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Friday, May 6, 2016


The response to the ‘No Fats, No Fems’ shirt has been one of outrage. While that’s a valid response, there is an opportunity to respond in other ways as well.
The shirt is being sold at online retailer Marek + Richard. According to their website, the brand was founded in May 2011 by Neil Marek and Robbie Richard, two guys who met while pursuing fashion degrees at The University of North Texas. M+R is a causal knitwear line based in Dallas, Texas. It offers a wide range of clothing gear (everything from jockstraps to sweatpants) in collections inspired by street fashion, youth trends and pop-culture.
M + R sell a number of t-shirts with gay/pop slang emblazoned across them such as ‘BTTM’, YAAAAS’ and ‘THOT”. However it’s the ‘No Fat, No Fems’ shirt that is causing an uproar on social media.
I will say this at the outset, that if you are one of the people genuinely upset or offended by this shirt, you are perfectly entitled to your feelings and thoughts. I’m not in any way trying to diminish or downplay them. I’m simply exploring other ways of responding to the shirt.
Given the context of the company, the ‘No Fats, No Fems’ shirt can be viewed as continuing that legacy of cheeky word play, designed to shock, surprise and generally, illicit a response one way or the other. I don’t think the company released the shirt with the sole intention of seriously upsetting anyone. It simply appears to be continuing a legacy of sarcastic, witty and boundary pushing social commentary.
Maybe it just went a little bit too far for some people. The tough thing for M + R is that any reaction to its clothing can only be gaged after it’s been released. By then, given the lightning speed social media can spread content around the world, it can be too late.
The tricky thing about context and intention is that they aren’t tangible or visible qualities. They are subtle and nuanced and require a degree of knowledge about the company, its philosophy and its history.
From what I can gather, M + R’s response (on social media) has been clear. The shirt is designed to be sarcastic. This is the company’s response across all of their social media platforms. Unfortunately, scrolling through many of the comments, it doesn’t seem like this response is being heard or is appeasing anyone.
From my own personal observations of their social channels, the brand seems to be pretty inclusive. They use a diverse range of models of various shapes and sizes. So my own personal opinion at this stage is to believe M + R when they say they their intent was to be sarcastic.

Let’s have a real conversation

The controversy surrounding the shirt is bringing up a very real issue – the level of discrimination in our gay community for guys who are overweight or present femininely. Let’s use this controversy as an opportunity to have a real conversation about these issues, and not just get stuck in outrage mode.

I would love to hear from people within our community about how these appearance issues impact them. I’d love to question why we have and hold onto these strong, rigid and incredibly narrow body ideals. And why is femininity, or anything associated with being feminine (like bottoming for instance) still seen as a negative thing?

The shirt may be new, but these issues we’re facing aren’t. Let’s tackle them head on, and maybe we might make some headway in reducing them. And hey, maybe that was one of the points of the shirt? To get people thinking and talking about these issues.

It’s just that it’s hard to talk when everyone is venting their outrage on social media. Why not share our own thoughts and feelings, and then – and this is the important bit – listen with compassion and respect to as many different voices as possible?


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