Race, Body Image and the Conversation Bloggers Should Be Having

If you read IFB’s (Independent Fashion Bloggers) article “Bloggers & Body Image: Are We Helping Or Hurting Ourselves?” by Taylor Davies last week, you may have come away feeling hurt and confused. That’s how I felt. Davies writes:

The majority of very visible, successful style bloggers are thin and beautiful – which isn’t their fault of course, nor should they be chastised for it . . . The double-hitter is these “top tier” bloggers’ blogs are also really good. They have high-quality images, consistent posting schedules, spot-on design and unique style . . .

In order for a more holistic image of fashionable women to permeate the top tier of blogging as well as traditional fashion media, there needs to be a serious commitment to higher-quality content . . . At the moment, there aren’t enough blogs run by these types of women that get the notoriety they deserve.

The unspoken lynchpin was the word white. Though Davies didn’t write, “Thin, beautiful and white,” readers read it that way. What is essentially being said is this:  Not only are certain bloggers popular because they are white and thin, but bloggers of color and plus size bloggers aren’t working hard enough. And because they are not working hard enough, their blogs aren’t as good as their thin, white counterp

Though Davies and IFB didn’t intend to hurt and alienate the non-thin and non-white community, the damage was done.

What was missed was the opportunity to talk openly and honestly not only about about race and body image, but the differences between us as a fashion blogging community. There was a juncture where IFB could have initiated this conversation but the moment passed. I can only speculate as to why they didn’t go there, but my best guess it this: It’s a hard conversation to have, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have it.

Why is it that the majority of bloggers getting all the attention are white?  Why are are we so quick to write each other off when we bring up difficult topics like race and body image? How can we raise each other up and praise what makes us different?

I sincerely believe our community is strong enough to talk about the things that make us the same as well as the things that make us different. I believe we all have the power to change the conversation. 

From Around the Community

Today I read two poignant pieces responding to the original IFB article. If you know of any others, please link them in the comments. Here’s just two excerpts, and I encourage you to read the whole post.

Christina of LoveBrownSugar

From the time I decided I wanted to pursue a career in the fashion industry, I’ve been faced with some hard, grim and painful realities. In my attempt to make my personal dreams come true, I’ve been slapped in the face with the truth about what it takes to make it to the height of true success . . . I’ve seen bloggers with all the potential in the world, the most amazing style, and personalities to boot consistently overlooked by the very brands they promote on a daily basis . . .I’ve seen stylists with immense talent and drive and creativity, relegated to working on projects that never see the light of day. It’s been a real cup of reali-tea for me. (Read More)

Ty of Gorgeous in Grey

. . .Head over to the magazine section at your favorite bookstore. Have a peek inside of any magazine – and just look at the cover. I’m usually not there. I am your average brown girl, cute – but not your typically fair skin, tall, weaved model type. I’ve got curves. The kind of curves that make a man take a double look. The kind that make a casting director say, “You’re a bit larger than what we’re looking for.” Point blank – I am not white, slim, and pretty. Although the last adjective might be debatable. (Read More)

And if that doesn’t open your eyes, I don’t know what will.

More posts from around the community:
Talk it Out: Body Image by Blonde and Black
Continuing the Conversation: Blogs and Beauty by Nicolette Mason
Sound Off: This Is Not How Apologies Work IFB by Promiscuous Lola
IFB: When Good Sites Go Bad by A Sunny Day in L.A.
It’s Not You, It’s Me: An Open Letter to IFB by The Citizen Rosebud
Cute and Cheap Merona Dress For Work by One Woman’s Style and Evolution
White, Slim and Pretty–But What About Me? on XOJane (Cross posted by Gorgeous in Grey)
Bloggers & Body Image Brouhaha discussion at Blog Trends
Requesting Your Assistance by Wardrobe Oxygen
Body Image & Diversity in Fashion Blogging – Is it an American Problem? by Girl Does Geek
IFB Founder Jennine Jacob Thinks You Didn’t Read The Post Correctly, Bullies at Shamepuff
Responding to IFB by Comme Coco
Diversity In The Blogging Industry by Deejay Speaks
Removing Myself from IFB by Dreafashionista
IFB Says Not Enough Women Who Aren’t Thin, Beautiful Have High Quality Blogs at Shamepuff

Original Post:
Some people were angered by the post originally made by IFB, which was later changed. I hunted down the original post, which was scrapped by an aggregator. You can read it via my screenshot here (source)

If you know of any others now mentioned here, please link below!

About Courtney Mirenzi

Courtney Mirenzi is the voice behind Those Graces. She has been named one of the 50 Most Fashionable People in Boston, one of The Boston Globe's Top Bloggers and favorite human of one of her cats. She loves red lipstick, hiking and traveling. Find out more.

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  1. Great post Courtney! I agree completely with your point. I am seeing more and more fashion bloggers of color and love the diversity sweeping the blogosphere. As with anything and almost everything, this all just takes TIME.

