Forever 21 sends diet bars to plus-size customers, gets slammed for body-shaming
Forever 21 reportedly included diet bars with its plus-size orders. And customers are furious. They are calling the American clothing brand "fatphobic." The company has apologised, calling it an "oversight."
Forever 21, a US-based fast-fashion retailer, is under fire as customers have reported receiving lemon-flavoured Atkins bars alongside their purchases from the store's plus-size collections. The brand has since apologised, saying that the samples were placed within all orders sent out in a specific timeframe.
Though the specific bar mailed is not marketed as a weight-loss product, Atkins is commonly associated with dieting, which explains why customers are upset. Nearly all complaints circling on Twitter are from customers who shopped Forever 21's plus-size collection. Earlier this week, after one unhappy shopper tweeted about discovering a low-carb bar in her plus-sized order, numerous Twitter users shared similar photos and complaints.
"I went from a size 24 to 28, still a plus size girl, so I ordered jeans from Forever 21. Opened the package, when I looked inside I see this Atkins bar," one shopper wrote in a post. "What are you trying to tell me Forever 21, I'm FAT, LOSE WEIGHT? Do you give these to NON-PLUS SIZE WOMEN as well?"
"I don't take kindly to people telling me how to live my life," another customer wrote.
I went from a size 24 to 18, still a plus size girl, so I ordered jeans from @Forever21 Opened the package, when I looked inside I see this Atkins bar. What are you trying to Tell me Forever 21, I’m FAT, LOSE WEIGHT? do you give these to NON-PLUS SIZE WOMEN as well? pic.twitter.com/ds8kUTs7T7— MissGG????️???? (@MissGirlGames) July 19, 2019
Forever 21 apologized for the samples in a statement, saying the promotion was sent to all of its customers — not just plus-size shoppers. In a statement to BuzzFeed News, the company stated, "From time to time, Forever 21 surprises our customers with free test products from third parties in their e-commerce orders. The freebie items in question were included in all online orders, across all sizes and categories, for a limited time and have since been removed." It added, "This was an oversight on our part and we sincerely apologize for any offense this may have caused to our customers, as this was not our intention in any way."
A few customers, who did not order from the plus-size collection, confirmed that they received a bar. Even if the freebies were an oversight, it's unsettling that a clothing brand is shipping diet bars to any woman, regardless of her size, some argued. "We don't have to diet to be worthy of living a full and happy life," one person wrote on Twitter before telling the brand to "kindly f*** off."
This week’s diet bar controversy is potentially problematic for a number of reasons. Sending diet bars to customers who didn't explicitly order them might trigger people with disordered eating habits; additionally, for the customers who ordered plus-size clothing, it could perpetuate a fatphobic ideology and the idea that those who wear such clothing need to lose weight.
One furious Twitter user called out the fast-fashion retailer’s promotion: "Not only is it fatshaming, it could also trigger people of all sizes who have EDs," she tweeted. Another user called Forever 21’s actions "insensitive and harmful," adding that "people of all shapes and sizes have self-esteem issues and the potential for an eating disorder."
This isn’t the first time Forever 21, marketed toward young women, has taken heat for an oversight. At the end of last year, the company was under fire for advertising a Black Panther-themed sweater using a white model, which many criticized as cultural appropriation. The fast-fashion brand had tweeted a photo of a male model wearing its Wakanda Forever Fair Isle Sweater, a nod to Marvel’s Black Panther character, which received the superhero movie treatment. The movie takes place in the fictional African nation of Wakanda and was praised for its positive representation of African-Americans. But the model who donned the Black Panther logo sweater — which read "Wakanda Forever" — was a platinum blonde man with crystal blue eyes.
Critics online were quick to point out the disconnect, sparking a conversation about inclusivity and racial insensitivity. "In what universe did you think it was okay to feature a white model in Wakanda Gear?" said the Twitter user who identified himself as "a former #21Men brand specialist for the company." Another user wrote that Forever 21 is "tone deaf."
And to the chagrin of many, in 2016, the company released a rape-suggestive shirt. The retailer's offensive men's T-shirt, plastered with the line, "Don't Say Maybe If You Want To Say No," read like a rape-rationalizing slogan. Any article of clothing festooned with rape inferences is unacceptable, but this particular item added insult to injury, thanks to the shirt's victim-blaming undertones.
"Forever 21 strives to exemplify the highest ethical standards and takes feedback and product concerns very seriously," a Forever 21 representative had said. "With regards to the T-shirt in question, upon receiving feedback from our customers, we took immediate action to have it removed from our website. We sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by the product."
Forever 21 has also been accused of pushing a religious agenda both through T-shirts with sayings such as "Jesus Loves You," and tons of cross imagery. In 2013, the brand was accused of selling a Christianity-inspired selection of cross-covered tops, which included plaid crosses, lace crosses, cutout crosses and sheer crosses. Before that in 2011, Forever 21 caught major flack for printing a girls' top that read, "Allergic To Algebra"; which many argued was a terrible message to send young women. The brand's shirts offered online for boys also received backlash for being sexist, suggestive, and enforcing gender stereotypes. After everyone started freaking out, Forever 21 pulled the shirts from their website. They even issued an apology.