Regarding Dr. Lush: Using Fatphobia in Marketing

29 Apr 2017

Edinburgh based plus size style and fat positive blogger AmandaApparel shares her thoughts on the recent fatphobic content on Lush UK’s Instagram page. 

 

As I’m sure LOADS of you are aware, Lush recently posted these images on their Instagram page in a series of images promoting a film event in their London studio.

Naturally, a lot of folks were upset. 

 

 

A lot of (notably not fat) people seem confused about the whole situation. I’ve seen a lot of “Why are people offended? It’s the FACTS” etc. So imma break it down for y’all. 

 

Fat shaming content has NOTHING to do with the brand or what they’re selling (or does it?)

 

Okay, let's just ASSUME that all fat people have heart disease and/or cancer and are going to die prematurely directly because of their fat. Let's ASSUME that these statistics Lush posted are completely accurate and true. ***Even though a quick Google search will display LOADS of evidence that nearly all research about the "obesity crisis" is funded by the diet and weight loss industry. I'd say that's a pretty big conflict of interest, as well as a major ethical issue*** Is it really Lush's place to push these standards on their followers? What do they hope to gain from that, as a brand? 

 

Lush isn’t the first brand to bombard us with nonsense like this. Years ago the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch famously said that their brand doesn’t cater to larger sizes because fat people aren’t the “cool kids” (Marks, 2017). This implies that brands are much more interested in an image (that conveniently excludes fat people) than cashing in on our fat coins. Doesn’t that seem foolish from a strictly capitalist standpoint? 

 

 

BooHoo is a brand that is TERRIBLE about posting anti-fat content, like all the time. Like, what could possibly be worse than a tummy that isn’t completely fat, right?! *rolls eyes all weekend long* 

 

Back in 2015 Benefit had some ‘harmless fun’ and participated in a ridiculously un-funny fat shaming meme. I’ll be honest, it put me off them and I’ve not bought a thing from them since. This may seem dramatic to some, but it’s my personal decision. I’ve also not purchased from Jeffree Star after his plethora of racist comments. I’ve not purchased from Kat Von D after similar racist comments and her unashamedly dating a literal Nazi

 

I want to be 100% clear: this is a personal decision. If you still buy from these brands I’m not here to judge you. What you do with your money is strictly your business. 

 

Faux health concern: when everybody on Instagram becomes Dr. Internet

 

Bethany Rutter (2017) says “Health has become the stick with which to beat fat people” and I couldn't possibly agree more. "But Amanda, why are you denying the FACTS?! WHAT ABOUT YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE?!?!?!?!" This is as tired as referring to fat people as whales, but I'm gonna entertain this thought for a moment. 

 

High cholesterol, blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, and diabetes are ALWAYS brought up to scare and shame fat people in every discussion about heath and fatness. But the thing is, these don’t correlate with fatness. They DO however correlate with yo-yo dieting (Baker, 2015). I know, right?! What a plot twist!!! This is one example of how fatphobia harms thin people. Because these four things are mostly seen as fat people problems, smaller people don't get tested for them and can often go undiagnosed. 

 

I just find this approach really exhausting. Dr. Instagram is constantly there in the comments on fat people's profiles. But do they comment on photos of people smoking cigarettes? Drinking? No? Oh, okay. It's almost as if they simply hate fat people. 

 

Health is not a moral obligation

 

I’ll say it again for those in the back. HEALTH IS NOT A MORAL OBLIGATION. We live in a society that has decided that thinness = good, and fatness = bad. This is taken one step further when we decide that thinness = moral, and fatness = immoral, aka: gluttonous, lazy, useless, etc (Gilbert, 2008). 

 

'A person’s “health” does not equal their value as a human being,

nor should it challenge their right to exercise free will. 

 

I make choices that support my body’s physical needs because I want to…

not because it’s a civic duty or moral obligation of any kind.

 

For that matter, I also get to choose my own definition of “health,”

which may very well include mental, spiritual or other non-physical

forms of well-being.' (Isabel Duke, 2017)

 

In other words, you don’t owe health to anybody. You certainly don’t owe health to some brand trying to sell bath products. All people deserve to be treated with respect. This includes fat people. Yes, even unhealthy fat people. When brands post anti-fat content it reinforces the ridiculous notion that fat people should be shamed simply for existing. 

