There's a pretty clear catch-22 when it comes to plus-size people and fitness. People who are "just concerned about our health" constantly tell us that we need to workout (to lose weight, of course), but when we show up at the gym or even dare to wear workout clothes we're told that we don't belong.
It happened when Playboy model Dani Mathers sent a photo of a nude woman at the gym to all of her Snapchat followers, and it's happening again on photos a fitness brand posted to Instagram to market their new plus-size clothing line.
Academy Sports and Outdoors posted four photos of plus-size fashion and fitness blogger Anna O’Brien wearing workout clothes from their new BCG Plus line last week. The photos are captioned with quotes from O'Brien about what's it's like to work out as a plus-size woman and how important it is that a major brand like Academy is recognizing that people of all sizes enjoy fitness.
"For many people when starting a fitness journey, a sporting goods store is the first place they think to buy workout gear," she wrote on Instagram. "Imagine what happens when a plus size woman does just that, and finds nothing in her size? An opportunity to find joy in movement is lost."
Her words make a solid case for why fitness brands should cater to plus-size people, but since she's a larger woman wearing workout clothes, her photos were immediately attacked by concern trolls who claim that showing O'Brien's body makes "being fat a good thing."
"People should be ashamed of being fat not proud,” a commenter named James wrote.
It's not exactly new for hateful comments to show up on photos of plus-size people — in fact, they show up so often on Refinery29 articles that we had to respond — but what is new and refreshing about the attack on O'Brien is that Academy publicly came to her defense.
"Hi James, at Academy, we truly believe every woman should have the same opportunity to enjoy sports and the outdoors," the brand wrote. "As a result, we will continue to represent a wide range of body types. We’re all different, but our access to an active lifestyle shouldn’t be."
"I spent 25 years waiting to be active. Now I will spend 25 more helping people of all sizes see the benefits of moving more. For plus size women, finding active wear that fits and is available in-store is nearly impossible. This single challenge is one of the greatest barriers to plus size women becoming active. With the launch of BCG Plus, Academy is offering a whole new group of women the opportunity to move more." - Thank you, @glitterandlazers, for taking over our Instagram today! #plussize #plussizefashion #bcgplus
It's one thing for a brand to start carrying plus-size clothing, especially since so few mainstream activewear brands do, but another entirely for them to clap back at body shamers. Academy isn't just making space for plus-size women in gyms and workout classes, they're making it clear that we belong.
And people are all about it. With the exception of the shamers who apparently believe fat women don't have the right to exist anywhere, plenty of people were excited to see Academy defend O'Brien and are looking forward to the new plus-size line.
"THANK YOU! I cannot wait to purchase from this line! So nice that you give women more options," one person wrote.
Overall, both Academy and O'Brien seem to be able to look past the haters. O'Brien explained to one man who continually attacked her in the comments section that's she's actually very happy with her life even if he think that her size must mean she's unhappy.
"You are amazing and an inspiration, and we appreciate you," Academy wrote in a comment to O'Brien. "We hope you saw all the positive comments on this and how much you have touched and inspired women."
67% of U.S. women are plus-size. Join as Refinery29 gives these women their own megaphone, doubling down on our commitment as allies, and partnering with them to catapult their powerful conversations into a true historic movement. #WeAreThe67
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