Fact or Friction

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As you should know by now, I hate to shop. In particular, I hate to shop at stores that make me uncomfortable. I have only been into our local Lululemon store once but it was enough. I stopped in looking for some comfortable post-partum clothes and, within minutes of walking in, I felt like Vivian the prostitute from Pretty Woman when she went shopping on Rodeo Drive.

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But honestly, since this less than wonderful experience, I hadn’t spared Lululemon another thought… until this week.

Over the past year there has been some issues and complaints about some of the brand’s yoga pants. Material that quickly pilled and became sheer resulted in a massive, money-losing recall. Considering the positions you get yourself into in yoga, sheerness really isn’t a quality you are looking for in a pant, especially ones for which you have shelled out almost $100. But again, even when this was making headlines, I didn’t care.

So, why do I suddenly give a shit about Lululemon yoga pants? This comment by the Vancouver billionaire founder of the company is why…

“…some women’s bodies just actually don’t work for [the pants]… It’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there…”

I’m sorry, but when Chip Wilson said this, it just pissed me off. In this interview, he suggests that the issues with their yoga pant isn’t actually a problem with the quality of their product but is a problem with the bodies of the women wearing them. But the problems with this pant isn’t just with overweight women. Skinny women who have bought the same pants in the past, and worn them successfully for years, are complaining that their recent purchased aren’t meeting the grade.

He has since issued an apology that wasn’t much of an apology.

“I’m sad. I’m really sad. I’m sad for the repercussions of my actions. I’m sad for the people of Lululemon who I care so much about that have really had to face the brunt of my action. I take responsibility for all that has occurred and the impact it has had on you. I’m sorry to have put you through all this.”

So, he apologized to his staff for causing them grief but he did not retract his statement that “some women’s bodies just don’t work” for his pants.

The thing that really gets me about this whole debacle is that most of the backlash is about overweight women not being given equal shopping opportunities in Lululemon. This is true, of course. These stores stock very few items in larger sizes and they are usually kept in the back and have to be requested. This is crappy, but it is not unheard of or even uncommon. During my younger years, I could never shop at stores such as Esprit or Benetton. (I wasn’t overweight, I just had breasts and hips that their clothes didn’t accommodate).

People seem to be overlooking what I see as the real issue, the reason I find Mr. Wilson’s comments so objectionable. Mr. Wilson is saying that this piece of clothing doesn’t work on women whose thighs rub together. So who the hell is his company making pants for if you can’t wear them if your thighs touch? This woman?

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This is supermodel Cara Delevingne. An inspiration for many young women who are being sucked into a dangerous weight-loss trend gaining popularity on the Internet called “#thighgap.”

“Thigh gap” is exactly what it sounds like: a visible space between the thighs when a woman is standing with her feet together. It’s not a new phenomenon but the trend has recently gained steam online. Pictures of supermodels, anorexic women and, as the New York Post noted, even victims of the Holocaust are being posted for “motivational purposes.”

This belief, that a thigh gap is both desirable and obtainable, is bullshit and comments such as Mr. Wilson’s just adds to the misconceptions.

For the majority of women, a thigh gap is a physical impossibility. The same New York Post article cites Dr. Vonda Wright, an orthopedic surgeon,

“The spacing between a person’s legs is based mostly on genetics. And even extraordinarily thin people may not have a body type that can achieve a gap. You have to be both skinny and wide-hipped.”

She continues to explain that, even if you have the right genetics, you must also be devoid of leg muscle. Any healthy amount of muscle will cause a woman’s thighs to touch.

Do my thighs touch? You bet they do! Not only because I’m carrying around a lot of extra weight at the moment, but because that is the nature of my body. Even when I was at my fittest, training for a half-marathon and wearing a size 4, my thighs rubbed together.

Mr, Wilson, I know you aren’t reading this, but I wish you were. I don’t care if you think fat people shouldn’t wear your clothes, and I really don’t care about the reasons your yoga pants aren’t worth the money. I care that you are telling healthy young women that their bodies aren’t good enough. Sir, this is your real offence.

Any thoughts on this? I’d love to hear them.

