I’m not teaching an applied ethics this term but if I were this might be a good topic for discussion. I am teaching a course on feminism and fashion next year so maybe I’ll work this question in there.
In a recent blog post on super fit hero tights, which among their other virtues come in sizes XS to 2XL–I raised the issue of whether as a consumer I have an ethical obligation to buy clothing from manufacturers that sell a full range of sizes. I have some choices. I’m big but I fit within the usual size range of most clothing manufacturers. So sometimes I do buy clothes from companies for whom I’m their largest size.
Indeed, that was a criticism blog readers raised about my love of Oiselle bras.
A commentator wrote, “Sam, I’m happy that you found bras at Oiselle that you love. For me, however, I can’t get past the very limited selection they offer: SML. While this is common with so many sports bra manufacturers, Oiselle is the company that put actual athletes on the runway at NY Fasion Week, but then had one of those athletes worry that “she looked like a man.” http://www.runnersworld.com/runners-stories/do-i-look-like-a-man
If it’s okay for women athletes to be less curvaceous than historical standards of beauty or feminity, than it should also be okay for them to more curvaceous. Until Oiselle starts carrying sports bras that fit women with larger breasts, which usually requires underwire with cup sizes, they remain part of the mainstream problem that fails to recognize that women athletes really do come in all shapes and sizes.”
That’s a strong claim that they’re part of the problem, in failing to recognize that runners and other athletes come in all shapes and sizes. But I get it.
Does that mean though that I ought not to buy their clothes? I am ethically obligated to shop for bras from a company that includes the full range of sizes and skin tones. In my padded bra post I note that it can be hard to find brown bras too. Beige isn’t every woman’s skin tone.
A friend who works in television suggested a reality tv show, Bra Hunter. They could help me and help the women looking for brown bras, since ‘flesh’ colored bras are decidedly beige. You can read about the Brown Bra Scavenger Hunt here, Not MY Nude — Why I Started the Brown Bra Scavenger Hunt.
Leah Gilbert makes the argument for body positive ethical consumerism in The Day My Purse Stood Up for Body Positivity
Ethical buying and consumerism. Its a concept that has grown rapidly and something we have probably been doing unconsciously for most of our lives as customers. I’m sure so many people out there already subscribe to an ethos when they purchase their clothing, but I must admit that whilst I do it with my grocery items, I’ve never done it with clothing – until now. Today I have decided that I am going to buy ethically for Body Positivity….
So now I believe it is time my consumer dollar does the talking for me. I understand that celebrating body diversity is relatively unchartered territory for many brands, and that it seems you also get smashed for whatever effort you make to do so, but until then I believe I must withhold my money from your purses. Not out of spite, but because I would rather direct my money toward a brand who WAS celebrating the physical diversity of athleticism that we so desperately keep asking for. Its time we reward the brands who are paving the way to make it easier for you once you decide to jump on the diversity bandwagon. Which means I must run as I need to go and find myself a new pair of swimmers.
What do you think? Am I ethically obligated to buy only from size inclusive brands?
And that’s not just a ‘university professor rhetorical class discussion’ question. I’m actually thinking this one through for myself. What do you think?
I’m also wondering what criteria a brand needs to meet before it calls itself “feminist.” That’s a different but related question. Neon Moon bills itself as “Britain’s finest feminist lingerie” but best as I can tell–while the models have arm pit hair, so there’s that–they only have the usual small, medium, and large in sizes. There’s a blog post in the drafts folder called, “What makes a bra feminist? What makes a bathing suit body positive?” so I’m coming back to that another time.