A few days ago I told you about a Blinds to Go ad that used sizeism and ageism to sell blinds. Many people wrote to Blinds to Go to tell them that the ad was offensive and why. Rather than apologize and fix it, they’ve doubled down by apparently sending everyone – regardless of what they wrote – the same form reply full of more offensive bs.
Subject: Blinds To Go
Date: Tue, 22 Jul 2014 15:21:45 +0000
Thank you for your comments and concerns. We would first like to apologize if we have offended you by any means. This was in no way our intent. We have been servicing customers for 60 years and strongly value diversity of all types.
Advertising is an art and we have a very short span of time to get our message across to the consumer. The yoga man commercial was intended to illustrate the lack of privacy one might have without a window covering. It is meant to be funny, and we believe it is not cruel because clearly the embarrassment of the unintended encounter is felt by both the yoga practitioner and by the couple. A vast majority of our viewers have seen it this way as well.
The actor hired to play “yoga man” is not overly fat but actually quite fit and athletic but yes, he has a ‘stocky’ build. In our view, stocky does not equate to fat… the actor would not see himself this way and neither do we.
Again, we apologize to anyone our ad may have offended; this was not our intent.
The Blinds To Go Marketing Team
Let’s start with my favorite bit – the pretend apology: We’re sorry, we strongly value diversity, it wasn’t our intent to be offensive, now let us spend the rest of the e-mail further devaluing your experience by justifying our behavior and explaining why you’re wrong to be offended.
The reason the commercial works in a “very short span of time” is because it relies on deep rooted prejudices that exist in society allowing the joke to be told in “shorthand.” There are lots of ways to display a need for privacy that don’t rely on stigmatizing people for how they look, but they require a marketing team to that is talented, creative, and not looking for a lazy way out.
“We believe it is not cruel because clearly the embarrassment of the unintended encounter is felt by both the yoga practitioner and by the couple.” Translation: If we can get an actor to portray someone who has self-hate/internalized oppression, then our use of the way he looks to imply that he should not be seen or want to be seen – even by those peeping through his windows (and should, in fact, buy our product as a way to hide himself from the world) is perfectly fine. Those who are offended should try a little harder to develop self-hatred about their size and/or age so they can understand that they should want to hide themselves from the world – preferably with our products.
“A vast majority of our viewers have seen it this way as well.” Translation: If we say that the vast majority of people agree with a prejudice, then that prejudice is not only valid, but ripe for our use to sell our products. We don’t know how you would get the idea that because you’re part of the group that we are stigmatizing your opinion is somehow valid or important in this discussion.
“The actor hired to play “yoga man” is not overly fat but actually quite fit and athletic but yes, he has a ‘stocky’ build. In our view, stocky does not equate to fat… the actor would not see himself this way and neither do we.”
Oh what in fat hell, are you serious? “Overly fat” What is that? And when did the Blinds to Go Marketing team become the decider of who is what body type and who is “overly” anything?
And are they actually trying to say that they didn’t use his size as part of the supposedly hilarious idea that he should spend money so that people looking into the windows of his home don’t see him? Do they actually want us to believe that they put out a call for “A man who is quite fit and athletic to do yoga?” and that they chose this actor, not even noticing his size or age and not even aware that, because of rampant sizeism and ageism, the way he looks might be considered part of the joke they created in which seeing him do yoga is horrifying? Is Blinds to Go also opening a real estate office to sell ocean front property in Arizona? I might be more offended that they think I’ll believe that than I am at the ad.
Nobody is obligated to exercise, and participating in fitness doesn’t make people better or worse than those who don’t, but there are plenty of fat people who participate in fitness and athletics and we often get abused, stigmatized, and bullied for doing so, so it’s really problematic to reinforce and participate in that by using the notion that people shouldn’t want to look at us (and that we should be mutually embarrassed at being seen) whether we’re “stocky” or “overly fat” or would identify ourselves as fat, and regardless of of fitness level. Responses like that of Blinds to Go are a big part of the problem.
Also, note that they are comfortable speaking for the actor (not “the actor doesn’t see himself” but “the actor would not see himself”) Whether or not he sees himself as fat, whether or not he identifies himself as fat, whether or not the Blinds to Go Marketing team mistakenly thinks this is ok because he’s not that fat, or that fat and “fit and quite athletic” are mutually exclusive, does not change the fact that they are being told by people that it is offensive and their response is sorry, not sorry we are going to keep making jokes at your expense to sell blinds because we think the actor is cool with it.
And I notice that they don’t even bother to address the ageism issue. Since I wrote the original post, people have asked me how I know it’s a fat joke, or an age joke. Here’s my sophisticated test: If the joke doesn’t work without a fat person, then it’s a fat joke. If a joke doesn’t work without an older person, then it’s an ageist joke. If the joke doesn’t work without a person who happens to conform to the stereotype of beauty, then it’s an appearance-based joke. And if it does work without using fat or age or appearance, then let’s do that, because those groups already face a ton of stigma and oppression so how about we don’t add to that by making a joke at their expense just to sell some blinds. Blinds to Go isn’t too far down the toad to turnaround – they should pull the ad and apologize.
Activism Opportunity: Let them know how you feel
Leave a note on their Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/blindstogo
Tweet about it: https://twitter.com/blindstogous @blindstogous
E-mail kwentworth@Blinds-To-Go.com and let him know how you feel
Contact customer service: or e-mail through their website: http://www.blindstogo.com/en/contact-us
Update: Remember when I told you that a screenwriter had created a script about my life as a fat dancer? Well that movie is now in development! You can go to the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/danceswithfatthemovie and like it if you are so inclined which will get you info as it breaks and help us build momentum!
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