After Getting Instagram-Shamed By Boss, Store Employee Quits

Photo: Courtesy of Sherene Zarrabi.
There have been vast improvements regarding body acceptance lately, but the world has a way of reminding us that there’s still a lot of work to be done. On Monday, an employee at the Dainty Hooligan boutique in Stillwater, OK experienced body discrimination on the job. The employee, Sherene Zarrabi, received a negative email from the store's owner, demanding the use of only “stereotypical model type” women on the retailer's Instagram account.

According to Zarrabi, an email she received from Jessica Issler, the founder and CEO of Dainty Hooligan, included the following:

“Something I want to make sure you keep in mind: I want size small, the stereotypical 'model' type to model our clothes. Please use our pictures of our models if Stillwater store can’t find someone who would be considered 'model material.' This is not to put anyone down but to communicate the expectations of presenting our brand."

She added that the employee shouldn't "take it personal," but any images that don't comply with that "really good representation" of its clothing should be removed from Instagram.

Zarrabi, who had worked at the boutique since the beginning of September 2015, says she quit on the spot after reading these missives. “After I saw the email, I was instantly furious,” she tells Refinery29. “I feel like it not only offends me, but it offends her customers who aren't a ‘size small.’ The way I see it, if she wants to have solely ‘size small’ models, she should sell only size-small clothing." Store employees never had guidelines for using the brand's social media accounts before, she says; "each store just posted what they wanted to."
Photo: Courtesy of Sherene Zarrabi.
The Stillwater outpost of Dainty Hooligan (there are five locations total, in Texas and Oklahoma), which stocks sizes small, medium, and large, had been posting photos on Instagram of Zarrabi wearing the brand's clothing since October. And until Issler's email landed in her inbox, she says she had not experienced any type of negativity or backlash regarding those images.

Hurt feelings aside, Zarrabi is most concerned about the message Issler is sending her customers and, specifically, how this could impact impressionable young shoppers struggling with their own body image.

“The main reason why I got so upset was because my 9-year-old sister is beginning to have body-image issues because of some of her classmates. A child should be more worried about playing with her friends, not wondering if she's beautiful enough based on what size she is,” she says.

Cultural body image views are shifting gradually, Zarrabi says, citing new Barbie body types and Dove's body-positive commercials. "However, I feel like [the process of] having, and maintaining, positive body-image took a step backward with Jessica's email... If an employee can fit into the medium- and large-sized clothing in Dainty Hooligan, why not feature them on social media?"

Yet Issler doesn't seem to be very moved by any of Zarrabi’s impassioned opinions: “I am accountable for the email that was sent,” Issler told “I never meant to be mean or attacking, but I’m not apologizing for the unsaid fashion rule.” We’re left wondering what Issler’s “unsaid fashion rule” is, an allusion she followed up with a direct dig at Zarrabi: “This girl has now created a hostile work environment because she has a sad body image of herself. She’s not mentally healthy.”

Fortunately, neither Issler’s original email nor her horrendous follow-up comments to are dampening Zarrabi’s spirit. “My advice for others who face body discrimination is just to simply love yourself. Sometimes it isn't easy," she says.

"You reach a certain point where you realize that you have nothing to prove to anybody. Your body is your only body, so love it. Be proud of who you are and what you look like," Zarrabi says. She also points out that the impetus behind others' put-downs can stem from personal insecurities: "If anybody tries to bring down a person based on their size, there's something that person is struggling with themselves.”

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