Two nights ago I was perusing Facebook and came across the photo of the woman above, Rachel Taylor. Taylor, a 25-year-old Louisiana resident, was being recognized on Old Navy’s Facebook page for allegedly taking a stance against fat-shaming. I say allegedly because, in my book, the situation the woman described hardly constitutes as such. In a post on Facebook July 3, Taylor wrote:
Today I was shopping in Old Navy, standing in between a teenage girl and her mom. The girl picked up a plus-size tank top, showed it to her mom and said, “Look! Me and So-and-so can fit in this tank top!” Her mom laughed and said, “Yeah, you could! That thing is huge!”
I couldn’t help it; I started crying. I guess the girl and her mom walked away. I have no idea. My husband walked me out of the store to the car. I sat in the car crying for a long time but eventually went back inside to finish my shopping. I ended up buying that tank top because, it turns out, I look fierce in it.”
And then Old Navy decided she was a shero and sent her a gift card for buying said “huge” tank top.
Insert eye roll.
I’ve spent my entire life overweight and I can tell you overhearing someone refer to a plus-size shirt as “huge” — with no direct reference to me — is far from the worst thing that can and has happened to me. In fact, when I first read Taylor’s post I immediately thought about that time in 2009 when I was going down on the escalator in Macy’s and these white teen boys going up on the other side yelled “Hey Precious!” at me. You know what I did? I took my big butt down to the shoe department I was already en route to and kept shopping. Macy’s, what up? Can I get a gift card?
See, I know fat-shaming is real. I’ve dealt with it semi-regularly. But you know what’s not real, being overly sensitive and insecure and being heralded for it. I’ve tried, for two days now, to figure out what about Taylor’s behavior constitutes heroism. She was eavesdropping on a conversation that wasn’t about her. She felt personally attacked because, somehow the teen and her mother were supposed to know she was thinking about buying the tank they were discussing. And then she went and cried in the car. Does no one see the self-esteem issue plastered all over this? Furthermore, does no one recognize the coverage attributed to this by CNN, People, Buzzfeed, and other major news outlets as a classic case of white tears?
See, my second thought on this situation after I read Taylor’s post was, white women sure know how to play the victim. And I’m not one to routinely pull the race card because, like pulling the fat-shaming card too often, I think when you don’t pick and choose your battles in these arenas it becomes that much harder for people to take real instances seriously. I get how overhearing the tank top commentary could make Taylor feel some type of way, but that’s only because she clearly feels some type of way about herself. We’ve all been there. Someone makes an innocent or maybe even mildly insensitive comment about something you’re personally sensitive about and you get in your feelings. Most of us trip for a minute and then have an “I’m in my feelings” moment of realization and we move on. Taylor and Old Navy went on some overly zealous fat-shaming crusade that entails for Taylor “a $500 gift card, lookbook, and personalized styling experience at her local store” and I just can’t get behind it. Particularly, as I browsed Taylor’s page and saw posts about plus-size girls wearing crop tops and a shared article from a friend about how she wrote about marriage and all anyone noticed was she’s fat. I just can’t help but notice that Taylor’s life seems to revolve around fat discrimination. And although the shaming of overweight bodies is very real, when you focus on that day and night, you have a tendency to see shame when there is none and I believe that’s the case when it comes to the Old Navy commentary. As an aside, it’s also quite interesting that both parties have removed their posts on the situation from Facebook. If Taylor’s actions were so bold and deserving why backtrack on the recognition simply because everyone doesn’t agree? I thought that’s what they were taking a stand against from the get-go.
In summarizing her horrible day of shopping, Taylor ended her Facebook post with “Be kind. Think about others before you speak. And if someone hurts you, you have to move on.” I hope she takes that last sentence to heart.