Because they are making money from your outrage, not making changes.
You may or may not have heard about the recent controversy concerning Lululemon and founder Chip Wilson's comments about how the wear and tear of his pants are not due to shoddy craftmenship, but the fault of a woman whose thighs are too big to be wearing, um, cotton and spandex. And before I go any further, let me just say the following so that no one is confused about where I stand: This dude is a Class A dillhole. As was the guy at the head of Abercrombie and Fitch. And that whole Dove commercial. The Maria Kang debacle. We could keep going here. Trust me. I would sign a petition against them all, in blood, with my two daughter's future self-esteem as notary.
Side Note: I would, however, sign a petition against their pants for the mere fact that they attract so much freakin' hair and lint and unwanted household items that I usually look like a crazed cat lady who rolled around in hay before her expensive hot yoga class. A class in which you will probably see the entire outline of my regrettable buttcheek tattoo and, oh, my actual crack due to unnecessary sheerness of their material. And this is only after I have dropped my kids off at their no-plastic-toys-ever-or-television-or-cartoons-or-mainstream-anything school, only to discover that I have walked around their wooden organic fairy gardens with a real live bedazzled Barbie dress stuck to my leg. Because, Lululemon, for $98 a pop, I have apparently paid for these sticky situations. Get on that already. And start making pants for women with actual bodies. Period.
Ok, back to the title of this post: I'm not going to talk about why these companies and their founders are Class A dillholes. It's obvious, right? Yes. And we can make obvious choices about spending habits, right? Tell your friends and yo momma and stand outside their store and make a stink. Go for it. Spending habits = power to the people.
Here's what I really want to talk about: Companies like Lululemon and Abercrombie WANT you to freak out. Yup. It's a slippery, yucky side of marketing, especially when it comes to women. And I am going to teach you all about it today. Because I know. I've taken classes with the best of the best when it comes to online marketing and general sales. I know exactly what is happening here. The basic dealio is that the more YOU, the average gorgeous educated hard-working bigger than a size 0 woman, freaks out about this pant issue, the more it solidifies and emboldens their niche. What is their niche? High end, exclusive, fairly well-off folks. The dirty truth is this: The more folks might act outraged about the apparent injustices in their favorite company's credo, they also tend to attach themselves more wholly to it. Why? Well, it's part sociology, part human evolution.
Studies have shown that when social inequality is on the rise, people tend to seek more obvious ways to differentiate themselves from the less well-off. This does not mean anyone is a bad person here. It just is. People want to be associated with those things that tell the world they are healthy and wealthy. The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu has done a lot of research on this natural pull we all have to maintain certain social class associations. He writes, " ... the higher classes express preferences for whatever is less immediate, less available, less obvious and more difficult, so differentiating themselves from the popular taste of lower classes with remarkable consistency."
What does this mean, you crazy academic quoting fool, you (me)? Well, it means that the more "we" get outraged, the more we are actually helping to identify their niche market AND market directly to that very niche. Lululemon gets free and strategic advertising to their most important customer, all from offending us. We're saying, "HEY LULULEMON ONLY LIKES REALLY SKINNY AND RICH PEOPLE!" And then skinny and rich people - and people that want to be skinny and rich - are like, "Booyah, that's my brand. Thank you Lululemon for your expensive sticky sheer pants. I will continue to wear them even to fancy dinner parties with a pair of stilettos." (not knocking that style statement, I've done ittttttttt)
The other reason their core niche gets more attached (and thus spends more) is because they get worried that their brand is in trouble. They read about lowered stock and blah blah blah and they run to the store to show their support and keep their fix of spandex in full stock.
So, instead of signing a petition, we have to be smarter. What do we do instead, then, you ask? Wellllllll. I have an idear.
First, though, I need to get nerdy about one more thing. We need to discuss WHY we get outraged. Yes, we're offended. Yes, we're sick of this crap. Yes, we want a voice. But, guess what I think is really happening? Are you ready for this?
We're looking for our tribe. Our peeps. Our homies. Our kindred spirits. Our fucking comrades in this strange, less and less fleshy world.
We live separate, impersonal, digital existences. Our email inboxes are inundated with carefully worded subject headings designed to get you merely to open. We get slammed with offers to buy this and join this and invest in this, all of which are marketed to your weaknesses and your deepest insecurities and your tendency towards being, gasp, fallibly a human. Yet, underneath it all, we're still looking for a connection. And no matter what a company like Lululemon thinks or what their marketing team says to do, they underestimate this one fact: All we want is to know and to be known. See and be seen. Hold and be held.
Hence, what can we do? We can get human. We can turn off the email subscriptions. We can start to identify and participate in true value. We can spend our money on that value. We can flock to brands that aren't pretending to care about your health and wellbeing and instead truly are. What do those companies look like? They are local. They are affordable and accessible. They are quality. They are inclusive. They mean something to YOU. They get you connected with actual real live human beings.
The way we stop this madness is by understanding something very important: While research has shown that high social status is directly linked to better health and improved vitality overall, there is one very interesting factor that actually creates equal and often better health to those of low to mid social status: Connection and friendship. Seriously. The more divided, dissident, and distant our culture becomes, the harder this is. And it is one of the only factors that can buoy anyone's health - rich or poor - to a much higher level.
So, when I hear you asking me to sign a petition about Lululemon, I hear you instead asking, hey, are you with me? Are you part of my tribe? Can we know each other and do this thing?
We can. Let's get fleshy. It's not going to be an easy fix or an obvious one, but it's possible. It is so so so possible. Start making choices about how you spend your time and how you spend your money. Start talking about what makes you healthy and stop playing into the hands of these marketers that are using your outrage to fuel their profit.