The Little Things Aren’t

I can finally tell you that a couple of weeks ago I was approached by change.org about our petition asking Barney’s and Disney to not make Minnie Mouse into a 5’11 size 0 super model just so she can “look good in a Lanvin dress.”  Today change.org started promoting it and at this moment there are 91,885 signatures.  I’m incredibly grateful for the attention it’s getting because I think that this is such an important issue and so representative of the mistakes that we make as a society that harm girls, women and eventually everyone.

Of course the criticism followed (though, to be clear, I received way less negative feedback than positive feedback on this one).  One of the biggest critiques I received was that this is just a small thing – why aren’t I working on getting treatment for people who have eating disorder?  Who cares about the Barney’s window.  One person even said that “Barneys already discriminates against fat people so making Minnie Mouse skinny is actually consistent with their beliefs – this is not big deal but even if it was they should be applauded for sticking to their guns.”

Look, here’s the deal:  the little things help us see where the big problems are.  Just as a random hypothetical example, Barney’s and Disney think that it’s ok to completely change the body of a cartoon character who they know is beloved by children, including lots of impressionable young girls, and has been for 84 years so that character can look good in a dress that almost no women can fit into.  They think it’s ok to suggest to little girls that instead of insisting that designers make dresses that fit them, or making their own dresses, they should instead drastically alter their body by any means necessary.  That if they  don’t fit into a high fashion dress then they should change their body.

That is indicative of some major problems in our society.  Not the least of which is that Disney – a company that caters to children – doesn’t care that this is the message they are sending to little girls. I’m not arguing that every little girl will take this message but how many little girls set up for a life of hating their bodies is too many?  How many little girls’ self-esteem are we willing to sacrifice for fashion? I say one little girl being injured is way too many for some fashion statement.

The little things aren’t little. If we call them out early and often, if we put the pressure on, then we can stop the little things before they become big things.

How would a world without body shame affect eating disorders? How would it affect our overall health?  How much time, energy, and money would we have back if we had never once been given the message that our body should look like somebody else’s body?  I don’t know, but I’d like to find out.

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Published in: on October 13, 2012 at 8:55 am  Comments (14)  

14 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Everyone has point where they draw the line in the sand, for some people who wont think much about it when adults are involved and who get lost in the ‘wont somebody think of the children’ rhetoric when it come to diet and body image attacking saying beloved cartoon characters need to change so drastically will be the light bulb moment for them. The designer did not say they needed to lose a few pounds or look more normal the designer said to wear my clothes you need to turn them into emaciated extra tall versions of themselves and then they didn’t even put them in attractive clothes – even when put on characters who have been redesigned to fit perfectly into these outfits they still look ugly and awful.

    If Disney wanted a designer they should have got whoever did Miss Piggy’s wardrobe, she had some pieces designed to fit her and they not only fitted properly without her having to double her height and more than half her weight, but they actually looked good (although a lot of them are not to my specific taste).

    There was a time when if someone was meant to be doing a job they did it, they didn’t do a half-assed job and blame someone else if it didn’t work. If they want to dress Minnie and the rest in designer gear they should get someone who is talented enough to do it, not someone who needs to have the models changed to fit their narrow range of talent.

  2. The thing about ‘little things’ is that there are so many of them one sees every day that they quickly add up into seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

    Sure, I can ignore that Sensa ad that shows up every time I open my free email account… and the Jenny Craig one, and the Nutrisystem one, and the one for Jillian Michaels’ fitness program, and the one about how to lose weight by eating Special K cereal twice a day, and eventually I can’t ignore it all. It eats away at my self-confidence, my security in my worth as a human being. It teaches me by means both subtle and gross every day that I am not good enough to be until I get thin.

    Putting Minnie Mouse on the rack for fashion teaches little girls that no matter how brave or loyal or kind they are, it doesn’t matter until they are tall enough and thin enough to be considered pretty enough for designer clothes.

    Little girls will grow into the bodies they grow into, and little can be done to change them. But tiny minds are warped one ‘little’ thing at a time.

    • Yes! Twistie, I love this response. The point about the commercials is spot on and the main reason we canceled our satellite service and now watch everything on the internet. I was sick of paying a monthly fee to be told I suck. I’m too fat, my house isn’t clean enough, my kids aren’t smart enough, etc…

      Love your point at the end. Where do people thing big things come from? They are all the little things no one cared enough to do anything about.

      • *think

      • For 10 years or more, our only access to television was Netflix because I wanted to limit the amount of commercials my growing sons were exposed to. The messages that we must hate our bodies, hate our lives, keep up with the Joneses, have the latest phones, the latest season’s clothing, etc., are so pervasive and devastating to young minds(older ones too, but especially growing minds), IMO. I don’t regret it for a moment.

        Those same messages resonate through the shows we watch, but I feel that commercials are especially damaging. So much money is pumped into the psychology behind turning people into consumer-machines that it is scary.

  3. here is what the designer for lanvin, alber elbaz, looks like:

    if you cant tell from that, he’s also about as tall as i am [not much more than five feet, exactly].
    i wonder how much he, personally, would insist on creating clothing only for the tall & thin if the majority of his clients–& here i am thinking stores, not couture clients–did not insist upon it.
    whats necessary is probably an all out boycott of stores that do not sell a wide range of stuff in a wide range of sizes [cos size 22s, say, still buy shoes & accessories, at the very least], along w/, as much as i hate clichés, being the change you want to see in the world. i see thats going on here, all thats needed is more elsewhere.

