I’ll be the first to admit it. The ability to find a perfectly shorn piece of spandex that actually makes my brain wake up and fire the dusty synapse that says, “Damn, my butt looks GOOD,” is nothing short of a miracle. Said pants are like a Renoir for my ass. A Monet for my derrière. In the well-constructed, perfectly lit stage of a tiny wood laminate dressing room, I’m not really sure if it’s me or my reflection in the slimming mirrors that grabs for my plastic and charges $110 to a credit card as mindlessly as a zombie walking down the street… all in the name of my ego and my behind.
I’m probably the 1,001st person to comment on this week's more-than-odd commentary from the founder of one of the most iconic yoga brands today. To say that his comments are offensive is an understatement, and no, this isn't a blog about how I have decided to stop wearing my pants because of it (yet). But the issue at hand runs a good bit deeper than fabric thinness and concentration of fabric boogers (otherwise known as pilling) post-washing machine.
The pants, he says, fall short not because of their construction, but because of the person wearing them.
And why this unassuming woman’s fault? Because her thighs touch.
Albeit this is a really stupid thing to have slip from your mouth, as we saw last year with the outfall around Abercrombie (and let the record show, that little slip up cost them majorly). Like probably 95% of Americans (I’m making that number up), our thighs might actually touch, no matter how tall or wide we are, even when we’re standing still. God forbid we start actually moving - running, bending, jumping, or any of the other things you can see a modeled in these ads doing - and woah… your perfectionist pantalons wouldn’t know what hit them.
The filmed apology is worth some kudos. However, Mr. Wilson, when you ask me and all the other women viewers to stand by you and help “prove that the culture you have built cannot be chipped away,” I actually feel really sad.
You see, I like your pants just fine, but the culture is the problem. You are, as most businessmen might be, concerned with the bottom line, and even more differentiating between you and me is the simple fact that you are a man, so I do not expect you to understand. But your culture is the one of never quite there. Your culture is like the popular girl on the playground who knew your pants came from Kmart and hers were Calvin Klein. It is the culture of skinny. The culture of perfectionism. The culture of judgment. It is a fortress. It is exhausting.
And, call me crazy, but it has ZERO to do with yoga.
You see, here’s what really happened for me standing in your dressing room, as I prepared to de-virginize my closet with a pair of your pants. In the past, any situation involving looking in the mirror would have given my imagination full-speed ahead permission to trick my eyes, and consequently my self-worth, into warping the image in front of me – ME – into something resembling a stumpy ogre on steroids. The fact that I am 30 years old and just beginning to have a shopping experience that doesn’t end in a shame spiral because of the overwhelming presence of a size-2 gremlin dressed in Prada dancing on my shoulder telling me I’m too big… is ridiculous.
As someone who, like your company, has roots in Perfectionism (with a big P), my overwhelming need to people please, fear of being average (or worse, failure), and belief that I’m never quite there or never quite good enough has starved my potential and at times my body to the point of destruction. It's probably something I'll always struggle with, but, as any good perfectionist would, I pretend that’s not the case. Enough.
It’s taken years to find a chink in my armor, in to which the message that I’m strong, healthy and beautiful as is could even have space and path to sink in. Where did I finally find that crack? Yoga. My mat is my place to pour out my imperfections, define my resiliency, test my limits. It lets me see who I am in every moment more clearly, and choose if that’s who I really want to be. And, as a woman, of course I’d appreciate that I look “good” while I’m at it, thank you very much.
So back to standing in the dressing room. You know what was there? Potential, oddly enough. I felt excitement to move, flow, run and continue pushing this very vulnerable side of me who is still learning to love herself and trust her strength. And that had everything to do with the experiences and places and people I’d engage with through yoga… and nothing to do with whether I'd achieved a thigh gap.
I am NOT saying that I am beyond thinking about my body image - that would be a big fat lie. But the last thing I need is the image of a thigh gap invading the personal space I've worked so hard to create on my yoga mat.
So really, I’d like to suggest that this culture, in fact, does need to be chipped away. Because the chips at this particular culture actually let a little more personality, light and color shine through.
If I could use all of me to change one thing in this world, it would be to shift that part of every woman’s brain that is judging, belittling, stealing her potential away, and telling her that she is not ___________ enough. Without all that, do you know what we’d probably see? A new generation of women pushing their potential and kicking more ass than ever before… Because they knew they couldn’t fail. Because they knew they were enough. Because they knew they were beautiful.
We’d change the world. Could your pants handle that?
That’s the real opportunity here – for you, or for any other clothing brand. Stand up to the test of women who are getting ready to blow the roof off once we realize that we’re done being spoon-fed perfectionism. And if you’re not up to it, I’ll happily take the thigh-touching owner of this plastic card somewhere else.
(And last I checked, me and my lady friends, we make 80% of consumer decisions in America. So there’s that.)