Sunday, 4 May 2014

Body Image

Chip Wilson, founder of the store Lululemon specializing in women and men’s workout clothing, was scrutinized for his statement he made in 2013 declaring that “Frankly some women’s bodies just actually don’t work for [wearing Lululemon pants]… it’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, how much they use it,” suggesting that certain body weights do not look flattering in his clothing. Lululemon immediately started getting backlash from women all over the country stating that they will no longer be wearing his clothes. Reporters started arguing that you cannot serve part of the population and not all of them. The question is why? Easy. The society we live in is constantly surrounded by companies sugar coating certain things to please all consumers. It is not okay to make clothing that does not fit certain people, because everyone has to be satisfied or else someone is doing something wrong. Eventually, Wilson put out a public apology stating that “I’m sad for the repercussions of my actions. I’m sad for the people at Lululemon who I care so much about, that have really had to face the brunt of my actions. I take responsibility for all that has occurred and the impact it has had on you. This apology was not accepted by society so he eventually ended up stepping down from this position.

I’d like to ask a question as a social constructionist, what did Chip Wilson REALLY do wrong? Sure, he offended a lot of people. He made a statement about women’s body weight. In our society, that is wrong. But right there, that’s the issue. “In our society.” We are not allowed to discuss certain things that will offend others, especially as a public businessman. The right path for Chip Wilson would be to start making clothes that fit those specific body types. But even though he offended a lot of people, which society views as ‘bad’, he was being noble and true to the original vision he had for his company. Within his own community, making a product that only fit certain people made sense to him. Making a product that fit bigger women, he argued, would cost him more money, which he did not want to do. People were asking him to change his beliefs, change his mindset, simply because his were not ‘normal.’ But normal to who?

Different communities value different things. When this statement was heard, immediately every assumed, ‘oh, he is so terrible! How could he be so insensitive?’ Because in our society, we know when things are suppose to be considered ‘wrong.’ But if our society did not know that weight should not be discussed, would everyone still consider this statement so offensive? If people could step back and realize there are other truths in this world, other than their own, then these disagreements would not have to stem in the first place and maybe Chip Wilson could still have his company that he started and loves.

Gender Discourse

Every culture is filled with many stereotypes. In America especially, it’s a very common stereotype that men work while women stay at home with the children or take care of the house. People argue that it’s just the way it is. It does not start there. Before a child is even born into this world, these stereotypes are being fulfilled. Friends and family immediately want to know if this baby is going to be a boy or a girl, in order to pick out the right colored clothing or toys. Girl? Pink room. Boy? Blue room. Often times, in the hospital, they even give the new born a pink hat or blue hat. One automatically has to become this gender because of the culture surrounding them. These stereotypes are not engrained into life. It is not an absolute must that these stereotypes and discourse is followed, but time after time, it is being followed because that is all people know. What they don’t realize is, this could not be the case without the discourse surrounding it. Because of the way our society discusses the gender roles of females and males, the actions follow. Women feel pressured from society to be good mothers, while males feel pressured to be good workers, and this all starts from the gender discourse surrounding them as babies. This is just a way of talking! There is nothing wrong with being a stay-at-home dad and there is nothing wrong with a mother working a corporate job. There is nothing wrong with a little girl wearing a blue hat and there is nothing wrong with a little boy in pink. Or a girl playing with a truck or a boy playing with a kitchen set. We find ourselves falling into these stereotypes, surrounded by the constant discourse, that it literally defines the lives we live.

With social constructionism, anyone has the opportunity to be part of a different discourse. Realists cannot see past the lives and beliefs they are already part of. If you believe that all women should stay home and take care of the children, then any other option is already wrong in your mind. But as a constructionist, you can see other truths. Realize that these ‘beliefs’ are simply stereotypes created by discourse in our community. In other places in the world, these stereotypes do not exist at all. It is Americanized for girls to be in pink and boys to be in blue. With a different conversation, there are
so many different opportunities to be had. If a girl was not raised surrounded by kitchen toys and raising babies, maybe she would not feel so pressured to be a stay-at-home mom. This video we attached is defining everything we just argued. These moms in the Halloween store are listing off ‘appropriate’ costumes for a boy to wear; cop; army; fireman; Spiderman. But princess? No, that is a girl’s costume ONLY. These moms go on to say “don’t worry, it’s just a phase!” because if it was not just a phase, well that is suggesting that your son is gay. And then a girl is not ‘pretty’ enough in her boy’s costume. The discourse around gender literally strips little girls of wanting to be strong and boys wanting to be sensitive. That’s what this discourse does? It defines people because of their actions.

This is the case with so many different aspects of our lives today. We live in certain ways because we think that is our only option. We cry when we know we are supposed to, we get angry when there is a ‘necessary’ reason to fight, we wear certain things; the list goes on and on. Create a different conversation, break the stereotypes. If people could start doing this, there would be far more opportunities for change.