The photo shows queer plus size male model Troy Solomon posing in Torrid clothing — including a tank top with sparkly lips and emblazoned with the Lisa Frank logo, a pair of leggings claiming him a "badass," a jacket, and a pink seashell purse clutched in his right hand.
Commenters on the post threw a fit, saying things like, "Who is this dude? I thought this shop was only for woman?" and "Umm...pretty weird. Is torrid actually advertising for men to wear torrid? Who's in charge of this Instagram account? This is a woman's store."
Many of the outlets who picked up the story claimed that the backlash brings up an important question of whether or not men belong in the body positivity movement. It is an important, and complicated, question, but it's one for another time.
Because that's not what's going on here. The Torrid followers who are angry over this photo of a plus size man aren't mad because he's claiming his space in body positivity — they're mad because he's a man who's wearing women's clothing. This isn't a body positivity issue, it's a gender identity issue.
The anger coming from so many people in the comments section questioning why this man was chosen as a model and threatening to boycott the store hinges on transphobia, homophobia, and a rigid gender system that says men cannot wear sparkly shirts or pink seashell purses. But those defending Solomon call out the gender discrimination inherent in the backlash, reminding everyone that Solomon (and anyone else) is allowed to wear whatever he damn well pleases.
"So many salty bitches in this post. None of Torrid's items specifically say 'For Women Only' on them so get off your high horses. I think he looks awesome," one person wrote.
Just because Torrid is a store that sells clothing for plus size people doesn't make backlash on one of their models automatically a question of body positive politics. The same thing could have, and probably would have, happened on a clothing brand for thin women. In fact, one commenter made the point that it's precisely because the women who shop at Torrid likely have had to fight for body positivity, to be judged on their character and not their appearance, that they should be supporting this man and his fierce clothing choices.
"Last I checked we big ladies are constantly attacked for being lazy, or disgusting and we were thankful for a store like Torrid to embrace our differences and make us confident and comfortable in our own skin," she wrote. "All you people saying negative nasty things, please don't shop at Torrid because you're part of the finger pointing problem. If he is happy, I am happy for him."
Solomon, who often models in bright colors and intricate patterns, or other pieces that might be considered "women's" clothing, wasn't exactly shocked at the response to his photo.
"I knew this could potentially be a big moment for myself and the brand, tapping into such a large audience of all different walks of life," he told Mic. "And I know that a lot of what I do and what I put out into the social media realm can be considered controversial for a lot of people. I tend to blur the line between gender roles and how they are reflected in fashion and I know this is still a relatively new concept, but a very important one."
Read these stories next: