UO on body image

COMMENTARY BY:
SARAH MUELLER

Recently, Urban Outfitters, a popular clothing company for men and women, designed and sold a female shirt displaying the words “Eat Less” on the front. Since then, bloggers and media advocates have responded with criticism and declared war on Urban Outfitters.

Actress and activist Sophia Bush addressed UO in a recent blog post, reproaching the company for its blatant disrespect and thoughtlessness. She wrote, “To promote starvation? To promote anorexia, which leads to heart disease, bone density loss, and a slew of other health problems, not least of all psychological issues that NEVER go away? Shame on you.” She later adds, “It’s like handing a suicidal person a loaded gun. You should know better.”

In her post, Bush invited her female supporters to join her in boycotting Urban Outfitters, asking UO to “issue a public apology, and make a hefty donation to a women’s organization that supports those stricken with eating disorders.” She ended her blog post to UO by saying, “I sincerely hope that next time you decide that making fun of serious issues is comedic, or ‘snarky in a cool way,’ that you rethink your decision.” She signed it, “With Sincerity but NO respect, Sophia Bush.”

Bush has always been an ardent promoter of healthy body images for women. The “One Tree Hill” actress even started her own campaign through the show, Zero Is Not a Size. She recalled this campaign in her post, saying, “The outpouring of love and gratitude that came my way [because of the Zero Is Not a Size movement] from girls and women ALL OVER THE WORLD who have body image issues brought me to tears.”
Through her Zero Is Not a Size campaign and her recent blog post, Bush has successfully raised some much-needed awareness about the reality of eating disorders and the effects that vicious messages such as “Eat Less” can have.

What is frustrating, though, are the negative retorts to Bush’s actions. Incompetent, ignorant readers have responded to Bush’s backlash with disjointed comeback of their own. A prime example comes from a public online forum called “Pro Ana,” which promotes anorexia nervosa. A user attached Bush’s blog post to her message, asking for other users’ thoughts on it.

Within minutes, the forum lit up, and a band of female users began spitting out ridiculous replies, such as “She is too dumb to form a coherent argument, so she just resorted to the whole ‘Skinny is gross, curves are what guys want’ rhetoric.” Another female user expressed, “‘0 is not a size’ is extremely offensive in my opinion. 0 IS a size … if clothing companies started making 1 their lowest size it wouldn’t change the actual size of the garment … ugh.” A third female even endeavored to justify UO’s actions, “I really want that shirt … It’s not like the shirt said ‘Don’t Eat,’ it just said eat less–which a lot of people could stand to do.”

These responses reveal why Bush had to start this movement in the first place. So many people are ill-informed. Moreover, that all of these negative responses came from women is absolutely disturbing. First and foremost, women should support one another when issues such as this arise. There is no need to ostracize each other; there is no need to attack those who stand up against the insensitive.
Furthermore, the criticisms regarding Bush’s Zero Is Not a Size campaign are misleading. Bush’s character on “One Tree Hill” had her own clothing company, and to make long story short, the character came up with the idea to combat size-based prejudice in the modeling industry. Thus stated, Bush’s campaign is not an attack on the physically thin, nor is she proclaiming that “skinny is gross,” as the Pro Ana user asserted. Rather, “Zero Is Not a Size” should be taken in context: As Bush explains in a post on her Twitter account, “Beauty has nothing to do with the size you wear. It has to do with what is in your heart.”

The University community has responded well to Bush’s campaign. The Jane Kopas Women’s Center (JKWC) shared the link to Bush’s post in an effort to raise more awareness of body-image issues. JKWC is an amazing place to go to for any gender-based need you might have. The center had its open house Sept. 5. Like Bush, JKWC is determined to educate the community, serving as an amazing advocate for others. The Jane Kopas Women’s Center keeps University students informed, enlightened and empowered. Bush would fit right in.

Now that the body-acceptance movement has been started at the worldwide level, as well as The University level, it is up to University students to run with it. Little steps like reading Bush’s blog post or attending JKWC’s events can enact a change in each and every one of us until the whole world can come to fully appreciate and recognize the exceptional beauty in everyone.

Contact the writer: sarah.mueller

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