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16 responses to “Fact or Friction

  1. Excellent, excellent post. Maybe Mr. Wilson should join ranks with Abercrombie & Fitch. What’s really ironic is that none of these self-appointed critics of “beauty,” according to their own “standards,” could wear their own clothes.

  2. Unfortunately, I must be the one to half-heartedly disagree and yet agree on this subject. I’m a yoga and pilates instructor that’s purchased from Lululemon for years, and have never had these issues being presented by the media. Unfortunately, I do witness women that, in my opinion, are buying sizes not designed for their body, I hate to say it, but the fact remains, If I cannot fit into a 3 or 4, I’m not going to squeeze my body into something, then cry fowl when the material won’t support my structure. Are his comments rude and disrespectful, yes, is he wrong, hard to say.
    I know this won’t sit well with a variety of women, but there is some truth to this and not being forwarded from a misogynist viewpoint.

    • Thanks for chiming in, Gretchen. As I said in my post, I have never purchased any Lululemon gear so you may indeed have a better understanding of the issue. I agree wholeheartedly with you that people are responsible for themselves when it come to choosing body-appropriate clothing and, as I said, I don’t think the real issue is whether or not overweight women can or cannot shop at Lululemon. The issue, as I see it, is that he is drawing specific attention to a normal and natural body type (thighs rubbing together) and labelling it as the problem.
      Great comment, glad you stopped by!

  3. I love that you hate to shop and also hate going into stores like this one. I thought I was the only one. I live in a neighbourhood with 9 yoga studios in a one block radius and I’m surrounded by women wearing this stuff. Their thighs don’t rub together. Argh!

  4. Wow. I wonder if he is buddies with the Abercrombie & Fitch CEO who said he didn’t want ugly people shopping in his store (or working there? or something?)? How does someone get so out of touch. My thighs TOTALLY touch and you know what– that’s how I don’t freeze to death in the winter, wapow!

  5. That man is unreal and the only thing of theirs that are actually worth the money are their sports bras. But I have to say the thigh gap thing is not new. When I was 13 or 14 a friend of mine went to modeling camp. She came back regurgitating all the stuff her instructors had told her…one of which was if you thighs touch you are fat. Steph – you know I don’t hold back…and I didn’t on this occasion either. at 13-14, I said that is crazy. Of course you aren’t fat if you thighs touch. I was a skinny, fit teen swimming 40 laps a day and riding my bike everywhere and so was she, but she was convinced she wasn’t. I was disgusted by their comments and she was disgusted by my challenge of her “amazing” instructors. So it’s not surprising to me in the slightest that someone in the fashion industry would say something so stupid…I heard it a long time ago!

    • You are right Jocelyn, it’s definitely not new… What is new is the use of social media to spread the craziness. There are Twitter accounts and Facebook pages devoted to #thighgap. Girls are posting selfies of their legs and are being rated by anonymous critics. So, instead of being told once at modelling camp that they aren’t good enough, these young women are being told several times a day. Thanks for chiming in!

  6. Reblogged this on Clarity, Compassion Contentment and commented:
    here’s too a great commentary by Escaping Elegance – she wrote it so I don’t have too!

  7. I also hate to shop. I wouldn’t want to shop at places like this, even if I could afford $100 yoga pants. And I wish I lived under a rock and didn’t even care, but I have a young adult daughter who has had to come of age in this crazy world and stuff like this makes me sick. It is so much worse now, the pressure on girls/women, than when I was young (1980’s). The whole thigh gap thing is sickening, the idea that it’s not enough to be reasonably attractive- that a woman must look perfect or die trying. The desire for perfection is ridiculous and sad.
    And it’s not like it was so easy when I was growing up, or that I haven’t had my own struggles with self-doubt. I look back at pictures of myself, well into my 30’s, and I am amazed that I didn’t appreciate the way that I looked. But that seems to be part of the female psyche, never thinking we look good enough. So I can imagine how much harder it is for girls now.
    Nice post!

    • I know! Doesn’t it make you sad to see your younger self in pictures and to only realize now how awesome we were?! I was surrounded by very slight and slim friends so I thought I was fat because I had breasts and hips. Sigh…

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