  2. Casee Marie says:

    Well done, Courtney! I appreciate how you handled this post, and especially that you’ve encouraged everyone to read the other reactions online, to work the discussion into an even more active and thought-provoking conversation. I didn’t see the original article before it was edited – the link you shared to find it didn’t work for me, it just gave me the ‘open letter to the community’ upon a search; maybe I did something wrong? All the same, I think the volume of readers in their reactions has spoken more than anything else can. While it’s unfortunate that this entire situation had to happen, I think the amount of bloggers who’ve been motivated to speak out about it is a good thing. It was definitely an awkward way to get this conversation started, but a door has been opened all the same and hopefully it’ll lead to some healthy reflection and worthwhile changes!

  3. Thanks for writing this and giving links to other bloggers who have something to say. I haven’t found IFB to be relevant to me for awhile and this just solidifies it. The original article was upsetting because of not only what was explicitly said but what was implied.

    The thing that lost me as a reader is rather than taking responsibility for their mis-step and issing an apology IFB/founder/Owner published an ‘open letter’ that said it all. Differing opinions worded politely is not bullying! And that post WAS offensive! I mean, if you have to edit an article then clearly you think somethings off too!

    • What the original article said AND implied was indeed upsetting! And yet, they don’t seem to get it.

      There’s a lot more blogging communities out there now–more than when I first started in 2010, and frankly, why should I waste my time being apart of a community that just does not get i?

      I have opinions, we all do, and for that we should not be called bullies.

  4. Great, great post, Courtney! Don’t really know what else to say. :)

  5. spot on, chica. GREAT post.

  6. thank you so much for this post and you write SO well. All your points were right on and I thank you for including me in the links. I think if we all work together to encourage and support, it will not matter what the IFB’s of the world think!

    Jen

    • Thank you Jen! I have a good editor–my husband agreed to hear every version out loud until I got it just right. I don’t typically do that with my post, but I wanted to make sure I meant every sentence I had here. If you write that way, you can always stand behind what you say instead of editing it later.

      Thank you for your wonderful video!

  7. Let’s not forget to add young to the characteristics of that elite list – there are no older women represented either. I think I pointed it out on a comment on the post already but the fashion industry at large pretty much ignores the existence of women who are no longer in their twenties and I have had to really hunt out older bloggers – and some of their blogs are excellent.

    • I totally agree. I struggled with how much to say about each niche because when it comes to blogging, there’s slinter groups of every community, even the fashion one.

      I read your comment on their original post and I would love to hear what else you have to say on the issue.

      The best blogs are often the ones that do not come up on the first page of google or those that are featured on the front page of blogging communities.

    • I will totally second this. As an over-40 blogger, while I can get general style inspiration from the high-profile 20something style bloggers, I also consciously seek out bloggers to read who are closer to my age (and read them more frequently as well).

  8. Courtney thank you so much for taking the time to address this issue and also for including my response piece in the post. With every blog post and every comment, we get a step closer towards truly making an impact and changing the way people think about the standards in this industry. Thank you!

    • You post gave me a lot of courage to write this! I seriously thought about not posting it, but I knew I need to just say what I needed to say. I’ve been mad at IFB over various issues over the past 8 months and this was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

      I think there’s a place for critical comments in our community and we shouldn’t try to stop people or claim bullying at every turn.

      • I completely agree with you. IFB has been rubbing me the wrong way for months, and it’s actually because of them that I’ve moved away from fashion blogging as much as I used to. They’ve made me so disenchanted with something that I love that now I’m the one who loses out.

        There was such an amazing opportunity to start a valid discussion about this subject, but instead Jenine went on the defensive and ticked everyone off more. I think for an editor running what she considers to be the “foremost fashion blogging resource” she handled this very poorly, and I won’t be surprised if there is a mass exodus from the site because of it.

        • From what I’ve been reading, a lot of people moved away from them when they focused more on “pro bloggers,” and Jennine Jacob clearly said the site was predominantly for pro bloggers. Yes, it may be nice to dream of turning your hobby into a profession, but for lots of us, it’s something we choose to do in our free time regardless of sponsors.

          It was a great opportunity to bring people together, but instead we were turned into “bullies.” She cared more about defending the original post than starting a conversation about issues many of us obviously care about.

  9. I agree, and like the way that you tackled this topic. I read the original article and edited version and have been reading all of the comments, and was entirely shocked at the article as a whole. Yes, there are loads of diverse bloggers who do not get the attention that I feel they deserve, along with me and many of my fellow bloggers that I regularly visit. It is a tough discussion, but one that needed to be discussed.
    Hopefully, this experience will help IFB to use their platform to positively promote more diverse bloggers … because they’re out there and it doesn’t take too much of a workout to find them.

    • Thank you Madison. I only saw past of the original article on Get Off My Internets, but didn’t read the full version, but I dont’ think that necessarily matters. What matters is how we all feel about it. The conversation we’re trying to have about how difficult it is to talk about race is important whether or not she ever said the word “black” or the word “white.”

