??!! / Retail
The Fat Ladies in the Window: Lindy West Investigates!
by Lindy West
on Wed, Jun 29, 2011 at 4:33 PM
(Click to enlarge. HAR!!!)
This is a thing I noticed today. This is a cartoon—affixed to windows of Barneys New York locations around the country—of a pair of fat women who physically could not shop at Barneys New York (because Barneys New York would burn itself down before carrying anything above a size 12) looking comically horrified as they hold up tiny, tiny pieces of clothing that they can't fit their fat asses into—the kind of tiny, tiny clothing sold for a million dollars inside the Barneys New York upon which the fat women are so hilariously painted. It is essentially a cartoon of what a fat person would experience if they entered Barneys New York and attempted to purchase clothing. Okay. So. Whaaaaaaaaat does that mean?
I (Lindy West, Girl Reporter) spoke to an extremely nice and cautious employee of Barneys New York at Pacific Place (who asked not to be identified), who told me, "I don't know that there's any real message," and directed me to the artist's website (describing her as "a larger Russian woman"—apparently this is large in the Barneys universe), explaining, "Without the context it does just look like random cartoon ladies, but if you actually look at the drawings in context it makes a lot more sense." I asked what the drawings meant in context. "There's just a lot of great imagery," I was told. I asked if the displays might be construed as insensitive. "Your observation—you wouldn't be the first to have that," the Barneys employee said, "but yeah. I mean, for people who aren't in on the joke, I can see how it could be offensive, but..."
"I'm still not totally clear on what the joke is," I said. "Yeah, I'm not either," admitted the Barneys employee. "That's why i don't want to say anything."
Personally, I actually feel the opposite of the Barneys employee—I don't think the artist's drawings are offensive in and of themselves; in fact they are rather cute. It's the context that made me do a "GWUUUUHHHH???" It is certainly Barneys New York's prerogative not to carry plus-size clothing. Not a problem. No big deal (no pun intended, etc etc). But fat women are acutely aware that it's difficult for them to find fashionable clothing (choices are limited to about three stores—get ten fat women in a room [HIDE THE DORITOS!] and six of them will be wearing the same dress) and physically impossible for them to buy high-end designer pieces. But does Barneys New York have to broadcast, as a big fat punchline (a self-described "joke") stenciled on their store windows, the disappointment and mild humiliation that awaits any foolish fat woman who dares to enter their store and attempt to purchase some stupid $4,000 shorts?