 

Plus, suggesting that everyone is required to pursue this image of perfect health is incredibly ableist. Being healthy is literally impossible for some people. This type of ableist rhetoric can be wildly alienating for people with disabilities. Would companies shame people with asthma? People who are HIV positive? Who suffer from chronic pain? Of course not, so this isn't really about health.

 

After the backlash, Lush posted this so-called apology:

 

“Hilary, Lush Ethics Director here. I want to say a truly sincere sorry regarding our previous posts, which have caused some of you to reach out raising concerns re body image issues and fat shaming. I am in total agreement and there is no meaningful defence I could tender for the offending post. The only people we have shamed on this occasion are ourselves!

Tonight we are hosting the film 'What The Health' at our London studio, and the social posts we have published to advertise this screening do not do the film justice and do not do the issues of diversity and inclusion justice either - all of which are things we care about and
should know better how to speak of. 


With this in mind, my suggestion is that we host a future event at our London studio to discuss these issues. I am reaching out to all of you that have expressed concern to not just come to this event, but to help create it. Who would you like to see talk about body image issues? Are there any films or content you think we should show? Let's make an evening where we can come together, celebrate, discuss and educate on this really important issue of our time.”

 

Okay, first of all, if Lush were truly sorry don’t you think they would remove the original post? Especially considering the event they were promoting has now (as of 2:00, 28/04/17) already happened? Well, they didn’t. They also don’t seem to be doing anything to monitor the OUTRAGEOUS amount of hate in the comments on their Instagram. I absolutely recommend avoiding the comments. Just know that they are awful and I wish I hadn’t looked at them. 

 

Additionally, what are they thinking tagging loads of (fat) people who criticised the post, then asking them to do Lush’s work for them?! Rather than listening and learning they seem to want us to create an event on our own? That's not good enough. 

My fear is that Lush has followed in Peta’s footsteps and is participating in really horrible vegetarian/vegan stereotypes. In my opinion, these brands seem (at least on the surface) to be concerned with loving the environment, and animals, but heaven forbid we love fat people, right? 

 

References

 

BAKER, J., 2015. Things no one will tell fat girls. p. 67. Berkeley: Seal Press.

 

DUKE, I. F., 2017. But what about “HEALTH?!.” How to not eat cake…really fast standing up when nobody’s watching [online]. [Viewed 28 April 2017]. Available from: http://isabelfoxenduke.com/but-what-about-health-post/. 

 

GILBERT, K.L., 2008. A meta-analysis of social capital and health, University of Pittsburgh.

 

HALL, J. 2016. Five ads that took body-shaming to a whole new level. Dazed [online]. [Viewed 28 April 2017]. Available from: http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/31606/1/the-five-worst-examples-of-body-shaming-ads. 

 

MARKS, H., 2017. Fat shaming or smart marketing? Why Lululemon (and others) don’t sell plus sizes. Bust [online]. [Viewed 28 April 2017]. Available from: http://bust.com/general/10300-fat-shaming-or-smart-marketing-why-lululemon-and-others-dont-sell-plus-sizes.html. 

 

RUTTER, B. 2017. How ‘body positivity’ lost its true and radical meaning. Dazed [online]. [Viewed 28 April 2017]. Available from: http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/35746/1/how-body-positivity-lost-its-true-and-radical-meaning. 

 

Recommended Reading

 

Stories from Lush Employees 

 

The Ugly Truth about Lush

 

Go Back to Selling Bath Bombs

 

Shaming Body Shaming

 

Lush Might Care About the Environment, but They Don't Care About Fat People

 

11 Reasons Your Phony 'Concern' For Fat People's Health Has Got To Stop

 

What Happens If We Let Fat People Be Happy?

 

10 Bath Bombs That Aren't From Lush

 

 

 

 

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hiya! i'm amanda!

 
Plus size style and fat positive blogger. Born in Kansas City. Matured in Edinburgh Scotland. Feminist killjoy, Instagram fanatic, and avid user of the sparkle emoji. Expect outfit posts, fat activism,
and intersectional feminism.
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