I really want to go to a gala dinner evening at the foot of the dinosaur in the main hall of the National History Museum. Doesn’t everyone? Well, a colleague of mine lived that dream. He recently attended the European Diversity Awards along with a charity that he and our organisation have worked with. It sounds like a stunning event with an array of famous names — not to mention the charity itself did rather well.
After hearing all about it in the office, I had a bit of a look at the website. It was all rather interesting to see who’d won and who’d been nominated, but something nearly made me spit out my fat-free yoghurt:
Okay, corporations sponsor diversity awards. It’s wonderful marketing and sends their Corporate Social Responsibility manager home with a smile on her or his face. I work for an organisation that is all about the intersection between business and charity, so I’m all for it.
But to see the words Abercrombie & Fitch so close to a charity that is all about raising awareness and understanding of eating disorders is an insult to anyone who has actually suffered from negative body image.
Do you know why Men Get Eating Disorders Too? It’s because some ignorant pricks in public positions — like, for example, Abercrombie CEO Mike Jeffries — promote the idea that overweight people can’t possibly be the cool kids that are their only target market and use that as a reason for not even offering clothes in their sizes. (As we all know, fat people have no friends.) Because a guy with a negative body image goes into one of their stores and sees it staffed exclusively by the most conventionally hot people possible — and not just the ludicrously placed beefcake on the door, but the store attendants who are recruited through a policy of approaching attractive people and asking for qualifications and skills later. Because those staff who they do hire who do have some characteristic that puts them outside the ‘conventionally attractive’ group are forced to work in the backroom, away from the eyes of all those cool kids who are presumably so honed that they can actually see through the gloom in Hollister or Gilly Hicks.
Perhaps I’m just overreacting; as I’ve written about before, this is a sensitive topic for me. Abercrombie and its subsidiaries are not the be all and end all of self-esteem destroying fashion market in this world, but they are an exemplar of it thanks to a series of gaffes — perhaps one of the reasons for sponsoring awards such as these as a desperate backpedalling manoeuvre. Men and women, girls and boys all suffer from eating disorders in large part because of a standard of beauty which is first unchallenged, then supported, then thrust in their faces.
Anyway, doesn’t matter. Barclays won it. The rest of you can just be thankful I didn’t start talking about the bags.