Right now I’m sitting in a small seat in an over-heated and cramped bus. It’s unpleasant, to say the least. I have limited space in which to use my arms, even less space for my legs, and our driver told us that if we got hot, we should take our shirts off. I seem to be catching a cold so my body temperature is already wonky (I left work early today because I felt so feverish), my face is kind of sinus achy, and I have that unpleasant nasal drip feeling in my throat. And my internet connection keeps randomly cutting out, which I know is a silly thing to complain about, but it’s kind of becoming the straw that is breaking the camel’s back, if you know what I mean. There’s part of me that just wants to start crying, because there’s nothing I can really do and I know I still have about three solid hours of travel ahead of me. If I had headphones (I left my ipod and headphones plugged into my work computer), I’d watch a movie. But that won’t be happening. Basically, all I can do is try to make the best of the circumstances I’m in. For now, that means gchatting with Nat and Mike, blogging, and quietly taking advantage of the fact that the dude next to me has fallen asleep and allowed me some extra elbow room. Later, it might mean a bit of a nap. The possibilities are limited!
Speaking of making the best of the circumstances, earlier today Zoe left a comment that touched on an issue that I’ve been wanting to write about for a while now. Quoth she:
I agree that none of these companies are ideal in their portrayal of body type and support for women with less athletic bodies. But it feels less like hypocrisy in the companies that don’t promote themselves as being inclusive and accepting of all body types. One thing I will say for Title 9 is that they actually walk the walk, so to speak. They offer sports bras in much larger sizes (up to a 48 F I think), most athletic places only go up to an XL (whatever that is). Even though their models for such bras look to be more in the 34 B range, they are doing the most important part in providing the gear. Lack of a supportive bra that fits has prevented many women from exercising.
I think her point is really well made, and puts a finger on something that is a problem not only with fitness apparel, but with clothing in general: plus-size clothing options are limited (like the possibilities for entertainment on this here bus), and there seems to be this vicious cycle that grows out of this limited market wherein apparel manufacturers say “Well, but look at plus-sized women, they don’t want to wear attractive clothing that has a flattering fit. If they did, they would wear it”, as though those clothes are just supposed to grow on trees or something. When it comes to fitness apparel, I imagine the thought is a bit more like, “Well, people who wear plus-sizes obviously don’t work out or want to lead healthier lives, so why should we make the clothing for them?” This is especially insulting (actually, wait, it’s especially insulting for about one thousand reasons I can think of off-hand. So this, I guess, is just something I find particularly offensive and that relates to this post) given how quick people are to say, “Well, such and such person is so fat, why don’t they just try working out?!” So, then, what is it, people? Are we all supposed to be going to the gym and working out, or are only the thin people (who are obviously also healthy because aren’t thin and healthy the exact same thing?!) supposed to be doing that? Based on the attitude some companies have toward offering plus-size fitness apparel, apparently it’s the latter.
We can easily extrapolate from what Zoe says about lack of a supportive bra preventing many women from working out and say that a lack of a decent pair of workout pants, or shorts, or a decent top has prevented many women from working out as well. It’s not fair to assume based on appearance that someone is not interested in a certain product, and that’s exactly what’s going on in cases like this. There’s really no way to tell, without extensive medical testing, whether a size 2 woman picked at random from a crowd is any healthier than a size 16 woman picked from a crowd. So why is it that the woman who is a size 2 will have a much easier time finding something to wear to the gym than the other woman will? Yes, I know I sound like a broken record, but this really bothers me about lululemon, and it’s not going to stop bothering me until they make some changes.
On the other hand (and you can go ahead and think I’m trying to score free stuff from these companies if you want. I’m not, actually, but of course you’re entitled to your opinion), I think it’s important to applaud companies like Title Nine and their sister site, Shop Bounce, or Athleta, that understand that healthy women come in different shapes and sizes, and may be on the market for workout pants that come in 2XL (to find styles that come in this size from Athleta, try their Pant Finder tool) or a size 44 DD sports bra (which you can find through Title Nine or Bounce). It makes me happy that there are some companies out there that don’t discriminate based on size, and that are willing to actually back up their claim that they encourage a healthy lifestyle by actually providing tools to achieve that lifestyle to people of a variety of body types. If more companies were willing to do the same, I think we’d be one step further along in the fight toward breaking down the stereotypes and assumptions that get built on women’s bodies.