    [on a semi-unrelated note, cos i cant figure out where else to put it, it would be a good idea for the size people & the eating disorder people to form a united front. not all eating disordered folks are the awful kind–we all know which ones i mean & what they do–some of us are just as angry about the same things as you. as an aside to my semi-unrelated note: thats at least in part cos not all people on the bulimarexic spectrum are thin. some us know very well that eating, say, two meals of special k a day–well, you know, ’tis but to laugh. wont do a damned thing. anyway.]

    • also:
      [since this is moderated you might wanna stuff it into my previous comment, apologies.]
      i shouldve mentioned something about demonstrable differences in the way people metabolize calories. not that i think that whatever anyone eats is anyones business but his or her own. what i’m getting at is the false sense of superiority too many people have cos their body runs a little faster than someone else’s body. for some forsaken reason, too many people need to feel superior to whoever is standing beside them in the checkout line. usually having no appreciable reason for feeling this way, they can always still fall back on this absolutely idiotic & infuriating means of discrimination. okay done.

  4. Minnie Mouse is brave, kind, can-do, has a generous spirit, and is a good friend! If Barney’s or some designer isn’t creative enough to make a dress chic enough to fit the mouse who’s been having fun and winning friends being exactly who she is for more years than I wager that store’s been standing, then how are they creative enough to make clothes *I* want to wear?

    My body isn’t a sartorial “don’t,” I’m a whole person with a lot to offer who needs some decorative covering same as everyone else, and I haven’t got time to stand around and wait for the fashion industry to maybe, gradually, sort of decide my needs are worth considering too, sometimes, unless they don’t feel like it. It’s cold outside, I need some clothes on TODAY. I’ll never be even a fraction as famous as Ms Mouse, so if they can diss HER like that and get away with it, I wouldn’t call that “little!”

    If they want a tall skinny famous person to model their stuff they can put a fake Abe Lincoln in the window, I’m sure he’ll rock whatever they put on him, he’s got that ace beard and everything! But if they want Minnie Mouse, then they should, holy cow, dress Minnie Mouse! Her character doesn’t need a redesign… but maybe theirs does.😉

    • Abe Lincoln – that’s great!!! I put in my vote!!

  5. Little things add up quickly. I work with teens and one of the activities we do is to, when I say ‘go’, hold up our hand as soon as we think of something we’d like to change about ourselves. Hands start rocketting up within seconds and usually by 15 seconds everyone (or nearly) has a hand up. The next part is harder. They are to think of 10 positive things about themselves or things they like about themselves and then put up a hand. Nearly everytime I do this lesson, it takes more than 15 seconds to have any hands raise and typically only about 1/3 or less will ever get a hand in the air within a minute. The lesson is that we absorb and store the messages with negative impact, those that stress our self-esteem and easily recall them, but that we don’t seem to take in the positive messages in the same way. I also tell them that it takes 10 positive comments (that are honest and believable) to counterbalance each negative comment. Then we talk about how to rephrase our own internal dialog to help balance against the negative images and messages we are exposed to. Throughout the semester, we keep referring to this lesson as we discuss communication with family, friends, dating partners and then our own children as the class shifts to child development curriculum. I hope I am making some kind of beneficial impact. An yet, I am still overwhelmed by my own burden of ‘little things’ that wear me down… such that I end up in tears in the restroom at work after being obviously snubbed and bullied by two p.e. teachers at lunch in front of a room full of students. I have not yet developed successful armour to handle people who ‘see’ me and then very intentionally, turn and move to another table. They made it clear they do not want to be near me, approve of me or like me. Even when I was pleasant and said ‘you are welcome to sit with us’, they did not respond. That was the ‘little’ thing that I went crumbling down from.

    Thank the Goddess you are here where I can read and strengthen my resolve.

  6. People always use the “don’t you have something more important to worry about? Like climate change/poverty/the issue that I really care about” arguement.
    I find it strange that they don’t seem to grasp (or choose to ignore) that humans are capable of worrying about little and big things at the same time. Just because I’m signing a petition about Barney’s Minnie Mouse doesn’t mean that I can’t sign a petition to preserve a local nature reserve or give money to cancer research. I’m not a one-trick pony.

  7. I’ve had this dream for years- a big-name clothing designer who would make a collection based around plus-sized and supersized models.Instead of trying to make them look thinner,this person would work with their bodies as they are and make them look Magnificent!This one thing would do more for Size Acceptance than any other one thing I can think of.

  8. I got an email today from Change.org about your petition and signed right away. The little things add up to the big things, and as Liss says at Shakesville, this shit doesn’t happen in a void. So many kids have eating disorders, depression and self esteem issues BECAUSE of all the little thing they see/hear/experience every day. It’s a landslide of a thousand small pebbles, each one beating against their brains and hearts. Only the most resilient, with the best support, don’t get permanently damaged.

  9. Fashion website youlookfab.com has an article about why tall, thin models are generally used in fashion shows (http://youlookfab.com/2010/04/15/on-models-as-clothes-hangers/). The three reasons listed are (1) practicality (women with low body fat tend to have similar proportions, which is convenient; once body fat starts to climb, proportions differ, since some women gain more fat on their hips, others on their breasts, etc.), (2) presence (more height is more theatrical or dramatic), and (3) social expectations (people expect to see tall, thin models).

    The article then suggests that “[i]f it becomes important enough to a large enough group of people to see designs on people like themselves, then the fashion houses might need to sacrifice practicality and show their designs on a representative set of body types.”

    That’s what this Minnie Mouse protest/petition is about, and in that sense, it makes it “big.” A large number of people are letting the fashion houses know that we’re sick of being told that we (including Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck) need to “design” our bodies to fit the clothes; the clothes should be designed to fit our bodies.


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