Lena Dunham helped design sweatshirts with internet troll quotes on them and the backlash was swift
On Wednesday, the internet caught wind of a sweatshirt being sold by Revolve with the quote “being fat is not beautiful it’s an excuse” splayed on the front. It turns out that that the item of clothing was part of a collaboration between the brand LPA and Lena Dunham which, according to Dunham, was meant to “highlight quotes from prominent women who have experienced internet trolling and abuse.” People were quick to raise some very, very valid concerns about that whole idea.
A quick list of the quotes that were included in the sweatshirt collection: “Too boney to be boned,” Slut feminist nightmare,” and “Horrible result of modern feminist.” The name of person who had received those insults was printed in a smaller font underneath. People across the internet were quick to pick up on the fact that a thin model was shown wearing the $168 “being fat is not beautiful” sweater. So, that’s terrible enough. Then, the store decided to make a bad situation even worse by choosing not to sell the sweatshirt in any sizes past extra-large. Frankly, it’s hard to see why anyone thought this was a good idea, regardless of available sizes.
So, basically, Revolve wasn’t trying reclaim this awful troll-y tweet. They came off like they were supporting it.
Making a statement like this is so problematic, do you really think you will be having a positive impact on young minds who have the potential to see a young woman walking down the street in one of these ( who is a size 12 or under as that’s what these go up too ) madness. pic.twitter.com/sH8DqFxVoP
— Felicity (@FelicityHayward) September 12, 2018
— Tess Holliday 🥀 (@Tess_Holliday) September 12, 2018
So…. @REVOLVE thinks its okay to market this sweatshirt — which only comes up to an XL, by the way — by putting it on a thin model? Considering Revolve doesn't even have diverse influencers this is….A Choice. https://t.co/40R1iWTHkp pic.twitter.com/JhdonQbF3Y
— Tyler McCall (@eiffeltyler) September 12, 2018
Just think of how many people at @REVOLVE had to approve this concept before it got printed on a shirt, produced, and put online. There are SO MANY things you can do to “raise awareness for cyberbullying” that are not this…? like multiple people actually signed off on this wtf pic.twitter.com/vJgvfSWklW
— Makeda Drennan (@makedajaye) September 12, 2018
— Chrisspy (@Chrisspymakeup) September 13, 2018
Dunham pulled her support from the line, explaining that she doesn’t condone the way that the retailer marketed the sweatshirt. “Without consulting me or any of the women involved, @revolve presented the sweatshirts on thin white women, never thinking about the fact that difference and individuality is what gets you punished on the Internet, or that lack of diversity in representation is a huge part of the problem,” she wrote on Instagram.
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For months I’ve been working on a collaboration with my friend Pia’s company LPA through parent company @revolve – sweatshirts that highlight quotes from prominent women who have experienced internet trolling & abuse. This is a cause very close to my heart and the proceeds were meant to benefit charities that help young women by empowering them to express themselves through writing and art. Without consulting me or any of the women involved, @revolve presented the sweatshirts on thin white women, never thinking about the fact that difference and individuality is what gets you punished on the Internet, or that lack of diversity in representation is a huge part of the problem (in fact, the problem itself.) As a result, I cannot support this collaboration or lend my name to it in any way. This isn’t meant to shame Pia or the great work she’s done with LPA. I am deeply disappointed in @revolve’s handling of a sensitive topic and a collaboration rooted in reclaiming the words of internet trolls to celebrate the beauty in diversity and bodies and experiences that aren’t the industry norm. *** I’d like to especially extend my love and support to @palomija, whose quote was the first to be promoted and mangled. She’s a hero of mine. Like me, she gave her quote in good faith and shared her vulnerability in order to support arts education and to spread her message of empowerment, and she wasn’t consulted in the marketing. Not an ounce of negativity should be sent her way. *** My only goal on this planet is to empower women through art and dialogue. I’m grateful to every woman who shared a quote and so disappointed that our words were not honored. As a result, I will be making a donation to the charity of every woman’s choice who was wronged with me and I hope that @revolve will join me with a contribution of their own. *** P.S. This Rubens painting makes me happy because it’s about women joining in love, but he didn’t recognize diversity at all- he just loved curvy butts. Problematic fave.
Revolve has since issued an apology for the way they handled this whole mess. “We are SO SORRY for hurting and offending you,” the brand wrote in a statement. “The intention was not to promote or endorse these hateful words, but instead to empower all women by making them understand that even the world’s most beautiful and successful women have been subject to hateful message from internet bullies.”
Of course, the larger conversation here is if we should even have these kind of sweatshirt quotes in the first place. I’m not completely convinced that wearing the hurtful, offensive words of internet trolls is at all empowering for women. Especially without any sort of context. Aren’t there better, healthier ways to raise women up than suggesting that they wear those ugly, hurtful quotes on their bodies?
But, if brands actually want to do their part in empowering plus-sized women, then they better actually include those women in their campaigns.
“I hope this is a lesson for brands that if you are going to launch merch intended to break down stereotypes in regards to ‘fat’ bodies, you need to use a VISIBLY plus size model & have size inclusive sizes,” model Tess Holliday tweeted. “You can[‘t] stop at XL (which is prob a junior plus), you have to do better.”