Even though I am a plus size retailer myself, I will admit that don't know much about online advertising as a retailer. I've always relied on social media and word of mouth to spread to help grow Ready to Stare. Advertising is something I always planned on doing once the brand grew large enough to afford an actual marketing budget. I always assumed Google and Gmail would be a part of that budget; except now I've learned my money isn't green to Gmail.
Over the weekend, Buzzfeed writer Nora Whelan wrote a story detailing the fact that "curvy" and "plus size" ad targeting is prohibited on the Gmail ad platform. This prohibition was discovered when plus size retailer Ashley Stewart was blocked from advertising on the platform. In a move that shows just how alive and well the hatred of fat bodies really is in our society, the company wrote in an e-mail: "At this time, Gmail Advertising policy does not permit promotion of products and services that targets individuals with negative physical attributes such as plus size, curvy."
If this statement seems to hard to believe, there's screenshots in the Buzzfeed story and a full list of Gmail ad prohibited content can be found here. If plus size retailers can't target their customers, that means straight size retailers, who won't get my clicks or my money, are being advertised instead which really seems pretty pointless. If someone's e-mail contains the words "plus size" and "curvy," it probably means that they are looking for that type of clothing. I thought money talked? I am confused. Does Gmail actually hate fat bodies more than it loves money? Grouping any retailer that focuses on plus size as automatically negative ignores the billions of dollars of plus size clothing sold each year. I would hope anyone reading this can also recognize the humanity of fat people but I sadly don't expect that much from a business that sees only numbers. I do expect a capitalist endeavor to at least recognize our buying power.
When Instagram banned #Curvy over the summer, there was a major outcry and Instagram eventually restored it. Keep in mind that since this ban wasn't directly related to advertising, Instagram did not serve to lose or make any money from that decision and they still listened and changed their mind. On one hand it shocks me that businesses don't want to listen to the customers they serve, but on the other hand, the idea that fat bodies should not exist is so deeply ingrained in the fabric of our society that I am also not surprised. I was rejected from selling on Pintrest because my brand was deemed too provocative. I can't help but wonder if my body chains were shot on all straight size models would have made that decision different. Rebdolls, another size inclusive brand, also shared their Pintrest rejection on social media.
I'm gonna let Gmail in on something that's not a secret: fat people wear clothes. In fact, 65% of shoppers are plus size according to Bloomberg. Fat people wear cute clothes. They do a lot of shopping online. And making it harder for plus size focused brands to reach their customers only serves to the detriment to all parties involved including Gmail.
Ashley Stewart is the brand that was the target of this prohibited ad. It just so happens that Ashley Stewart is one brand I am happy to support. If you read #StareStyle often, you probably know this: I wore a gold jumpsuit from Ashley Stewart on my birthday, shared their amazing Cyber Monday sale and shot their now sold out sequin skirt on the day of my Mom's surprise 60th birthday party.
I not only like their clothing but I also like that they use a wide array of models who are above a size 14 including my girl Jessica Milagros. The models that Ashley Stewart uses makes it a little easier for me to visualize what the pieces will look like on me (though I would love to see some 22+ models featured too). And unlike some other plus size retailers, there's usually no mistaking an Ashley Stewart ad for a straight size retailer. The models pretty much give it away which is awesome and something I would like to see more of. I have long bemoaned major brands not using a more diverse size range of models and this Gmail situation is a big whopping example of why brands are probably afraid to (though I certainly still don't justify it) use models 16+.
If there's one thing I hate in life more than fat shaming policies, it's feeling helpless about combating them. And it's hard for me to read about something like this and feel like there's nothing I can do. I think what I realized is that as a plus size blogger, I hold some of my own cards, too. I do cater to a plus size audience and while, I can't make Gmail change their policy or have as big of a reach as they do, I can continue to push for increased fat visibility and support brands that are proud to be a part of the plus size community. So I decided that in addition to sharing the fact that this happened and encouraging others to keep the discussion going, I would share some of my current favorite pieces from Ashley Stewart. Hey, if Ashley Stewart can't reach plus size shoppers through Gmail, I am happy to help make that connection.
1. My Birthday Jumpsuit
It's still available and even more on sale!!!
2. And The Matching Swimsuit!
3. This Bangin' Lace Up Dress
4. This Mesh Peplum Jacket
5. More Mesh!
6. OMG! Polka Dot Pants
7. #Rare Over The Knee Wide Calf Boots
8. A Convertible Bra Actually In My Size
9. Super Sale Skirt
10. My Bestie's NYE Skirt
For reference, I wear a size 22/24 in Ashley Stewart in most things have fit true to size in my experience.