Around Halloween something happened on the Walmart website. There was a page that was titled “Fat Girl Costumes”. I am plus sized, or fat, and I was offended by that page. I was so offended by Walmart labeling and fat shaming that I did what I do: I wrote about it. I wrote about being disappointed and sad that a major retailer would just disparage a HUGE demographic that has LOTS of money to spend. To me it seemed to send the message that not only were our bodies unwanted and unworthy, but so was our money. Even after Walmart offered a generic “I’m sorry, that should have never been on our site” message I was determined to never shop there again. I planned to shop only at places that make it clear they value me and my shopping dollars. I figured that was the end of it, because Walmart is so big and I’m just me, and I wasn’t going to make any changes. Let’s face it, I’m a teen blogger and they’re Walmart.A few days later I received an email from the corporate communications director of Walmart. He again apologized and asked if it was possible to speak with me. Walmart, calling me? Dan Toporek from Walmart headquarters called me. First and foremost, he apologized and asked if he could explain to me exactly what happened. It seems an outside contractor whom Walmart hired to categorize and set up pages for them labeled the pages. It was the outside contractor who placed the words there, not Walmart. Walmart took it down as soon as they were made aware of it, but by then, it was too late. It had gone viral. He made it very clear that the contractor had been fired and those words were not the opinion of Walmart, but he took responsibility for it. Dan was very kind and gracious and genuine. In fact, he told that my post actually made a difference to the people at Corporate Walmart because it was made clear that it was something that effected me, it wasn’t just “a story”.
I used this phone call to open up a conversation about why it really bothered me. To me, the whole situation felt like bullying. Simply by being overweight it is open season for mean comments, nasty catcalls, and hurtful words. I personally have been called disgusting, lazy, and been told I was so fat I was a waste of life and should kill myself, all because I wear a larger sized than other people. People who are overweight are often bullied. Whatever a person is being bullied for- for being over weight, or gay, for being smart, or dumb, or black or white or for whatever the reason, it’s not ok. Bullying is never ok. Being bullied by a large corporation is also not ok. I had a chance to explain that to a large corporation, and you know what? They agreed with me. When I asked Dan what Walmart does to help end bullying, he told me that they have an anti-bullying campaign at back to school time, which I had never seen. The truth is, EVERYONE does anti-bullying at the beginning of the school year, but guess what? They are not very effective. To be really effective you have to be committed to making real change, not just a once a year lip-service to say you are trying.
Bulling doesn’t just occur in September. It happens every day, every where, all year long. What we need is for someone with a HUGE reach, like Walmart, to help spread the message that bullying needs to end.
Nearly 100 million people shop at Walmart EVERY WEEK. That’s 1/3 of the American Population, or 4 times the population of Australia. Imagine if all those people saw the message on how to #BeBrave and help stop bullying, what could happen!
We need Walmart to #BeBrave and to do more to stand up to bullies- starting with retail sites and showing that every customer is a wanted customer. I hope that maybe one day Walmart and I can work together to design a way to help people #BeBrave. We need to spread the news that even if you’re different, you are worthy. Fat shaming and hatred will never help anyone, but support and care will. Plus sized people do not need to be offered aged, dated and ugly clothing simply because they are bigger sizes, and therefore not worthy of stylish and fashionable clothing. Considering that 67 percent of Americans wear a size larger than 14 means that we ALL want and deserve attractive clothing. Something good DID come out of this. It started a dialog with Walmart and I that can hopefully make some SERIOUS CHANGES on how business treat people. They are willing to look for ways to help fix the mistake that was made, and for ways to make it better. They can start with helping to stop fat shaming and bullying. The old adage “the customer is always right” isn’t always correct, however, that “the customer always should be respected” should be.