical that XL will actually mean XL in DovCharneyLand (I wear a size 10 and I doubt I could squeeze into a size large there if my life depended on it), the part of me that wants more sizes represented in mainstream fashion and media is cautiously optimistic.
Get it? Because they want a big model!
The contest itself, which asks readers to vote on their favorite XL models, is rife with questionable language ("booty-ful," for starters) and creepy caps ("the next BIG thing"). In fact, the whole deal has a creepy vibe, complete with a ranking system (women can score between a 1 and 5) and the overall weirdness that is women competing to model for American Apparel, even though they likely know full well that they'll have to pose for problematic photo shoots and possibly end up suing their boss for harassment if they win. So yeah, it's dicey.
There is a silver lining of sorts to this objectification cloud though, and her name is Nancy Upton. Feeling similarly put off by the "BIG LADEEZ PLZ" lingo of the campaign (and American Apparel's general shitty attitude toward fat people), Nancy decided to give AA exactly what they asked for: A "booty-ful" woman who lives up to every fat girl stereotype they are clearly hung up on. Says Nancy:
My name is Nancy Upton. I'm a size 12 and wanted to show American Apparel my fresh face (and full figure). My good friend Shannon Skloss came over to take some "booty-ful" photos of me... But I just couldn't stop eating.
Nancy's tumblr (called extra wiggle room in response to AA's message to women who "need a little extra wiggle room where it counts") is full of photos of her posing in various levels of dress with various levels of dressing (haha, but seriously she has a bunch of photos of her pouring salad dressing on herself). Behold:
The best part? Nancy is winning the contest!
As Jessica Hester said in a recent article for Bitch, "To publicly eat when you're already fat might be one of the most transgressive behaviors available to the modern woman." Now Upton's status as a fat person may be up for debate (she's a woman in the public eye, so of course people are already discussing the shit out of her body) but the transgression of the photos is striking a chord with a lot of folks, hopefully encouraging them to think twice about American Apparel and their attitudes about fat people in general. So that's good.
However, Upton is an able-bodied, white, young, conventionally hot woman who is displaying her body on a table to look like a roast pig. It's complicated! Says Jill at Feministe:
If it was a skinny model on that table, though, I'd be like, "Hey that's kind of fucked up! Go read some Carol J. Adams and look askance at images of the female body as meat! Women are not food to be consumed by men!" Etc. But it's not a skinny model on that table; it's a woman who's a size 12, and whose body type is routinely compared to animals like pigs and cows.
See? Complicated. Because I agree that if this was a thin woman (or if the photos had been taken by an AA photographer and not styled by Upton herself) the message would be something quite different. And while I hope that Nancy Upton is winning the American Apparel Next BIG Thing contest because people support her willingness to take a stand against the company, she may be winning because she is a hot fat chick who poured salad dressing on her breasts in a bathtub. To be viewed and judged by the wearers of American Apparel. Which is maybe not exactly progress?
What do you think?