Please Don’t Promote Eating Disorder Culture: An Open Letter To The CEO Of Abercrombie & Fitch

Abercrombie & Fitch
Mike Jeffries, CEO
6200 Fitch Path
New Albany, OH 43054

May 8, 2013

Dear Mike,

As an anorexia survivor and a soon-to-be mother of a little girl, I am writing to request you recant your statements explaining why Abercrombie & Fitch offers sizes XL and XXL for men, but won’t carry larger size clothing for women:

“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”

As you know, your market is primarily “kids,” or young adults who are at an age most specially prone to eating disorders. As many as 10 million women and girls in the United States alone suffer from anorexia or bulimia — and 95 percent of those with eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 26, the core of your target market. These facts make your statements particularly heartbreaking.

I’m writing because I believe your statements hold dangerous power, more than you may realize. For many but not all young people the Abercrombie & Fitch brand is an arbiter of cool. I’ve been a babysitter before, and seen how important it is to many tweens to have your labels showing. How devastating for a young woman who hates her body, as too many do, to realize that your store doesn’t sell larger size clothing because you say she’s not cool, she can’t belong, she’s a loser.

In high school and early college I fought tooth and nail for my life. During one hospitalization, a fellow patient went out on a day pass and won a modeling contest while she was still wearing her hospital bracelet. That’s not “cool,” that’s cruel. To send her a message to keep up the good work killing yourself! To send others a message that the most beautiful woman in the world is a corpse. While it’s impossible to expect the entire fashion and modeling industries will change tomorrow, it is quite possible for you to make some positive clarifying statements about the humanity and inherent worth possessed by people of all shapes, sizes and bodies.

It would mean a lot. Thinking about your comments nearly brought tears to my eyes. During one of my rougher periods with anorexia, I was not eligible to participate in my physical education class but still had to show up in order to graduate. There was a gymnastics routine that everyone else needed to complete in front of the entire class. A larger girl was forced to do somersaults across a room in front of 30 classmates, several of whom audibly laughed and called her a “fatty” and “loser” and “whale.” I remember going home that night and sobbing to my mother, my decrepit body shaking with fury. “How could they do that to her? Don’t they know what they are doing? And why didn’t I speak up?”

I wasn’t ready to speak up then. I am now, and I welcome you to join me. Not creating larger size clothing for women, while creating it for men, is discriminatory. Making negative statements about larger people, especially larger women, and most especially larger women who fit in your target market of teens and young adults, is part of an eating disorder culture that kills.

I know you can do better than this, and look forward to your response.


Erin Matson

11 thoughts on “Please Don’t Promote Eating Disorder Culture: An Open Letter To The CEO Of Abercrombie & Fitch

  1. That was amazing, Erin. I don’t know that we’ll see any kind of reply that is contrite or takes some responsibility, but that will only reflect further upon him and his organization. And by the way, manufacturers try to keep clothing beneath a smaller size 10/medium to save money on fabric and mark up prices. They sacrifice potential buyers for short-term financial gain.

  2. I posted about this CEO’s ignorant comments, too, at A.K.A. Models on FB and Twitter. He really believes this poison! Hey, the brand can make whatever sizes they want to limit it to, but he has no right to degrade young, impressionable consumers. A & F needs a NEW “cool” CEO.

  3. Well said Erin – I read about this yesterday and was so infuriated and still am! I am so pleased you have written this letter. It is discriminatory and reinforces dangerous messages that so many of us are fighting and campaigning to end. It makes it even worse that they are making a ton of money off the back of it!! Thanks for sharing and I am know following your blog, Leanne.

  4. jennyfromtheblock619

    You do realize the article in question is from 2006, correct? I mean, it’s not really newsworthy.

    While A&F hasn’t changed much since then, I haven’t been able to find the company stating on record that “we don’t sell to fat people” or “we only sell to skinny people with eating disorders”. It simply says, “we sell to people who fit in our clothes”. Not sure why this is such an issue. I mean, luxury brands (Armani, Chanel, Gucci) have a specific fit (ie – size 10 and under, in most cases size 8 and under) and you aren’t ranting about them, are you?

    1. bootaddict

      To refer to Erin Matson’s letter as “ranting” is to negate the experience of anyone who has lived with or suffered from an eating disorder. While this may have happened way back in 2006, these sizist issues are as pertinent today as they were then.

  5. jennyfromtheblock619

    I would categorize this as a rant (vs objective insight), “To send her a message to keep up the good work killing yourself!”. As to your sizist comment, how do you feel about luxury brands which also don’t sell in larger sizes? Or athletic apparel such as Lululemon. All discriminate, right? Seriously? Come on…

  6. floridaborne

    Years ago, the woman with the perfect body was thought to be Marilyn Monroe, who suffered from depression. Later, it was Pamela whats-her-face Anderson, whose body was the product of surgical skill. If it’s not corsets, bustles or high heels, there’s some implement of torture foisted upon women as a way to “fit in.”

    I applaud your determination to get Aber-zombie and Fitch to live in the real world. As a grandmother of a little girl and mother of 2, i told my daughter the same thing I tell my granddaughter–how smart and strong she is. My daughter was always large, but she was popular due to an amazing sense of humor and an intense joy about her that made others want to gravitate to her. I can tell you from experience that if a woman relies on a perfect figure and others perception of beauty instead of personality to attract people to her, she’s in for a world of pain when she approaches old age. Learning that you’re not what you look like but who you are inside begins before your little girl starts walking.

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