Vanity Sizing Racism

Jenée Desmond-Harris - Vanity Sizing RacismPublic discussions of racism are notoriously frustrating, but there’s one especially aggravating related trend that took off during the election season and that I’d love for people to commit to eliminating in 2017: a push for vanity sizing.

Yes, vanity sizing for racism. The original term applies to the way clothing manufacturers have gradually adjusted their sizing in a way that appeases the growing number of large-bodied shoppers who, because of societal shame around weight, would rather see a label that says 6 than one that says 16…

As the vanity sizing debate proved, adjusting labels so that “bad” ones apply to fewer people is seductive. But even for people who associate thinness with health and virtue, it’s a superficial solution — it doesn’t change what we see when we look in the mirror.

We should all resolve to stop this vain, avoidant practice and focus on critiquing the beliefs and behavior that inspire the label “racist” instead of changing the rules so that the label doesn’t apply.

–Jenée Desmond-Harris
The Vain, Counterproductive Myth That There’s No Way Most Americans Can Be Racist

6 thoughts on “Vanity Sizing Racism

    • The article (which you should read in total if you haven’t) also got me thinking about my belief that all people are racists. Now, that is true. And my reason for talking about it is that I think we can only get past our racism by facing what are often very dark, primordial instincts. But I fear that this may not be the right way to talk about it. If everyone is racist, then no one is. Although in my defense, I’ve never said everyone was equally racist. The main thing I hate is this idea that if you aren’t explicitly (and loudly) racist, you aren’t racist.

      This is not the first time that Desmond-Harris has got me thinking in new ways. She’s one of the best things at Vox.

      • I think you may be on to something here.

        My only concern is that if there is consensus of this kind – it may have an unintended effect of excusing odious behaviour and even attitudes in society that allow for such destructive behavior.

        But sadly – there may be merit to your theory.

        • One concern of mine is that subconscious racism does far more damage than random bigots. Here I’m talking about things like studies that show that resumes with black sounding names don’t get interviews as much. I suspect that the people doing that have no idea that they are. The one thing I’m certain about is that I don’t want the conversation to just be about idiots with Confederate flags.

    • It’s so wonky. The word has practically been stripped of meaning. Trump didn’t say racist things; he was “starting a dialogue.” (I keep hearing this phrase. It seems to mean “white people telling people of color to stop being so sensitive.” Um, isn’t that a monologue? Or chorus?)

      If you’re against any government assistance to the poor, because you don’t want it going to people of color, that’s not racist. That’s being against “big” spending. White supremacist groups and their symbols of choice aren’t racist; they’re demonstrations of cultural pride. Assaulting a person of color isn’t racist, don’t call it a hate crime. After all, people of color do it do each other sometimes! Voter ID laws (and keep in mind, you need a photo ID and proof of residence to register) aren’t racist. The list goes on so long you begin to wonder if any action is vile enough to qualify. I’m not sure there is one.

      Spike Lee, years ago, made a useful distinction between prejudice and racism. If you’re a bank manager with black friends who turns down qualified black applicants for home loans, you may not be prejudiced — but you’re committing a racist act. If you’re a banker who hates black people, who’d never sit next to one in a theater, but you treat all applicants/coworkers with equal respect — you’re a bigot, and prejudiced, but you’re not contributing to racism on the job. Almost everyone has some prejudices. Only people in a power position can be racist. I fully expect Ben Carson as HUD secretary to be racist as hell. But it won’t be called that.

      • Of course, Trump did say racist things. He just didn’t say them against blacks. And really: to a large extent, in this country, the main taboo is racism against blacks (for obvious reasons). The racism against Muslims is classic demagoguery: using relatively recent immigrants as scapegoats. (And for the Sam Harris/Bill Maher crowd, yes, Muslim is a “race.” The term has no DNA basis.)

        The Spike Lee stuff is great. I’ll give that some more thought.

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