Fatsploitation Is Alive and Well

We looked at how, when a TV show cast an actual size 16 woman as the lead, the earth practically stood still. It might almost be possible to suspect that this was done on purpose to increase the number of viewers by inviting the “hate-watch” audience, which if true, would certainly be one type of fatsploitation. We saw how a popular “reality” show might be fairly accused of fatsploitation.

One method of exploiting people is to use their issues as leverage to sell them things. A troubling aspect of the plus-size clothing business is that so much of it seems to concentrate on the sexy angle, which caters to the “male gaze” of men who prefer large ladies, but does little to benefit the plus-size woman who just wants to look good at the office, in church, or at the PTA meeting.

Questionable motives?

Writer Rachael Hope, who self-describes as a “rad fatty” with an “epic sweet tooth” enthusiastically supports size-inclusive brands, but at the same time makes several accusations at manufacturers, particularly those in the clothing business. One of her pet peeves is their use of such terms as inclusive; extended sizes; and “options for everyone” when their products are, at best, marginally more inclusive. Also, the definitions and standards for “plus” and “extended” are vague, arbitrary, and not consistent among different companies.

It is admirable that clothing makers provide for ladies’ sizes of 14 or even 16. But upon examining a typical catalogue, Hope learned that, in that company’s estimation, “everyone” includes only the people who are smaller than size 20. It seems that some daring companies will provide for size 20 or even 24, if the customer doesn’t mind jumping through some hoops to find their offerings either online or through brick-and-mortar establishments. Even then, she tries to be forgiving, but it is a challenge:

While many major retailers have finally extended their plus-size offerings beyond size 14, the number of items offered in the category is consistently less than the number of those in the standard range.

The upscale Macy’s chain, for instance, offers 1,000 styles of denim for so-called standard-size women, but anyone shopping for plus sizes has only around 350 options. Manufacturers, says the author, over-promise and under-deliver. They capitalize on the hopes and bodies of obese people, and bill them unreasonably for the sin of being overweight. Some brands, she says, “charge a premium for clothing over a certain size rather than spreading the cost equally among all of their items.” She adds,

The fact that we’re even using XL as a label is fraught with meaning — you are extra, you require extra, you require beyond what is “normal” for us to give.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Your Brand is Not Inclusive: Stop Using Fat People’s Hope as a Marketing Tactic,” Mediium.com, 02/19/21
Image by Reba Spike/CC BY 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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