      To me, at this point, I’ve been blogging for two years and have come across so many other blogging communities that are better and more supportive than IFB. They’re more inclusive, more helpful. I may put a post together of them later tonight, but a few the come to mind at Blog-Trends.com, ProBlogger and, yes, even BlogHer. You no longer need IFB!

      • Yes, ProBlogger is also good and I know Blog-Trends is very helpful. I’ve only recently joined in on a couple chats and loved it. That would be great if you do make a post of other communities. I am always open to learning about other communities in addition to the ones that I already frequent. Thanks so much!

  10. I remember reading the article when it first was published and I had to sit back, marinate, and read it again because you’re right, the unspoken word that was in that paragraph was “white”. And then at the end, there was no real solution offered to the problem. With a site as big as theirs, they are in the perfect position to promote blogs that feature diverse women.

    You’re right, it is a tough conversation to have but it needs to be had. We as bloggers have pushed ourselves to be recognized by the fashion world so now we need to push ourselves and others (like IFB) to be more inclusive than the fashion industry has ever been.

    • Taylor didn’t write it because she didn’t have to. Whether it was there or not, that’s how it was read because, like or not, that’s how it was meant. And this isn’t to say saying “White” is a bad thing or a good thing–it’s a starting place for a conversation about why we dance around talking about what makes us different from one another.

      • I totally agree! There is room for all of us in the blogosphere black, white, Asian, etc. Blogging is all about celebrating our differences and point of views. It just scares me that it seems that the only way to “make it” is to fall right into the fashion ideals of beauty that we work so hard to change.

        • The funny thing about all of this is after my magazine post on Monday, I realized we as bloggers don’t need magazines. Magazines are going to be obsolete in the next 5 years–maybe not the power houses like Vogue, but a lot of the others. And instead of creating our own reality about what our blogging community is, we bend over backwards to fit someone’s ideal who won’t even matter in just a few years from now.

    • And then at the end, there was no real solution offered to the problem.
      I feel like Taylor wanted the community to provide ideas on how to combat it and open that discussion, but didn’t manage to get from A to B and make the ask at the end. I almost wonder– how much drama would there have been if, at the end, she’d asked “What can the blogging community do to combat this issue? How do you feel about the lack of diversity?”

      Or maybe that’s just me thinking about how I would have approached it? But like the simple ask was missing that could have changed everything…

      • I think asking that at the end would have soften things a little bit but in the end, had she done her research she would’ve realized there are a lot high quality blogs that don’t fall into this stereotype. If you are a site who represents the community as a whole, then you need to represent it. It can’t always be about the same handful of bloggers all the time.

        • Exactly! And that’s what IFB has become ESPECIALLY after Man Repeller and Cupcakes and Cashmere blew up and got so popular. They seemed like they wanted to ride their coattails and sacrifice the rest of the community they built while they were at it.

          • Agreed. If IFB is to believed, the only successful blogs in EXISTENCE are Man Repeller, Bryanboy, Fashion Toast and The Sartorialist. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve cringed because they’ve mentioned one of those name yet AGAIN.

            • Agreed! I read big blogs when I first started, but after awhile, I moved away from them. I actually just went on Bryanboy’s site for the first time in a year, and thought he was adorable! I wish the big bloggers won’t get so played out because they really do have a lot to offer.

      • I honestly think this whole issue could have been avoided if they were more concerned about the quality of their content and not the QUANTITY. They need to edit their sh*t more because it’s clear that this should have never made it through any sort of editing filter.

        In any case, I don’t know what her intentions were. I don’t know if she apologized to save face. In all honesty, I actually believe she meant what she originally wrote. And that’s fine, but stand behind it at least.

        To be honest, it’s clear after seeing all of Jennine’s responses on “An Open Letter,” that they really just do not get it. At all.

  11. Thanks so much for sharing. I’m so glad others see this post for what it is. When I read her post, as I have several times, she gets lost in her thoughts. Completely off of what I thought the point of the article was. I encourage all bloggers, fans, and just America to continue this conversation. We are a generation with an open mind. We acknowledge that we are different. But different isn’t bad. It’s something to glorify and celebrate.

    So again, thank you for sharing my opinions and yours.

    XOXO,
    Ty

    • Honestly, I had to read that post upwards of five times, and I didn’t know how to feel except confused and a bit hurt. We all want to be successful and it seems very hurtful to have a community you trust to just say, well only the pretty skinny white girls will be successful–you’re just not trying hard enough.

      I think you and Christina posted amazing responses that shine a light on the issues in our community–that their is racism and glass ceilings in fashion that very few break through. That’s the conversation *I* want to be having.

  12. THANK YOU!!!! There are so many issues I have with this original post and Jennine’s open letter response, and you have beautifully written about the biggest one. Again, thank you.

    • I’m with you on the issues piece–what they did was instead of taking the opportunity to say, “We messed up, but from this we realized our community is passionate and wants to talk about these issues,” they called us bullies and missed THE ENTIRE POINT.

  13. Rocquelle says:

    This was so very well written and said!!!

  14. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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