I thought of this post before I heard the term “haul” blogs, but they relate. I’m horrified. Even if we were not going through one of the worst recessions in US history, I would find the idea of an Internet movement revolving around showing videos of all the excess crap a young woman buys completely mortifying. Women’s liberty takes all the vigilance spoken of by Thomas Jefferson, plus some, as there are still parts of the world far from onboard with us having that liberty. Since we’ve got the vote and that will be difficult to redact, those with conscious and unconscious bad intentions find all sorts of ways to part us from our personal power – money being the easiest path to keeping us from claiming our fair share of the world. So if you shop for the sake of shopping, you are damaging your own future and weakening or misdirecting your influence on the rest of the world. Yes, we are chaining ourselves with our credit cards and the excess crap from Sephora. We are already bearing up under workplace and social expectations that we appear in different outfits, sometimes multiple outfits a day, and that we upgrade our clothing at a rate simply not expected of men. Women make less money and yet they pay thousands more to participate – and this is an expectation established by women, not men.
To live is to consume. I accept that. I also like to look pretty, without running naked. But for that trend to continue, I must prepare for retirement since I will not have social security and ensure that I’m spending money on things that last, not on things that are new because they are new.
I’ve mentioned before that I don’t do sale posts. I rarely do clearance posts, and I consider clearance slightly different from sales. I don’t do giveaways. Some of this is simple self-interest: constantly writing about this or that sale or posting about this or that goodie makes for really, REALLY boring writing. I employ myself, and it’s very important that my employees enjoy their jobs. It’s why phrases like “partnership” and “press release” usually make me groan and reach for the whiskey I no longer keep at my desk.
Bear with me, as the ideas following sound contradictory to my “we are spending ourselves helpless” statment but do make up a whole concept:
Believe it or not, there is also a tiny bit of my protective streak involved in refusing to post these things, too. Plus size women already pay a premium on their clothing. Even the discount clothiers issue a fat tax, over and above the 20% charge for any extra fabric used. Also, there’s been a trend I’ve noticed that pairs suspiciously with the whole “plus size fashion spread” magazines publicized so heavily of late: plus size clothing is getting smaller. I am a Lane Bryant standard size 28. I’m not going to name names, but I’ve found several plus fashion houses that advertise “sizes up to 6x” or “26/28″Â (and you know what I think of that) that I know I would not fit in now – and whose clothing I could wear just fine two years ago. Some still claim they offer those sizes when a simple search on the site reveals not a single stitch of clothing in my size. There’s also a lot of designers making clothing for over size 30 that’s just godawful. Even the trendier plus clothing stores that go 28 and below are turning out some really, really bad stuff again, and we’re just supposed to be grateful it’s offered at all. So we’re back to that again.
My size hasn’t changed. The population of women my size hasn’t changed. There’s still a market. Most are still willing to buy, even if about 12% are less able to buy due to job layoffs or focused debt recovery.Â So what the hell is going on?
There is more attention to be gained if not money to be made in selling to those labeled “plus size” who are not actually fat. That’s part of why the definition of “plus” has magically dropped to a size 12 instead of the appropriate size 16.Â That’s why certain shameful sellers on Etsy get away with tagging something with a 32 inch waist “plus size.” And these average women literally buy into it, just because they feel recognized even if negatively (in a broad cultural-perspective definition) so.Â Why aren’t they getting angry at being told they’re plus sized when they’re not?
Because they’ve been sold on the overt lie that they’re fat, and not only are companies profitting from this approach to average women, they’re doing it at the expense of genuinely fat women who also need to wear clothing. Really, everybody should be getting mad and writing letters or sending emails. Instead, we’re spending money – and spending money much too frequently for our financial and long-term physical health.
Cultural hegemony – hegemony meaning participating in screwing yourself over – is big money. Draining women of their savings for the sake of their social acceptability is big business. Haul blogs get lots of marketer/fashion magazine attention for that very reason. It’s a lot of monkey see, monkey self-destruct in imitation.
Until these major magazines started jumping on the plus size trend, plus size blogs and fat activism was doing a powerful job of undoing a lot of that hegemony. Now we’re sliding back towards the ridiculous expectation that we diet to fit the clothes – even the plus clothes – and that we must spend, spend, spend to be socially and professionally acceptable. In the meantime, how are your retirement accounts recovering these days?
I still love fashion, and I still love clothing. I still believe strongly in conscious consumption, and I think we’re falling asleep at the wheel again.
I think that chasing one sale after another or showing off “hauls” is one hell of a way to undermine yourself. But slowing down, buying something great because you’ve got the money saved up or refusing to buy stuff that’s awful – that’s much more important than getting the most stuff for the lowest price.