The Ugly Truth About The Lilly Pulitzer Fat Shaming Debacle

by Debbie Stoller

It’s no secret that Lilly Pulitzer’s target audience is made up of wealthy white women, and if that’s news to you, just take a look at what comes up when you Google image search their ad campaigns.

Nevertheless, we were feeling a little hopeful that the brand had become more inclusive when they announced that their line would be sold at Target. Though some of their longtime customers were upset by the fact that Lilly Pulitzer would no longer be exclusively representing “luxe living” (sigh), the brand still went ahead and made their preppy prints accessible and affordable to a larger demographic. But there was a catch: not all of the line was available in the store, and we were disappointed to hear that the pluz-size clothing had to be found online.

Now we’re even more disappointed by the recent controversy regarding the blatant fat-shaming drawings displayed in one Lilly Pulitzer employee’s cubicle from New York Magazine’s photo tour of the company’s headquarters. The cartoon-sketches of two “overweight” women have disturbing captions reading “Put it down, carb-face!” and “Just another day of fat, white, and hideous… you should probably just kill yourself.”

While the brand responded by explaining that the illustrations “were the work of one individual” and “do not reflect our values,” we can’t help but wonder why these weren’t noticed and deemed offensive prior to the tour. It seems bizarre that an employee could display such negative, mean-spirited art around her desk without being told it wasn’t workplace-appropriate. Especially when that staff member is employed by a company that designs clothing for women’s bodies.

It’s sad to see women hating on other women’s body shapes, especially when we’d much rather see body-positivity coming from the brands that sell specifically to women. But what’s sadder is the culture this attitude is reflective of: There are countless ways we are taught to hate fat and believe one’s self-worth has anything to do with one’s appearance–from the images we are bombarded with in ads, TV, and social media, to our interactions with one another.

So while we aren’t forgiving anyone’s behavior, it is important to remember that these are moments we can learn from as we work towards a larger cultural shift: one that creates a world more comfortable with body diversity and less tolerant of body-shaming.

Images: Lilly Pulitzer

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